What is healthy selfishness and when is it ok to be selfish?

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Is putting ourselves first always selfish? And is being selfish really always a bad thing? We explain more about healthy selfishness and how it can help you

What is healthy selfishness and when is it ok to be selfish?

Being called selfish is an unpleasant blow. Socially speaking, the idea of being selfish is taboo: it’s something we should strive to avoid at all costs. To be called selfish means you are inconsiderate of other people, putting your own pleasure and gains ahead of others. Yet the term can often be used as a weapon against us, to manipulate us into doing things for others – even when it could be to our own detriment.

Can selfishness be good?

Selfishness isn’t always bad. According to experts, selfishness can be healthy, while altruism (the selfless concern for the wellbeing of others) can become extreme and unhealthy.

Scott Kaufman from the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, New York, and Emanuel Jauk from the Department of Psychology at the University of Graz, Austria and Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience at Technische Universitat Dresden, Germany, recently published their research into healthy selfishness and pathological altruism.

“Selfishness is often regarded as an undesirable or even immoral characteristic. However, human history as well as the works of humanistic and psychodynamic psychologists point to a more complex picture: not all selfishness is necessarily bad, and not all altruism is necessarily good,” they explain.

According to their research, healthy selfishness can be related to higher levels of psychological wellbeing, developing skills necessary to deal with the demands placed on us by our environment in an effective way (adaptive functioning), as well as developing behaviour that genuinely is intended to help others (prosocial behaviour).

In contrast, those who practised pathological altruism (where we do things in an attempt to promote the welfare of others but cause harm that was reasonably foreseeable by others) were more likely to exhibit behaviours that stopped them from adapting to new or difficult circumstances (maladaptive psychological behaviours), vulnerable narcissism (a narcissist type that is highly self-conscious, insecure, and hypersensitive to rejection), and selfish motivations for helping others.

What is healthy selfishness?

Healthy selfishness refers to having a healthy respect for your own health, growth, joy, freedom, and happiness. It can mean using boundaries to help you define and refocus on your needs and those of others. By setting boundaries, we can not only allow our focus to return to our own needs, but we can create the emotional bandwidth to refocus on those that we love and care for.

For example, by saying no to attending a work social on a Friday night that you know is likely to make you feel exhausted, drained, and overwhelmed, you can instead reserve that energy for spending time with friends and family. This type of ‘healthy selfishness’ means that you are prioritising yourself and those closest to you, using your time and energy to

5 ways to embrace anti-perfectionism and welcome the new you

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Set yourself free from unnecessary limitations, with these life-changing tips

5 ways to embrace anti-perfectionism and welcome the new you

It can be easy to think that if we aren’t going to do something perfectly, there is little point in trying. But there’s a fresh perspective on the scene. Anti-perfectionism teaches us that, when tackling any task, we can be happy to learn slowly, through trial and error, and by making mistakes. We can be as pleased with the processes as with the outcomes, and the imperfections in our work become stories, memories, and trophies.

I have recently begun renovating my home, something I never could have done without embracing anti-perfectionism. So, what has it taught me? Sometimes, we put our desires to try something new on hold because we feel inhibited by expectations (both other people’s and our own). Letting go of these expectations can be both challenging and freeing. Anti-perfectionism can help us to get started, here’s how to embrace it.

1. Establish your reason

When taking on any task, it is always helpful to start by considering your end goal. Your reasons for starting a task, new project, or picking up a hobby might be to learn the processes involved, to save money, to enjoy the experience, or you might really want to have a go at making something instead of buying it.

None of these objectives requires you to become an expert, they are all about something other than achieving an immaculate outcome. Anti-perfectionism allows us to create or enjoy without the pressure of expecting perfect results. It’s about doing your best, making improvements, and enjoying yourself.

2. Use what you’ve got, start where you are

Think about your starting point: what do you already know about the task you are taking on? Have you seen other people doing it? Can you use any skills you already have?

These start points are useful in helping us to accept our limitations. Without the pressure of the ‘right’ way of doing something, you can be creative with the ways in which you do things – learning through trial and error.

Stepping back, looking at what you’ve done, and making small improvements as you go, can help you find joy in, and be grateful for, your efforts.

3. Set reasonable goals which acknowledge your own skills

Allowing yourself plenty of time, and giving yourself permission to make mistakes, are wonderfully aligned with anti-perfectionism. If you have never done something before, it’s unreasonable to expect mastery or expert results in record-breaking time.

Anti-perfectionism lets us choose to hire a professional if that’s what suits us, or, if we want to do it ourselves, we can work slowly, celebrating progress along the way. Before you start, think of the things you are good at, or really enjoy. How can you use these in your project?

Break away from unrealistic expectations that our blankets must be matching, hand-crafted, and perfectly square, or that our homes should be immaculate all the time. We can work on organic veg patches and still enjoy fish-finger sandwiches for dinner.

4. Enjoy the process

There are things we can do to make sure processes are as enjoyable as outcomes. Taking ‘before’ photos, or creating mood boards before starting a project, can be super encouraging, as can focusing on emotional outcomes, like joy, Read more

Who am I, how can I understand myself better and live more authentically?

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Why is our sense of identity important, does authenticity matter, and how can we better understand ourselves and make positive changes for the better?

Who am I, how can I understand myself better and live more authentically?

When you stop to think about who you really are and how others see you, what comes to mind? Our personalities are made up of a unique combination of characteristics and qualities that form how we see ourselves (and how others see us, too).

There are lots of different ‘personality type’ frameworks and tests out there, some more famous than others. Many people like to use them as a way to try and understand themselves or to help guide their career choices. While some people think that they give us insight into ourselves and others (how our minds work, how we’ll react to others, how we may approach different situations, even what we value), there isn’t actually any scientific evidence that tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test offer deeper insight or meaning.

Despite the lack of evidence, we’re fascinated with personality types, tests, and quick ways to get to know ourselves better. Why is that? And how can we really benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of who we are?

Why is our sense of identity important?

Our sense of identity is comprised of our sense of self - our unique characteristics, afflictions, and social roles. Your personality, likes, dislikes, abilities, beliefs, values, and motivations all help build up and contribute to your self of who you are as a person.

We develop a sense of identity when we are young, and this can continue to develop over time as we grow, change, and encounter new situations, people, and learn more about the world.

Having a strong sense of identity can help us to feel like we belong. It can also help strengthen our confidence and overall sense of wellbeing, leading us to make long-lasting friendships with others who share similar interests and values. It can help us to view the world in a more optimistic light, be more open to learning about new things and different people, and generally be happier in ourselves.

Who am I, how can I understand myself better and live more authentically?
Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Why does authenticity matter?

Knowing and understanding who you are can help you to live more authentically. This doesn’t necessarily make your life easier, but it can make your priorities clearer, help you to feel more energised and motivated, and decrease feelings of self-doubt.

As Life Coach Directory member Dr

Natural sleep support: 8 science-backed ways to help you sleep soundly

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With research showing almost three quarters of us don’t get enough sleep, how can we stop tossing and turning and start sleeping soundly? Here, we uncover the best natural sleep support techniques that are proven to work

Natural sleep support: 8 science-backed ways to help you sleep soundly

Whether it’s scrolling on TikTok or your mind racing at 3am, many of us struggle with sleep. In fact, research by Bed SOS has found that half of us don’t think we get enough sleep, and 20% of us feel exhausted the next day.

But it’s not just about the amount of sleep we get; the quality of our sleep is essential, too. In the UK, 25% of adults feel fretting about money impacts their sleep, and 37% said work leaves them feeling less in control of their sleep. With so much going on in our lives, it’s no wonder our sleep can suffer, but it’s important to prioritise it where you can – the health benefits of sleep are vast, helping support our immune system, our mental health, and even keeping our heart healthy. Let’s explore some natural ways that you can support your sleep that are all scientifically backed.

1. Ditch the caffeine

Caffeine is known for stimulating the brain, which makes it great when you need to get through your morning meeting, but less helpful if you’re trying to drift off to sleep. While you don’t have to go caffeine-free, coffee can help you stay alert up to four to six hours after drinking it, which is why most experts recommend avoiding it in the evening, with one study finding that 400mg of caffeine (which you’ll find in around four cups) consumed up to six hours before bed significantly disrupts sleep.

However, not everyone is as sensitive. “Everyone is different when it comes to caffeine; some of us can drink tea and coffee in the evenings and still get a normal night’s sleep, while others may need to limit caffeine intake from the afternoon onwards,” advises Sophie Medlin, consultant dietitian at City Dietitians. If you fall into the latter camp, it could be worth swapping your coffee for a non-caffeine alternative, such as herbal tea or chicory root coffee.

2. Log off before you hit the pillow

Finding a bedtime routine that’s phone-free could be worth trying – even if it’s leaving your phone in the other room, and reading a book in bed instead. It’s thought the blue light from your phone screen can interfere with the sleep-hormone, melatonin, as well as making you more alert as you scroll online and take in information.

When we use our phone in bed, not only are we likely to get less sleep (if our phone keeps us busy), but we also reduce the amount of REM sleep – the stage of sleep when we vividly dream.

“For many people, technology has crept into the bedroom, making the bed a place of work, entertainment, eating, etc. It equates the bed with lots of activities other than sleep,” says clinical hypnotherapist Geraldine Joaquim. “Use your bed just for sleep, as you want your brain to associate it with sleep, not scrolling social media and watching TV.”

3. Choose the right kind of workout

A workout gives you energy, so many think it’s

Rest to recover: Grace Victory on the power of giving yourself a break

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Society conditions us to think that we must always keep going, that fortune favours the busy, and to applaud the relentless hustlers. But columnist Grace Victory is here to share the real urgency, and necessity, to cut yourself some slack. This is your rallying call to rest – you deserve it

Rest to recover: Grace Victory on the power of giving yourself a break

Recently, I’ve found myself trying to rest, but then immediately telling myself to ‘just’ unload the washing, to ‘just’ put that pile of stuff away, to ‘just’ reply to one last email, to ‘just’ sort out Cyprus’s bag for tomorrow… There’s always just one more thing. My mind tells me to keep going when my body is screaming to just stop.

I think rest is complicated for a lot of us, including myself. It’s not necessarily about feeling as if rest isn’t deserved, but more about believing other things are more important. Or, sometimes, it’s simply the fact that our to-do list is nowhere near finished, and the thought of going to bed to wake up to the shit we ‘should’ve’ done before going to sleep is counter-productive.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe our need to feel productive stops us from being able to slow down. However, if the past two years have taught me anything it’s that resting when needed and when called to do so, is probably one of the most productive things we can do for ourselves.

Within the Western world, we have normalised constantly doing, moving, and working so much that rest, recovery, and rejuvenation is few and far between. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a great example of the state of our society, but things are slowly changing – and rightly so. Our wellbeing is in the gutter, we are more burnt out than ever, and if we aren’t in despair at our government, we are in despair at global crises, and you know what? Something simply has to give.

Rest to recover: Grace Victory on the power of giving yourself a break

The grind culture isn’t fulfilling us anymore, and working nine-to-five with little to show for it doesn’t seem as acceptable as it once did. We want more. We deserve more. We’re demanding more, and I’m here for it.

But I also think we deserve a little more love and compassion from ourselves, too. We need to recognise that, actually, sleeping five hours a night, skipping breakfast, and binge drinking on the weekend, is taking its toll, and maybe we need to pause, slow down, and stop filling every waking moment with ‘stuff’. That it’s healthy and empowering to have moments within our lives that are quiet, somewhat boring, and unhurried.

I really recommend reclaiming rest and making it something you actually enjoy, because rest looks different for everyone, and different circumstances will require a different form of relaxing, too! Sometimes you just need to forget about everything and go to sleep. Other times you might only need a break from work, so going on a walk to listen to a podcast with an iced coffee would benefit you better. Maybe it’s a hot bath? Maybe it’s dropping your