Redefining S.E.L.F.I.S.H by Carolyn Hobdey

Publication Date: June 2021

Carolyn Hobdey’s book ‘Redefining SELFISH’ made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. It demands honesty from its readers and asks them to examine the way they live their life, the priorities we hold and how much we might adhere to societal expectations of the necessity to do and be more in order to be considered ‘successful.’ I was certainly able to recognise myself in some of the aspects the writer described, particularly around mental well-being and narratives we tell ourselves, often to our detriment, that if we keep saying yes and taking on more this will lead to fulfilment.  This book asks us to reflect on the reasons and meanings behind these strategies of self-preservation.

The concept of the book begins with the acronym ‘SELFISH’ each representing a different strand: self-worth, elimination, loving life, failure, identity, sexiness and help. The narrative voice feels conversational, as though you were in a dialogue with a friend, someone you could open up to. Humour often prevails, with lots of rhetorical devices and exclamative statements such as ‘well I say bollocks to that!’  The impact made me, as a reader, feel at ease and helped with the self-reflection sections as it did not feel critical but rather a collaboration, a sense of shared experience.

Hobdey was motivated herself by her own pattern of behaviours which saw her on a path of exhaustion she writes, ‘it was my own experience of being a constant ‘human doing’ (as my best friend puts it) rather than a human being that I had to sit up and take notice when my world caved in.’ The notion that we should keep on ‘doing’ and taking on more in order to feel a sense of self worth and accomplishment is an insidious idea that is instantly recognisable. In a world where social media dominates and comparison with other people’s projections of life via a photographic image comparison feels inevitable. Hobdey is asking the reader to put themselves at the forefront, ‘My aim is to provide thought-provoking content that will alter your feelings about doing things that are selfish as well as practical steps you can take’. These practical steps are useful (albeit uncomfortable!) but really helped with the consideration of what I myself might do that is potentially unhealthy or detrimental.

The balance is right between humour and hard-hitting facts. Everyone was hit in someway by the global pandemic, but it seems that women were the worst impacted. Drawing on various sources the book states that mental health has ‘worsened substantially’ as a result of the pandemic (by 8.1% on average) with women and young adults hit the hardest (The Health Foundation- June 2020)’ Furthermore, ‘63% of women reported feeling more anxious (mentalhealth.org.uk).’ Obviously then, this book is a really helpful tool that can be utilised to begin the process of trying to redress some of these issues. It is a book that can be referred to time and time again as a useful reminder of the importance of self and the necessity of valuing your own worth. It is most certainly not selfish but rather a vital component of a life well lived.


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