Her small “hello” creaked over the phone line.

I knew what had happened before she said it, I guess that’s what it means to be a best friend.

“Just tell me it’s going to be ok” she sniffled before another wave of that chest clenching sobbing. The kind that feels like drowning.

“Of course it’s going to be ok,” I said, “You’re standing up for your truth and making room in your life for better.”

“He said I put unreasonable expectations on relationships, that I wanted too much. Am I selfish?”

My heart sunk.

“NO!” I wanted to scream, my furry directed at the fear that was robbing my friend of the vision she has for her life and her self-worth.

But of course I didn’t scream. I listened.

I heard her fear prickling up like a scared cat, I heard the smallness we all feel when we’ve broken something that needed it.

I heard the surprise that overwhelms us as we stand over the mess, the shock of our actions sucking the air from our lungs.

She called as I was drafting this article. The taste of ‘you’re selfish’ fresh and metallic in my mouth.

I had recently read this quote:

“Virtuous to a fault, these trapped creatives destroyed the true self, the self that didn’t meet with much approval as a child. The self who heard repeatedly, ‘Don’t be selfish!’”

— Julia Cameron

And the familiar twinge of panic and shame that comes with the idea of being a selfish person set in and suddenly I understood what being labeled “selfish” is: a shaming tool for people who want their way.

It’s leveled against people who are simply good at setting boundaries, have a deep sense of self and self-preservation.

“Selfish” is the person who is tired of your shit.

And, of course, it’s slung like manure on women who demand more than what we have been given historically.

  • The woman who doesn’t want kids.
  • The woman who pursues her career with grace and claws.
  • The woman that cooks the dinner, cleans the house and expects her partner to wash and dry.
  • The woman who breaks up with the boy that doesn’t meet her needs (her “unreasonable” needs for happiness).

Selfish on a woman comes in many disguises.

Cold hearted.

Not mother material.


Lobbed liked bombs when a woman does or says things that focus on self-preservation rather than bending to everyone else’s comforts.

Oh how we are shamed when truth slips from our mouths, like ghosts. It’s shock and awe when we finally stand up for ourselves, people don’t know how to respond. So they huck words meant to shame us into our place.

The place that makes other people comfortable, but sucks the life from our heart.

They don’t know how to respond because we are so frequently playing the circus animal: all song and dance.

We get so accustomed to shutting up, the fear of being “selfish” hovering behind us like an over-caffeinated mall-cop slapping a billy-club in his fleshy palm, don’t step out of line.

And then:

“What’s left is a shell of our whole self. . .Like a listless circus animal prodded into performing, it does it’s tricks. It goes through it’s routine. It earns its applause”

— Julia Cameron

We become the lioness being prodded with chairs inside the ring. How much can you take, hmm?

And then?

We either settle for the routine of not living our truth or, we break.

And with the breaking comes the building.

Which is what I said to my friend, when she asked me if she had made a mistake, if she would ever find love, if she was selfish and unreasonable.

I told her the same thing I would tell any woman reading this:

Selfish is the label people put on those who are standing up for their truth, who set boundaries and hold them because life is meant to be created not coasted through.

Creation is selfish, wholly interested in itself. Is the creator selfish because she is trying to make something beautiful of her life?

The breaking we feel, the discomfort of standing in our truth is all a sign of growth. It feels uncomfortable because we are used to our song and dance. Our same old routine.

Even if it’s killing us, that old groove is what we know.

When you stand up for your life, you’re learning a new song.

In the middle of the breaking, all will be confusion, the new song will be a haunting melody.

When you think you know the words, it will rise, whirl, vanish, like smoke.

But if you hang on through the chaos of growth, you’ll learn the sweetest song of all: your truth.

Take Action!

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Originally published at entrepreneurs.maqtoob.com