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What "Selfish" Really Means




I'm starting a collection of words and phrases that don't entirely mean you think they mean. I'm hoping that one day I'll have enough to compile it into a book. Once that happens I'll be sure to let you know!

I think words are important to express clarity and intent. In the English language in particular, words can get conflated easily when we're simply used to saying them on autopilot.

An example of that is the word "Selfish" which is often interpreted as a negative due to years of it automatically being so. We usually hear someone say "You're so selfish" or "he's just being a selfish person." What someone is actually saying is that they feel this person is being self-absorbed. It's important to separate the language because often many of us feel quite concerned about being perceived as selfish, which extends to repression of self-care or self-focus. This also offers clarity for what the person is trying to say or opens an opportunity to elaborate. Because who knows, maybe the person wasn't being selfish, and explaining the difference between self-absorbed and self-focused could help them see that it wasn't "selfish" at all.

And ultimately, that's what I want to offer you today. A simple reframe of the word selfish to mean either self-absorbed or self-focused. Selfish is no longer a word with a single meaning from this point forth. You need to clarify for yourself what that means when you think it or say it to someone or to ask for clarity when someone says that to you about you or about someone. And sometimes it is worth suggesting to someone that self-focus is perfectly healthy and very much encouraged.

Any thoughts on the word selfish? Do you think this reframe will be a big help? Send me a reply. I'd love to hear your story.