I was catching up on Biggest Loser last night (love that show. Love Bob. Love Jillian. Love all of it) and noticed that the theme of the episode seemed to be selfishness and why we should have more of it.
There’s been a shift toward promoting selfishness lately, at least in media directed towards women. Not in a “think only of yourself and screw everyone else” way so much as a “put on your oxygen mask first” mentality. It’s about helping yourself so you’ll be well equipped to help others.
I get this. I support it. Sometimes, no matter how much we want to say yes, we have to say no. Take care of number one before you run yourself into the ground. All that good stuff.
But it can become easy to use this pro-selfish stance as an excuse to get out of things we should be doing. Oftentimes when we’re tired, we really need to rest. Other times we need to get over it and go out.
The selfishness they talk about on The Biggest Loser is do-or-die. These people have put everything and everyone before themselves for so long that they compromised their own health.
When it comes to friends, putting yourself first is rarely a life-or-death situation. But as with any relationship, figuring out when to tend to yourself and when to tend to others is the key to a friendship’s longevity.
Some examples. I’ve had plenty of plans with friends who’ve bailed at the last minute because they had a rough week and needed to be alone with their boyfriend or their family or their couch. Fine. Totally get it. I’ve done it myself. But there are also some friends who seem to always have had The Roughest Week. It constantly becomes about them. And then when you need them, they aren’t around because their own stuff couldn’t be set aside.
I wouldn’t say I’ve had any relationships end over this, but I’ve seen my attitude toward certain friendships change. I’ve gotten to places where I just accept that “Oh, this is that kind of friendship. Ok. Good to know.”
The tricky part is figuring out when selfishness is acceptable—healthy, even—and when it’s simply, er, selfish. It’s not always the big dramatic death-in-the-family/house-is-burning-down/boyfriend-breakup stuff. Take a birthday party. Most of my friends do their annual celebrations at a bar of their choosing. If I show up, it’s likely that I won’t get to talk to them much. But I know that no matter how tired I am, no matter how bad a day I’ve had, they’d be genuinely upset with me if I didn’t make it. So I do.
But then, some might say, the mark of a true friend is the person to whom you can say “You know, it’s been a rough few days. I’m down, I won’t be any fun, is it ok if I’m a no-show?” And that true friend will say “Of course! You take care of you right now. No biggie.”
See? It’s complicated. Most relationships are.
So my question for you: In the context of friendship, when is it ok to put your own needs first, and when must you buck up and do something you don’t want to for the sake of a friend? I can’t imagine there are hard and fast rules about this, but how do you gauge the line?