getting started

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Selfish: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Apr 28th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 29th, 2022

Nobody wants to be seen as a selfish person, right? Selfishness has a lot of negative connotations, after all! People who are viewed as selfish put their needs before the needs of others and don’t seem to care much for anyone’s feelings but their own. Maybe they want all the glory and recognition for themselves on a group project. They might make plans without considering their responsibilities at work or at home, forcing other people to pick up their slack. Or maybe they take the last piece of cake, without even offering to at least split it (almost unforgivable, tbh)! On the other hand though, feeling selfish isn’t always a bad thing. You might be thinking: ummm, are you sure about that? Stick with us, it’s gonna make more sense soon!

We’re all guilty of being selfish from time to time! Nobody is perfect. But prioritizing your needs and mental wellness doesn’t automatically make you a selfish person. Maybe putting your needs first still makes you feel selfish and kinda guilty, though. It’s okay, we can work through that! Let’s dive thru feeling selfish, what it really means and how to cope with this emotion.

A Deeper Look at Feeling Selfish

What does it mean to feel selfish? Great question. Why not take a look at a good, reliable definition for some clarification? APA Dictionary defines selfishness as: “n. the tendency to act excessively or solely in a manner that benefits oneself, even if others are disadvantaged.”

Sooo yeah, being selfish CAN be really harmful. When we want something, or even someone, all to ourselves, that can be selfish…not to mention super toxic and unhealthy! If we will stop at no end to get what we want, even if it hurts the people around us – you guessed it! That is also selfish behaviour. And to no surprise, it can affect our relationships in negative ways. The people in our lives can become distant or distrusting of our actions if they have been burned by our selfishness before. Our reputation for being selfish can proceed us, making us feel isolated from others. It can hold us back from new opportunities. Nobody wants to deal with a selfish person who will throw them under the bus if it means they’ll get ahead. Who can blame them, really?

Buuut there is a difference between being selfish and looking after your wellbeing. It’s not selfish to practice self care, ask for help or take some personal time to be alone. It isn’t selfish to celebrate your achievements or want recognition for your hard work. It’s not selfish to set boundaries and ask that people respect them. It’s not selfish to feel proud of yourself, ask for help, or say “no.” And it’s not selfish to be honest and open about your thoughts and feelings. You might worry that any of these needs will make other people think you’re selfish, but ask yourself  — if someone was in your shoes, would you write them off as selfish? Chances are, you would understand where they’re coming from and show empathy. And no, not everyone will take your needs seriously or be as understanding as they should. But keep in mind: you are your #1 priority. So take care of yourself. There’s nothing selfish about that!

How Feeling Selfish Shows Up Metally

When we don’t prioritize our needs out of the fear of seeming selfish, it can be really hard on our mental wellbeing. Here are a few ways our mental health can be affected:

  • Burnout
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration

In extreme cases, selfishness is a symptom of diagnosable mental disorders such as antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Someone dealing with a mental illness such as depression may come off as selfish to other people because they have “checked out” of other areas of their life and are wrapped up in their own feelings and struggles.

How Feeling Selfish Shows Up Physically

Again, putting your own needs and self care on the back burner to avoid being seen as selfish can eventually impact your physical health, too. The built-up stress, resentment and anxiety can harm your cardiac health, cause digestive problems, and make sleeping difficult. Headaches, low energy, chest pain and a weakened immune system are also indicators of stress.

In case you didn’t hear us the first time — self-care. is. not. selfish. Listen to what your body is telling you! Your physical health and mental health work hand in hand.

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Selfish

Okay so, you wanna work through your selfish feelings. First of all, we’re proud of you for taking this step! Anddd we’ve got some coping strategies for you. Try ‘em out, ‘cause they’re pretty great.

1. Journal

This method right here? We love it…swear by it…10/10 recommend it! Writing down your thoughts and feelings can give you a ton of clarity. Plus, it’s helpful for reframing negative thoughts into positive ones. It also feels very therapeutic and will help release all of those bad feelings you’ve been harbouring!

2. Practice Meditation

Meditation is a method that’s been used to relieve stress and improve mental clarity since, like… forever. This practice allows us to slowww down and shift our mindset. If you’re not sure how to meditate, start out with a guided practice.

3. Engage in Something Soothing and Comforting

Spend time with your pet by cuddling them or taking them on a walk. Touch something comforting like your fave cozy blanket. Brew some tea or your drink of choice. Find whichever method or activity is right for you in the moment!

4. Move Your Body

A huge benefit to exercise? Those endorphins, baby! Getting physical not only improves your mood, it also releases stress and improves your focus. So try doing something active that you personally enjoy! It could be dancing around your room to your upbeat playlist, or following along to a yoga video on YouTube. Maybe you like to run. Or swim. There’s endless activities that get you up and moving! Not only will your heart thank you for it, but so will your mind.

5. Reach Out for Support

Try reaching out to a friend, family member or loved one when you need to have a good ol’ vent session. They can be there to listen and support you, and maybe even offer up some advice if that’s what you need. Either way, just having them be there for you can make all the difference in the world!


Well. That’s all we’ve got for now! We hope this has helped you navigate this feeling and recognize that making yourself a priority is NOT selfish. Your feelings and needs are valid, always!


Read More: Online Therapy 101, How to Get the Most Value From Your Therapy Appointments,