I grew up with a deep seeded shame around the concept of selfishness; the word, the idea of it, the ability to comfortably make choices that were right for me without the guilt and heaviness that would inevitably follow. This inability to be accountable to my needs kept me in a consistent pendulum swing. I went from wanting to feel loved and accepted to overextending myself. My perspective at the time told me there was no space for selfishness. I would give everything I had to anyone that asked for it and in-turn there was nothing left for me. This behaviour was predictably followed by the debilitating burnout that comes from not enough self-time. I would crash, lay in bed for days, feel like I had let everyone down (most importantly myself) and then slowly rebuild from this depression. The rebuild was accompanied by the presence of fear and shame; I knew I had disappointed people during my “downtime.” To compensate for my burn-out I would swing back with conviction into the desperate progression of busyness, and there you have it… a cycle and another round on the rollercoaster that was my life.
Last year I hit one of my deepest lows to date. I was working two jobs, taking a full university course load, dealing with deep family issues, including but not limited to my father being terminally ill, running a burlesque troupe and attempting to manage my social relationships with some kind of grace and sanity. I was in a constant state of exhaustion and I had come to a crossroad. I felt like I had failed myself as well as everyone around me by my inability to be honest with my personal needs and ultimately, be selfish. I decided I needed to quit one of my jobs and stop dancing. Fuelled by shame and guilt I let go of the two things that were fuelling my heart: working for Wellness on Whyte and dance, my creative outlet. Not surprisingly, my burn-out persisted, in fact it worsened because my choices were made from a place of fear instead of self-love.
I will never forget that day that I sat down teary eyed in the office with Geha Gonthier, owner and operator, and Tacey Deering, director at Wellness on Whyte. I had to tell them I needed to leave. I felt like a failure. I tried my best to make sense of what was happening, and communicated how deeply ashamed I was that I couldn’t “do it all.” This moment was the beginning of something beautiful. The way that my bosses reacted to my vulnerability was astounding. They both looked at me with genuine love and light in their eyes and gave me permission. They told me they cared about me, honored my needs and both of them set the intention that I would be back. They took the time to say that they loved me, they saw my value and communicated that the door would always be open for me. I walked away from that conversation and for the first time in a business setting I saw the true meaning of compassion. True compassion comes from holding space for all aspects of a person. They did not make me feel guilty, invalid, or shame me with unnecessary toxic positivity: “there will be a brighter future,” they simply witnessed my needs and met me with love and intention.
I walked away feeling lighter, loved and heard. It was in that moment that I realized I had power to be compassionate for myself and that there are people out there that truly love, support and want what’s best for me. They also empowered me by making me feel heard while trusting my ability to understand and communicate my needs. At the end of the day I am the only one accountable for my needs. So, I finally granted myself permission to be intentionally selfish and start saying what I needed, when I needed it. The people who are unable to be respectful or honor my needs, do not honor me as the whole. These people do not deserve a stake in the way I choose to live. However, those that honor my needs with grace, gratitude, and love deserve my vulnerability and commitment. Knowing and being able to see the difference is an essential key in knowing how to manage your time, self-love and your relationships.
It is our job to be able to set the boundaries we need, communicate them in a healthy and loving way, regulate our emotions, and find the partners, jobs, friends and family members that support us in respecting these boundaries. This journey of selfish discovery led me right back to the career where I belong. I took the time to process why I felt such deep shame to attend to my own personal needs. I spent time recognizing who in my life did and did not respect this shift and alternatively who has earned the right to my time.
I intentionally made time for myself and then fiercely protected it. After this entire shift, hindsight was 20/20 and my future was clear. I’m proud to say that I work for a truly conscious company who respects me as a whole. Admittedly, we all know that the word “selfish” has a bad reputation. I recommend living from a place of intentional self-love; oh the power of semantics. If you are unsure of your intentions, I would suggest an immediate and heavy dose of self-ish discovery. This is your journey, so be courageous enough to ask for exactly what you want from it; and most importantly, do not be afraid to grant yourself the permission to achieve it.
Be selfish, be accountable for your energy, ask for what you need and fiercely protect it. You are your keeper. Use this power for the better of you and with that comes the better of everyone.
Written by: Sara Bruno