I have been thinking a lot about the word selfish. We are taught from a very young age that being selfish is horrible. It’s an adjective that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. Synonyms include egotistical, self-centred, and self-absorbed. I am here to tell you that it is okay to be selfish. I would even say it is important.

For the entirety of my life, I have been a jokester, a bit of a class clown. I loved to make people smile, to make people laugh. I dedicated myself fully to making other people happy. Friends, family, sometimes people I barely even knew. Putting a smile on their faces truly put one on mine. And that had always been me. Everything was all fine and dandy, until I began struggling with my mental health at 14 years old.

My mental health was always something that I left on the back burner. Even as young as 11, I knew something wasn’t entirely right. I wondered if my friends felt like this, was this something normal? Or even worse, was I the only one? But I shoved all those feelings away, tossed my depression in a drawer that I rarely opened. But it was still there. And I felt selfish. A loving family, great friends, a home, food on the table, a great education. Looking at my life on paper, it was close to perfect. Yet, I still felt so sad. “People have real problems,” I used to tell myself. I drilled those words into my mind for years, and continued trying to make people happy. I dreamt and I dreamt that one day it would rub off on me. I wish I could go back and tell a younger version of myself that my feelings were valid, and that there is nothing selfish about looking after one’s mental health.

If you broke your wrist would you be ashamed to ask for a cast? The same principals should apply for mental health.

To make a long story short — I reached out. I sought help. And it was one of the most difficult, yet important things I have ever decided to do. I know there is a huge stigma around mental health, but right now there is an equally huge campaign to end that stigma. If you broke your wrist would you be ashamed to ask for a cast? The same principals should apply for mental health. Believe me, I know all of this is easier said than done. But that is exactly why I think it is vital to be selfish at times. It is okay to be struggling, it is okay to ask for help, it is okay to take time for yourself, and it is okay to put yourself and your mental health first. Another person’s story does not discredit your own.

So, cheers to being selfish. Say “no” to plans if you feel you already have too much on your plate. If you are having a great day, embrace it. Learn to truly love yourself, not despite of your flaws and quirks, but because of them. Seek counselling if you feel that you need to talk to a professional. And by no means am I a professional, so definitely get some advice from someone that actually has a degree, and isn’t a teenager. In learning to take better care of myself, I found myself growing into a better friend and a stronger person. Struggling with mental health is a journey, and for some, a lifelong battle. But the only way to get started on that journey is to take the first step: be a little selfish.