If you asked me, out of the blue, whether I was superstitious I’d say “no”. But if I reflect on that answer I realise there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. I salute single magpies and say “hello captain magpie”, I won’t walk under a ladder, I avoid cracks in pavements, and I wouldn’t put a pair of shoes on a table.
It’s in that spirit I grappled with what Dose 13 should be about. I, briefly, contemplated moving from Dose 12 to Dose 14 in the hope nobody would notice. After all, some airlines don’t have a row 13. But then a subject I’d been grappling with seemed the perfect fit.
It’s taken me months to realise it, but being selfish can make a huge and positive difference to your wellbeing, and in turn makes you an even more brilliant friend to other people.
Unfortunately the word selfish is loaded with negative connotations. In recent weeks I’ve told my chiropractor and psychotherapist that I’m being more selfish, and they each sucked in air through their teeth. But when I explained what I meant, I could see them visibly relax… and approve!
What does selfish mean to you? For me it’s about focusing on me, the self, first. The thinking goes that unless I plough my energies into making me the best possible person I can be on any given day, how can I be useful to others?
In other words, by being selfish, I find myself being more rested, with more energised, more positive, with more enthusiasm. I am a better person. And by spending more of my time being selfish, I actually have more to give to friends and family members.
So how can you be selfish?
In previous doses we’ve spoken about pacing, letting go of guilt, changing your mindset, managing your emotions, and a range of little life hacks. They’re all about managing the symptoms of ME, CFS and other fatigue-linked conditions. And being selfish is all those things.
But I think it’s a little more than that.
Do you own a frying pan? Is it a non-stick frying pan? If so, it probably has a Teflon coating. For me, being selfish means developing a ‘virtual’ Teflon coating that means the slings and arrows of life just don’t stick.
If somebody says something that I may previously have been offended by, I simply choose not to be offended. That sounds alarmingly simple… and that’s because it is that alarmingly simple.
When I walk into a situation where there’s a frosty atmosphere or there’s a situation going on between two people, I remember that absorbing that negative feeling won’t do anything to help them, it will only make me feel worse, both physically and emotionally. Instead, I imagine my non-stick coating and let it slide right off me.
If I’ve arranged to meet a friend for a coffee but my fatigue or pain is just too much, the guilt of cancelling doesn’t get to me – because I’m non-stick. And, if evidence was ever needed, every single time I postpone or cancel and explain why, that friend is always understanding and actually grateful I’ve put myself first.
Once you get used to this Teflon coating, it starts to become instinctive, and it actually feels good when you notice you’re letting stuff pass you by.
I smile, realising I’m being selfish. I’m putting myself first. I know that doing it means I will have more energy, less pain, a lower likelihood of brain fog and other horrible symptoms that come with either taking on or doing too much, or absorbing other people’s stresses.
Being selfish isn’t the answer to everything. There are times when things do get to me. There are times when I get upset or frustrated about my circumstances. But that’s called being human. It’s allowed!
However, being selfish helps reduce the frequency of those moments, and the joy of revelling in the positive that comes with it is a whole new happy sensation.
Who knew you and your frying pan could have so much in common? Go on, be selfish – and let me know how you get on with it.