“I have developed a great sense of self. It was something I had to learn to do, to understand that I am important and worthy of loving me for who I am. We all need to practice self-ness.”

The speaker at the podium ended her speech by making that comment. The speech she delivered had been about what makes a good survivor. Why do some people fold under stress while others make it through intact? This woman made it clear that she had first-hand experience.

She had been through hell, personally and professionally. An emotionally abusive marriage and a teaching position which included the administrator from hell, her life was nothing more existing in two war zones. 

On sick leave with severe digestive problems caused by all the stress, she took serious stock of her life and decided she was worthy of living better, happier, and healthier.  Changes had to be made and she began the task of starting to live the way she wanted. Taking a calculated risk, she left both the marriage and the job and, little by little, she created the life she knew she deserved to have.

Re-inventing herself she found hidden talents, one of which was public-speaking, which led her to form her own business. How was she able to do this? She practiced self-ness.

But what exactly is ‘self-ness’? The best definition for this word means that you are caring for and nourishing your own self. It is not the same as being selfish, not at all. The meanings of these two words are vastly different.

Of course we all know what the word selfish means. Most of our childhood we’ve been told not to be selfish. The dictionary defines the word as, caring chiefly for one’s self or one’s own interests and comforts, to the point of disregarding the welfare or wishes of others; characterized as undue love of self.”

We have been indoctrinated by society and religions to believe that by caring about ourselves we are somehow ignoring the needs of all others or taking something important away from them. It is no wonder we see love of self as ‘undue’ and wrong. 

But the word is ‘self-ness’, not selfish, and though you will not find that word in any dictionary, it can be defined as not only loving yourself, but liking yourself. It is caring about your life, your health—both mental and physical. It is nourishment of your own being. It is love that is due you, and a love that only you can give to yourself. This love of self takes nothing away from anyone else.

Caring for yourself, making time for yourself is not a selfish act. It is not only a loving act but a practical one as well. Too many times we nourish others, putting their needs and wants above our own. Of course there are times in everyone’s life when meeting the needs of another—a sick child, an elderly parent, a spouse or sibling going through a crisis—must, of necessity, take center stage. That’s understandable and unavoidable.

But to nourish others in ways that they can take care of, and manage, themselves, depletes us. We give so much of our time and energy to others that we forget to nourish our self. Without this nourishment our bodies and our minds can become infected with the disease of neglect and we suffer for it in more ways than one. SELF-Ness is crucial to our emotional and physical health. It allows us to lead a happy life. It is never undue to love oneself.

Society is based on a system of beliefs and most of those beliefs come from religions. One of the most disturbing of those beliefs has come down to us from the time of the Puritans. The belief is that suffering will buy us something. In the case of the Puritans, people were made to believe that unless they suffered they could not gain entrance to heaven. Suffering supposedly bought them that admittance.

The vestiges of self-sacrifice and suffering for others is still with us today. The person who sacrifices self is seen as a noble human being, while anyone who puts self first, is seen as selfish. Even in 2021 this antiquated way of thinking influences us in our lives.

But that way of thinking is not only self-defeating, it is just plain wrong. Suffering only buys one thing—more suffering.  There’s nothing noble or wonderful in leading a life of misery.

Despite numerous ideas to the contrary, you are not put on earth to lead a life of suffering. Your life should be a reflection of your own inner harmony that allows you, through your abundance and love of self, to give something back to the world without taking anything away from yourself.

When we sacrifice self we give away a beautiful gift that we were given at birth. Our lives are unique and precious. Helping others, doing charitable works is not enhanced by our own suffering. Who are you really helping if you are always suffering? Not yourself and certainly not anyone else.

Every minute of your life is precious. Self-imposed suffering and sacrifice dulls and tarnishes the gift you’ve been given. Because the speaker had learned to love and cherish herself, she was more able to help others. She is on the board of several non-profits that help society. She became a philanthropist and an advocate for children and victims of domestic abuse.

Take some time out of every single day to love and nurture your own needs. Life is a precious gift—love and nourish yourself. make your life a priority.


  • Kristen Houghton

    Kristen Houghton

    Thrive Global

    Kristen Houghton is the award-winning author of the popular series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation.  She is also the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. Her horror novel, Welcome to Hell, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Houghton has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel. Before becoming a full-time  author, Kristen, who holds an Ed.D. in linguistics, taught World Languages on the high school and university levels. Along with her husband, educator Alan William Hopper, she is a philanthropist for Project Literacy and Shelters With Heart, safe havens for victims of domestic abuse and their pets . mailto:  [email protected]