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Sacred Selfishness

“What would you want if you let yourself be totally selfish right now?”

It’s February 2017, and I’m in a cafe in Scotts Valley, CA, finishing tea with Diana Chapman. 

I feel lucky just to be sitting with this hero of mine — a leadership coach and author whom I’ve interviewed for Conscious Company magazine.

I’m delighted she accepted my invitation to get together while I’m in town for a conference.

And now I squirm a little as I ponder her question.

Totally selfish, hunh?

“I’d ask for more time with you, actually,” I reveal.

She feels into it for a moment. “I’m up for that,” she says. “Reach out to my assistant and get on my calendar for an hour every other week.”

And so begins 3+ years of coaching that absolutely changes my life.


I usually hate being called “selfish.”

It makes my skin crawl.

Just hearing the word sets alarm bells clanging in the part of my brain designed to make sure I don’t get banished from the safety of social belonging.

But as Diana demonstrated with that question years ago, selfishness can be powerful

Even beautiful. 

A force of creativity and desire.

So important that I’ll label a particular flavor of it “sacred.”


“What can I count on you for?” I ask the man I’ve just started dating in late 2021. 

One of the things that appeals to me about him is that he’s so centered in his own being, so impossible to get codependently enmeshed with. 

But it’s a little confusing, too, to the one in me used to giving myself up for a partner (and expecting the same in return). 

He reflects on the question, and comes back with an answer. 

“You can count on me to take care of myself first.”

This becomes an ambition of mine. A vision of a certain form of maturity.

Can I be trustworthy in the same way?

Can I catch when I’m hiding what I really want — and stop?


Most of us know instinctively that too much selfishness is toxic. But so is too little.

Sacred selfishness is about having the dignity to look out for our own interests.

The faith to trust that our desires matter, and may be pointing us somewhere good, beautiful, and true. 

The discipline to say No to acting from a sense of obligation. That only leads down a path of resentment and entitlement, after all.

Sacred selfishness trusts that our care for others’ interests needs to include ourselves, first and foremost. 

It’s a form of responsibility for being the creators of our own lives.

So: Are you holding your selfishness sacred?

What else could you dare to want?

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This post was originally sent as an email to the Magic Words of the Week newsletter list. Every week, I share reflections on a word, quote, or phrase I think will help you thrive in your life’s work.

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