Are You Being Selfish or Self-Considerate?

Do you have a hard time saying no to others?

The Definition of Selfish

Remember the movie A Christmas Carol? It was based on the story by Charles Dickens about Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a rich, selfish old miser who doesn’t share anything, including love. The spirit of Christmas Future shows Scrooge his future of having no one who cares about him, even at his death. Upon seeing this, he realizes the error of his ways and becomes a changed man. He goes on to make a large donation to a charity, gives his employee Bob Cratchit a raise, and spends the afternoon with his estranged family.

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of being selfish, does it?

The definition of selfish is: lacking consideration for others; being concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

It’s probably safe to say that being selfish has a negative connotation to it. We call children selfish if they don’t want to share their toys or our partner if they won’t share a bite of their favorite dessert.

But is it being selfish if you don’t want to share your time? Is there a word that describes when someone chooses to say no to a commitment or an opportunity because they value their own time more? Or when someone has clear boundaries around themselves and sticks to it? Unfortunately, there isn’t a word for that. Therefore I’d like to suggest that we use the word “self-considerate” until someone comes up with one.

The Definition of Self-Considerate

Being self-considerate means to put yourself first before the needs of others. This makes many people feel uncomfortable. As a result, they end up putting themselves last, and doing things for everyone else instead. This leads to overcommitment, feeling overwhelmed, having no time for themselves and many other problems in their personal lives: their health, relationships with their partner or family, and a general unhappiness with life.

Being self-considerate means to put yourself first before the needs of others.

What happens when we’re not being self-considerate?

  • We say yes to things that we don’t really want to do
  • The most important things in our business get delayed
  • We overcommit when we’re already very busy
  • Our health, self-care personal relationships get neglected
  • We feel resentful towards others and regret our choices
  • We feel stressed and overwhelmed
  • Our health, relationships and happiness begin to decline

Now that we know all the possible consequences, how can we let go of this stigma that it’s not okay to be self-considerate and start putting ourselves first?

We can start by looking at all the benefits we’ll see when we are self-considerate.

The Benefits to Being Self-Considerate

Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” I agree with this statement when we’re referring to all the little tasks and non-essential commitments that distract us from the really important things we need to get done. We need to become experts in prioritizing the most important things we need to do daily and weekly in our personal lives and in our business that give us the most return.

What this does NOT refer to is saying no to things that scare you. Those are usually the things where the magic happens. I’ve learned that if it scares me, it probably means I really need to do it. Consequently it usually ends up being less scary than I thought, and leads to a huge return in the end.

Being self-considerate is like putting on your own oxygen mask first.

It’s creating boundaries around your most valuable asset- your time. As a result, you’ll learn how to prioritize the most important things in your life.

Here are some benefits to being self-considerate:

  • Increased traction in your work or business
  • More time to enjoy life
  • Time for taking care of your mental, physical and spiritual health
  • Improved relationships
  • Increased confidence
  • Feeling happier and greater life satisfaction
  • Overall increased success at work and in life

It seems like a no brainer that’s it’s good to be self-considerate, right?

The challenging part is training ourselves to put this into practice every day, and to learn the skills to say no politely and firmly. Once you learn how and start applying it, you’ll see the benefits in your life which will reinforce the positive results for being self-considerate.

How Is It Serving You?

A great strategy to start becoming more self-considerate is to look at your current commitments and ask yourself, “How is it serving you?”

When you ask yourself this question, you should take a few things into consideration. Look at the value you get in return from the following aspects:

Financial– Does this commitment lead to financial gain in the future, in the form of actual leads or creating worthwhile connections? How much are the monthly dues and how much time are you putting in monthly versus the income you’ve gained on average per month? If you’re not netting a positive number for the year, it’s time to rethink your commitment

Emotional/Mental– Does being in the group uplift or inspire you? Do you learn new things and get great information that helps your personal or business development?

Relational– Have you formed fulfilling or important relationships for yourself or your family? Have you made wonderful friends?

Spiritual– Does it fill a spiritual need for you?

Client Story

I had a client who was extremely overwhelmed with her small business. She was working crazy hours at night and on weekends, then had to spend her waking hours working on her business. As a result, she was burning the candle at both ends and was desperate for help to get her life back.

On one of our calls, I asked her how many committees she was serving on. She was currently on six, and had been asked to be on the leadership team for one of them. She said even though she was good at leadership, it was very time consuming, and she always felt guilty for saying no.

I asked her how each of the committees was serving her. She thought about it and realized that most of them didn’t have a good return and took up a lot of her time. She ended up letting go of three of the committees immediately, and declining the leadership position as well. In doing so, she got back so much time in her schedule, she started doing a morning practice devoted just to herself. She started reading books for pleasure again. As a result, she reported that not only was she a lot happier, but her relationship with her husband improved as well because she had more time to spend with him.

Who Loses When You’re Not Self-Considerate?

Many people who are “people pleasers” think that by helping everyone else, that makes them a good person. They believe that the only person who suffers when they overcommit is themselves. But in reality, everyone in their life is affected. When you put others’ needs before your own, you’re not left with any time or energy for yourself or the people closest to you. Your patience is lowered and your stress level is higher. As a result, your business, your health and your relationships begin to suffer. All this trickles down to everyone you interact with, and usually results in you not acting as your best self. In the end, you feel guilty and try to make up for it, which leads to even less time for yourself.

Who Benefits When You’re Self-Considerate

The largest beneficiary of being self-considerate is you. Not only will you feel happier because you’re not committing to things you don’t want to do, but you have more time and energy to take care of yourself and your business. As a result, you feel better and become happier. This leads to you being more productive and efficient. Then, you start showing up as the BEST version of yourself to your loved ones, your coworkers, your employees and your potential clients. Everyone wins!

How To Say No Nicely

If you’ve taken the CVI personality assessment and you’re a Merchant, one of the hardest things for your personality type is saying no. I used to have a big problem with this, but I’ve learned some strategies that have made it easier. Make sure it’s clear that it’s a forever no. If not, you may be leaving the door open for them to ask you again.  So, if someone asks you to do something that you’d rather not do, here are some polite yet firm responses.

One of the biggest problems for Merchants is our desire to make people like us, so we often agree to things before thinking it over.

If you are asked in person to commit to something, respond with, “Let me think about it and get back to you.”

That buys you some time to think before your immediate impulse to say yes. If they follow up, you can answer them by email with the following strategy.

  • First, say something positive about what they are trying to enlist your help for.
  • Then, politely decline without leaving the door open for coming back and asking you again.

For example: “That’s so wonderful that you’re the chair for the welcome committee again this year! Thank you so much for asking me to join. Unfortunately, due to my other commitments, I’m going to have to decline.”

That’s it. Don’t add anything else like, “But maybe next time” or make up a story why you can’t do it. In doing this you’re making it easier for them to move on and not keep hope alive that you’ll change your mind. You’re giving both of you the greatest gift of a clear NO. You’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted off you! And you won’t regret it when you hear how they had to stay until midnight doing the place cards and you were treating yourself to some much-needed downtime!


When you become self-considerate, all aspects of your life will start to improve.

Even though it’s a little uncomfortable to do at first, when you become disciplined about doing it, you’ll see how much more time you have to focus on the most important things in your business and your life. Consequently, your health and relationships will improve, your business will get more traction and your overall life happiness will rise.

Take the first step to being self-considerate and see how it improves your life!