How Being Selfish Made Me A Better Person: A Story of Realization after Relapse

I’m writing this at 1 a.m. from the Baltimore Washington Airport. I’m writing this after weeks of exhaustion and travel. Most Importantly—I’m writing this more than a month after I intended to.

One month ago I would have told you the past year was the best of my life. I was excited to figure out how to share my story. I couldn’t wait to put my journey into words, and it all started when I decided that being selfish doesn’t have to be negative.

I started putting myself first in ways I never had before. And guess what? It worked! It made me a better person, truly and completely. But then this summer arrived and I over-committed myself in every aspect of life…

…to my career, my friendships, my significant other, my family… to everyone and everything but myself.

So now here I sit, listening to sad music, waiting for a 3-hour delayed flight. My body is literally bruised, my mind is truly exhausted, and my spirit is completely extinguished. Here I sit, holding back tears, thinking this relapse has made me realize I NEED to go back to my selfish ways.

Before I go any further, let’s take a step back.

The Crutch for My Go-Getter Life 

(Hint: Before I Was “Selfish”)

I’ve always been a go-getter, a pleaser, and a nurturer. This has landed me in many bad situations throughout my life. I was the person with 3 part-time jobs in college, who juggled plans with friends and felt guilty about not seeing my family enough. This streak started to shift when I found California and yoga. I moved to San Diego after college, with a boy—the boy didn’t work, but California did.

After this move, I began committing to my yoga practice. I’d always been a somewhat active person, blessed with good genes and a generally fit body. My relationship with fitness was always yo-yoing.

“I’m going on a cruise, I should hit the gym.”  

“I want to look better in my Lululemon. I’ll take a class.”  

“I’m stressed for finals, I’ll start running in the park.”

The problem is that nothing ever really stuck. Once I started regularly practicing yoga, I started to gain clarity in times when I truly needed it. One such realization was that, despite my practice being more consistent than it had ever been, it was still more of a crutch than anything else. Break-ups, work stress, times when I was cash-poor and couldn’t go out always inevitably turned into: “I’ll just take back-to-back classes instead!”

As soon as I was happy, yoga and I were back-to-back-burner statuses. I still wasn’t being selfish—I was being reactive and, when everything was better, I went back to ignoring the need to choose ME.

The Turning Point

One year ago I experienced a number of traumatic life experiences that I couldn’t ignore. I walked away from an emotionally abusive relationship, moved four times in 3 months, and experienced a few deaths in the family.

This is when I decided on one important detail:

Life is short, happiness is paramount, and it was time to put Tracy first.

Step one: living alone. I’ve always lived with roommates and boyfriends, and I was sick of it. But if you know anything about San Diego, you know it isn’t easy for a mid-twenties single working lady to pay for a 1-bedroom apartment.

I decided to prioritize what was important to me—be selfish for the first time in a LONG time—turning my budget upside down, and saying fuck it. I signed the lease on a 1-bedroom studio (and now a 1-bedroom apartment) all to myself. That’s when everything started falling into place.

I joined a new yoga studio with multiple locations so no matter where my crazy job or life took me I could find time for a class.

I said “no” to plans when I was too tired.

Most importantly, I started advocating for myself at work.

My career often takes over my life and while most of the time I love it, it’s taken me a long time to learn how to say NO. But I did it—I said no to 70-hour weeks, conference calls on days off, and sitting in meetings instead of a yoga studio.

Once this happened, I became more engaged, effective, and even got a promotion. My personal relationships also started thriving. I committed to speaking my mind and my truth and the benefit has been unbelievable.

Being Selfish: Redefining My Crutch

During this time, I learned to love and be at peace with spending time with myself, and giving myself what I need. Whether it be a yoga class, a morning in bed, a glass of wine with a girlfriend or an afternoon of meal prepping. I just listened to what my gut told me was right at that moment. When I started putting myself first, listening to what I wanted, and actually doing it, my life started transforming in the most amazing ways.

So last month on a girl’s trip to Palm Springs, I started brainstorming how I could explain my selfishness. How it’s made me a better person. I reflected on the past year of growth and found that I was really proud of myself.

Then I said yes to a work trip—we needed someone to help open a new East Coast location. I also decided to squeeze in two other trips to see family and friends, I was there; why not, right? (Insert palm to face emoji)

While my yoga mat was in my suitcase and I had every intention of staying mindful, present and selfish, I didn’t practice. I came back to San Diego practically broken from over-extending myself. This relapse into my old ways truly made me realize the progress I’ve made in the past year—and how important it is to live a happy and fulfilling life—sans my yoga crutch to get through the times when I don’t.

I know when I’m not ‘selfish’ I’m not my best self.

So, after two weeks of rest, and getting situated back into my life I’m able to stay in bed with a warm cup of coffee and share my journey with you.

Your Turn

I have one simple task for you: Think of a new word for selfish—what does it mean to you, in your life? Let’s get rid of the negative connotation and focus on how being selfish can open us up to truly enjoy life.