Lupus Has Taught Me It's OK to Be Selfish

Selfish is almost a dirty word to me. When selfish is used to describe someone, it’s usually with distaste, and I’ve long considered it a terrible quality to possess. But as of late, my tune has started to change. I’ve realized that to be selfish doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t think of others; sometimes you’re just making sure to look after yourself.

I always used to want to put other people first. If they had needs I would constantly try to put them before my own. But while being selfless makes you a great person in the eyes of others, it doesn’t always benefit you.

Living with lupus has taught me that sometimes it’s not only acceptable to put myself first, but it’s completely necessary.

I’ve become selfish when it comes to my energy and my time, as both are scarce and valuable resources. Please understand that a lot of the time I want them for myself, and I’ll be completely unapologetic about it. Looking at the bigger picture, there is so much I want out of this life, and if I’m lucky I have only three-quarters of the energy to achieve it all.

Even though I don’t always want it to, sleep often ranks as my number one priority. It’s a basic requirement for all of us, but I tend to need it more than the average person. It’s not a matter of just bouncing back; one late night somewhere will catch up with me and it’s as if I was starting at a deficit.

If it’s my day off and I can’t get myself out of bed before 11:00 a.m. to see you, I’m truly sorry. But if I have the choice between getting the chance to put myself back together or an early breakfast, I need to look after myself. It’s nothing personal and, more than anything, I hope you understand that.

Though it has continued to become increasingly more manageable over time, my life with lupus will never be simple. Nothing is ever black and white; I can never answer with a clear “yes” or “no.” There are options to be considered and decisions to be made. It’s like always having to navigate a maze where there are no correct choices – only some better than others.

Everything is about what I’m willing to give up and when I’m expecting to have to make up for it. Whether it’s sleep or energy, it doesn’t really matter; if I tip the scales in my favor today, tomorrow it’ll come back to haunt me. Therefore, it’s a conscious decision of whether risking something today will still be worth it when tomorrow rolls around – and sometimes it’s just not.

I don’t live by the same rules as everyone else in that I’m no longer afraid to put myself, and my health, first. You can’t shame me into staying out a little bit longer, working for a few more hours or having a couple more drinks. Because when my body tells me “enough is enough,” that’s my well-being in question, and it has to be my number one priority.

I’m seeing “selfishness” in a whole new light. I no longer see it solely as a bad quality. Instead, I view it as keeping something for myself.

This post originally appeared in Kristiana Page’s column “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” on Lupus News Today.

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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.

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