For the first time, my parents decided to celebrate birthday of my mother in 40 years of their marriage. All credit goes to my father for this happy and unexpected change. My mother belongs to a hill area where date and time of child birth were not recorded in those days. My father randomly chose a date and informed all his four kids that this is your mother’s birthday date from now own. So we were all excited to celebrate her 60th birthday. I booked the tickets to be a part of the special celebration and wanted to spend time with my parents. It had been almost 15 years, since I had my own sweet time with them. In these 15 years I visited them, but it was for very short time of 1 or 2 days. This time I planned for 10 days stay- quite a luxury.
I was happy about going to my parents’ city and anxious at the same time as that happens to be city of my in laws (sasural) as well. My in laws and society expects me to share my time with my sasural as a good daughter in law (DIL). Also because in all my previous visits, I had given more time to sasural than to my parents. But this time I didn’t want to be a good DIL. I wanted to be selfish and genuine. And this wish was the reason of my anxiety.
Selfish is an ugly word in our society, something utterly wrong. And to choose to be seen as selfish needs courage and understanding. I questioned myself- why I resist to be selfish? I got these answer – social approval, conformity to my conditioning and confusion. I would like to elaborate these answers here.
Social approval: Our society connotes selfishness with a negative social stigma and celebrates selflessness unanimously. Being selfless gives us a grand status of martyr, Dadhichi, sung and valued as sacred since times unknown. We have songs “Apne liye jiye toh kya jiye, khushi ya gam jamane ke liye” to publicize and glorify the selflessness. We have superheroes who are always portrayed selfless. Isn’t it cool to belong to selfless category, rather than being condemned?
Conformity to my conditioning: I have grown seeing my parents putting their needs last in the pipeline. They hardly did anything for their luxury or pleasure. They seemed quite happy while doing this. So I was raised to believe that this is the way, and the only way, to live. By choosing luxury, I was nonconforming to this conditioning.
Confusion: All that I learnt about selfishness was, selfishness is- having no concern or regards for anyone else and exploiting others and being unkind. But if this is selfishness then what is being mean? Surely, there is some confusion and misconception about selfishness.
This leads me two questions: what is selfishness and why it earns a bad reputation? And I got these answers –
Selfishness is working for your ‘feel good factor’ without exploiting anyone. It is not equivalent to being mean. But it means that I take responsibility for getting my personal, emotional and physical needs met – being independent adult. It earns bad name because of being mistaken for mean.
Even when I help others, it is not about them, it is about me and my ‘feel good factor’. So, basically, I have been selfish throughout my life and without noticing it. I gave more time to my sasural, because it earned approval for me from in laws and society, and earned a soft corner (sympathy) from my friend circle. This was my motivation and ‘feel good factor’. Now that I understand this, and realize that I had enough of this combo, and I need something different to feel good this time, I chose to be selfish.
Though it did not feel like a compliment, but it did feel like being happy, authentic and in-charge of my life. I spent my time with my parents, saw old albums and marriage videos of mine and my siblings. I had lots of nostalgic feelings and I re-visited the places and streets, where, long back, my childhood wandered happily. I showed all those places to my kid and shared the memories and I visited my in laws without night stay. It was a wonderful, rejuvenating, emotionally gratifying and memorable trip.
Happy to be selfish. 🙂
Image credit : https://www.flickr.com