Why Being Self-Centered is a Surprisingly Good Idea

April 28, 2014
woman holding a white cup

When was the last time you put yourself first?

If you’re in a place where you’re not comfortable with your life at the moment, join the club. You’ve got lots of company. But at the same time, there are a lot of people who are just fine.

Though you might not hear from them as often as you hear from the people who are perpetually pissed off.

Back in my corporate days, coffee breaks (when I got them) or lunches (when I wasn’t working through them) were largely spent complaining with my coworkers. The boss was a micro-manager. The company wasn’t run right. The project was going to crash and burn. You name it, we complained about it.

But after a while, you want relief from what’s dragging you down. And usually, no matter what you want to believe, that relief has to start with you.

Making a Change

Ultimately I decided to make a change in my life and leave corporate. But it didn’t happen all at once. I was used to being the go-to person at work. From working late nights and weekends, to going above and beyond, I was the one to call.

After a while I began to wonder what was it all for? Extra pats on the back? The occasional shout-out? Usually no money was involved, no promotions and the same 3% raise I got no matter how good my appraisal was.

As the years went by, I saw my dream of writing full-time slipping away. I’d been a writer before changing careers to go into IT. Unfortunately with the long hours, I’d had no time to do much writing outside of work. My life was my job, and I gave up everything else. My friends, my social life–everything was related to work.

Making a Decision

However, sooner or later you realize, it’s now or never. And after a series of events that woke me up, I decided to go for it.

I picked a date on the calendar one year in advance, and made a promise to myself to leave corporate forever.

As time went by, it occurred to me I also had to give up being the “go-to” person. I had to focus on my own desires, my health (working 10-12 hours a day with a 4-hour R/T commute is not much fun) and my peace of mind. So, I began saying no. Let someone else pick up the slack on that hot project. Let someone else step up. I continued to do my job, but I put myself first.

Instead of spending money on things I didn’t need, I put my money aside and paid off bills. Instead of volunteering to stay late to fix problems, I went home after my work day was done. Instead of shoveling in junk food throughout the day, I stopped distracting myself with emotional eating.

It wasn’t easy to reclaim myself. But I had to put myself first to be whole again. After a while, I was no longer part of the “in crowd” who were called on first to handle problems. I’d relinquished my place in the circle of go-getters. For a little while, it stung my ego because I did like being that person. My identity had been wrapped up in my corporate ambitions and I had to let that go.

Making a Life

Young Woman Facing the SkyFinally when I left the company, I was more than ready. I’d taken time to prepare myself mentally and financially to walk away. From there I went on to a contracting assignment, and started freelancing.

Putting your desires first is not a selfish act. Even if you can’t make a big move right now, you can plan and prepare. Not everyone will agree with what you’re doing. That’s fine. It’s not their life, it’s yours. At the end of the day, you’ll be the one looking back at it.

What are your desires for your life? If you’re not pursuing them, what are you waiting for?

Copyright © 2014 Deborah A. Bailey

Deborah A Bailey

Deborah is a writer, writing workshop presenter and published author. She's host of the Women Entrepreneurs Radio podcast.

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