Growing up in the Nigerian culture (and as I have repeated in other articles), you are constantly pressed with the idea that you should always do good in life. Doing good in life is heavily laced with the principle and ideology of giving alms; in other words, helping people whenever you possibly can with whatever you can give. In order to maintain my faith and generally wanting to be a good person, I would constantly have the words bubble floating in my conscience, popping themselves in bursts of reminders when people came to me for help. To me, this was my sanctifying forgiveness in the world of sin that I regularly partake in. As I crawled older, I lost myself in a world of giving, never learning to receive gracefully, and if at all.
Let me explain.
When you are pushed to continue giving according to your religious, cultural, and familial beliefs, you are constantly rejecting the urge to protect “self.” Being selfish is kindly placed on the back burner in a world of wanted need from those around you. After years of attempting to submit my all to those I loved, I felt the emptiness one encounters when they realize they are the only one left in a dark room with a struggling flicker-flame in a lamp; I knew for sure that I barely had any light to give to myself.
Yes, giving to others is commendable, attractive, and it feels damn good. But when you are giving you’re all, the results are worse than not having anything to leave for yourself. You become conscious of the fact that you have become a stranger to yourself.
What color do you truly like? What do you truly believe in? Who are you? Paying attention to others needs leaves you bereft of your own wants and desires.
It’s important to realize that you are also someone who needs attention and nurturing. Taking the time to be somewhat selfish allows you to understand yourself. You are able to heal from fresh and past hurts, and have direction towards the future. Sometimes you have to say no. At times, you may need to shut your phone off, and just chill by yourself. Attempt experiences that will help you learn more of who you are as a person, beyond giving alms. Find and focus on what makes you happy, and live that! It goes without saying that the most important human in your life should be you; take care of self. Who else will know your wants, needs, and desires better than you? How else can you pour from an empty cup? It’s okay to give to yourself, because you may be the one in need of whatever support you are looking for. Focus on you when you need the time to do so, so that your foundation is solid for whomever may come along to lean on it.
It may be wrong to be selfish, but it’s even worse to deprive yourself of the same care you use to tend to everyone else.