“Once I dreamt I saw my father
He said there are chains you just can’t see
He said to take good care of the ones I love
I said who’s gonna take good care of me?”

“Bridge of Sighs” – Louise Goffin

I think we all have lonely days. Days where we feel like people look right through us, as though we are ghosts; or never even look our way at all, seemingly noticing everything around them but us. I think those days are especially painful because those happen to be the days we really need to be seen; to be noticed; for the people we love to see our pain and hold us tight without us asking. 

But they don’t. And we feel invisible and lost. 

On one of those days, I sat down and played my life back in my head like a movie. Saw everyone I loved, everyone I knew, saw all the mistakes, all the discoveries, all the triumphs, all the defeats and never once, did I see myself. I saw everyone else but me. I saw their mistakes, their discoveries, their triumphs and their defeats. I was invisible. Not even noticible in my own life. 

At that moment I realized I was living my life through the experience of others. I was more concerned with what they thought of me, whether they loved me or not, whether they succeeded and whether their lives had turned out the way they hoped. I wanted everyone around me to feel lifted, feel loved, and feel like the story of their lives was something they could be proud of.

I started to wonder why it never occurred to me that my mistakes, my discoveries and my triumphs and defeats were just as important as theirs and that the story of my life was worth telling, just as much as theirs. I wanted to feel lifted and loved too. 

But I didn’t. And I didn’t know why. I thought about it for a long time. It wove it’s way in and out of every thought somehow. I would wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why I rarely dreamt about myself. Finally, one night a friend asked me how I felt about myself after a rather stressful day. I realized I didn’t feel anything about myself

I worried that I had made others feel badly, I was concerned what others would think when they found out. So I had feelings about it, but they were all for others, not for me. How it affected me didn’t matter. Only others mattered. So I tore apart the word itself and combined it with others. myself. yourself. And finally, I came to selfish.

We are taught from a young age that it’s wrong to be selfish, that we should share with others, in fact, we should do for others, at the sacrifice of self, because, well, it’s the “right” thing to do. And to some degree, I agree with that. 

But I also think that we have forgotten that being selfish is sometimes the thing we “need” to do in order to make sure that the story of our life includes moments that are all about us and that we aren’t invisible, even to ourselves. 

On those especially lonely days, when we want so badly for the ones we love to notice us, see our pain and hold us close, how do we expect that to happen when we aren’t even willing to do it? 

Why is it OK to push down our own pain so we can give our love to another? It’s not. 

Why can’t we love and nurture ourselves just as much as we do others? We should. 

Say no just as often as you say yes. Care for yourself the way you care for the ones you love. And when someone asks something of you, consider whether it’s good for you too or whether it only benefits them. It’s OK to get joy from seeing others happy, but you deserve some happiness of your own as well. 

Don’t give up the leading role in your own life so you can take a minor role in someone else’s. Love yourself. Be selfish.

“You say that you want someone to depend on
but you don’t like it when I’m depending on you
You know I love you but it don’t change your mind
I just want you to say it isn’t true”