This article is part of our summer content series celebrating the concept of being ‘positively selfish’. We’re turning our focus on the self, recognising how a little selfishness can be a positive thing – how it can even promote your personal growth
No-one man is an island but we could all do to pull up the drawbridges now and again. And for all its bad press, being selfish really does feel *incredibly* good – as long as you take it in small doses. Here’s eight genius little ways to hold your own in everyday life, and tread that line between entitled and empowered:
Don’t jump to it first thing
One of the sorriest myths of modern-day living is the idea that to be successful, we must somehow hurtle ourselves out of bed first thing – like a pack of lean, mean greyhounds. But why the rush? Much better to balk the trend for “go! go! go!” and instead languorously roll about in bed for a bit. This is the only time in the day you’ll likely get to yourself so treat it with respect. Stretch out, stick on some Nina Simone or make a cappuccino and take it back to bed. Whatever you do, DON’T pick up your phone. That’s an invitation for the outside world to invade; and frankly, that world can wait.
Take advantage of outside meetings
Only the most eager newbie would return to the office straight after an external meeting. Everyone else knows that this is an unwritten pass to meander for a bit. Take some time out to remind yourself how good a burrito tastes, or to grab a status update on the sales situation at your local branch of Zara. Let’s be clear, though: this behaviour does not count as slacking.
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Research shows that people who work shorter hours are more productive – and since most of us putting in crazy overtime as a matter of routine, you’re simply redressing the balance, nay, making yourself the best possible employee you can be (albeit with a dash of park sunbathing thrown in).
Beware the afternoon brainstorm
Uh-oh. The afternoon brainstorm is the most pernicious of office protocol. There you are, happily whittling your way towards home time and then bam!, out of nowhere comes the suggestion of a “quick” ideas session. First of all, no-one has good ideas past 3pm. It’s simply a fact of life, like gravity or your mum telling you you look tired. Secondly, 90% of what happens in a brainstorm never moves beyond a luminous scrap of paper on a whiteboard. Yet still, you’re compelled to pitch in with all the enthusiasm of a hyped-up moggy with cat nip. And all the while you’re secretly eyeing the clock, working out exactly how late you’ll have to stay for your sacrifice. Much better to take the high road and make up an excuse instead.
Be tactical with team bonding
Sometimes, you’re really in the mood for knocking back rosé bombs with your co-workers until 3am. And sometimes, you’re not. But team events are one of those funny things that we forever feel obliged to attend, even when we’re knackered and would desperately rather sprawl out in front of Love Island instead.
So, here’s how you do it: turn up, look wildly happy for ONE drink, then slip out the back door like a regular Houdini. If anyone questions where you were later on, you can insist you were there all along – not your fault they were too smashed to notice. If you want to get really pro about it, you can casually wield a vape on the way out; never mind whether you smoke or not…
Manage the people who drain you
Throughout your day, whether at work or not, you may be forced to be around people that you find difficult. And for whatever reason – financial ambition, blood ties, an unyielding sense of guilt – you have to spend time with them. But it’s up to you to set limits on that time. Think of yourself as a team coach. You have to look after everyone on your side, but that doesn’t mean you spend half-time plaiting their hair and trading lifetime secrets. Place strict boundaries on your exposure to draining people, and stick to them. Don’t give them an inch more than you need to. If they say something that upsets you, simply respond with a bland “oh, interesting” and make your escape on schedule.
Develop selective listening
We’re so tightly wound these days, and conditioned to respond to every bleep or tinkle of our phones (if indeed you have the kind of phone that tinkles). But remember; you’re the one in control here. You don’t have to respond straight away to every urgent email that comes your way. In fact, any email that arrives with a shouty red flag should be ignored just on principle.
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Eleanor Roosevelt famously said no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Well, no-one can make you feel harassed without your consent, either. Other people aren’t automatically granted a slice of your time. You get to decide that. If you’re under pressure – and really, who isn’t these days – only respond to messages that really matter to you in that moment. You don’t have to ignore the rest, but simply put aside for if and when time allows.
Shut yourself off without guilt
Let’s face it, life is exhausting. And at the end of a long day where demands have been made on you from every angle, sometimes you just need to retreat. If that’s the case, it’s totally OK. Positively selfish people know you don’t need to spend time chatting with your flatmate about her day, or listening in detail about your partner’s work woes, if you don’t have the head space for it. There’s a time and a place for that kind of thing. So, remember, you can always park “quality time” for another point, and instead recharge with a bath/podcast/run/bout of trash TV, and revel in half an hour’s peace.
Be a bit more “meh”
It’s great to be healthy, it really is. But don’t turn wellbeing into another umbrella to hit yourself over the head with; because doubtless you’ve already got enough things like that in your life. If you don’t have the time or energy to throw together a delicious, nutritious home-cooked meal at the end of a day, cut yourself some slack. The same goes for making your Pilates class, not eating crisps and other commandments you’ve decided to abide by in the name of Being Good.
Meditation, 5 a day, avoiding sugar: these are all noble things to do in the name of wellness. But you’ll also get a rosy glow of wellbeing simply by being a bit lazy to yourself and those around you. You’re not a machine. Order that Gorgonzola pizza if you want to. Splurge on a new pair of shoes. In the words of the imitable Donna Meagle; treat yo’ self. Because no-one will do it for you.