From "selfishness" to "self care"
Nomenclature is important (February 2nd, 2021)
Every word, every phrase, even when newly coined, carries with it benefits, costs, possibilities, and risks. These will vary according to person, context, and other factors. Regardless of these variations, when choosing key words in our communication with others, we need to carefully consider the connotations (the emotional impact) as well as the denotations of each key word or phrase, especially those which are fundamental to our message and are often used.
I was loyal to "selfish"
For decades I have "loyally" stuck by my use of the word selfishness to mean, "concern for one's own self interest" in a way that had no inherent implication of doing harm to others. I had good reasons to stick by the use of this word (and still do). Regardless, while listening to the generous feedback from clients, friends, and site users, I have become increasingly aware that, regardless of how vehemently I insist they understand my fine-tuned distinction of the word selfishness, many cannot adjust their former denotations of this word, as well as it being impossible for them to drop their negative connotations. Special thanks to Mike Akagi, Tove Hansen, Anne Wayman, as well as others for helping me to see this point.
The word to use in place of "selfish"
But what new word to use? I've only found two words in English that contain most of the denotation that I need and are also usually taken positively. Those are "self care" and "self love." "Self care" comes closer to meaning what I'm trying to communicate. When I was using the word "selfish," I was challenged with getting the listener to modify both their denotation, but more especially their negative connotation of the word. In switching to the word "self care," I'll only have the task of expanding a bit on the denotation that most people already have for this positive word. To signal this expanded meaning, I will spell this word as "SelfCare" and clearly note its expanded meaning in the glossary.
Whereas SelfCare can be synonymous with my denotation for selfishness (as a noun), I'm more likely to use the word SelfCaring as both an adjective (as is selfish) and as a noun (selfishness). As one example, I would say, "The best relationships with others is when you find ways for your SelfCaring and their SelfCaring to work together."
A work in progress
This new way of speaking and writing (and revamping this site) will be a "work in progress" for a while. In the meantime, if I speak the word "selfish" or you read the word "selfish," if needed for your own listening, interpret it as SelfCaring. I await any feedback or suggestions you may have regarding this shift I am making in my speaking and my writing.