If there's one book I LOATHE, it's "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. It's the story of a young boy's relationship with a tree. At first, he swings and climbs from her branches - and the tree is happy. Then the boy disappears for several years, only to return to sell the tree's apples, chop down her branches, destroy her trunk, and ultimately sit on her stump. And the tree is happy. I call bullshit.
Critics are torn between thinking this is a book about unconditional love or a book about extreme greed and thoughtlessness. Knowing Silverstein's flair for sarcasm, I'm with the latter.
The tree needed to be a bit more selfish.
When we take care of our bodies, minds and spirits, it isn't selfish.
When we learn, write, create, love and enjoy life, it isn't selfish.
When we establish boundaries so others can't abuse our love and kindness, it isn't selfish.
We've gone through the world with a sense of self-ish - not quite learning how to speak up for ourselves, not quite taking the time to fill our own needs and definitely not standing up to those who treat us with disrespect and disdain.
In order to be your best self, you need to be self-centered. We need to give ourselves time to rest, without guilt. We need to spend time immersed in things we love. We need to tune into what our minds crave to feel alive and valuable. We're not trees that are used mindlessly and carelessly.
If the idea of being selfish makes your skin crawl, take it a baby step at a time.
Here are some ideas to embrace your selfishness:
Spend time alone.
Do something you love.
Buy your favorite treat.
Take a nap.
Don't give in to guilt.
Of all those tips, #5 is usually the hardest. We've been trained to believe we need to save everyone, do everything, never rest, never stop until we die like the tree, just a stump for someone to sit on.
The more you practice these small steps, the more you can move forward into self-love, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect - and the list goes on.
Peri Kinder is a Happiness Coach, Certified Yoga Teacher, Meditation Instructor and Humor Columnist.