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The One Word Women Should Stop Using

June 01, 2015

I’ve noticed a disconcerting trend among the women in my life. Whether it’s in person, via text, or over email, there is a word that keeps creeping into conversations—in places where it has no right to be.

What’s the word, you ask?


Again and again, I hear my friends start sentences with, “Selfishly, I…” and the part that comes next is rarely, if ever, actually selfish. In researching this article, I did a quick search for the aforementioned word in my inbox. Here’s what came up:

What is going on?! 

Even amongst confident women, it seems that the word “selfishly” has come to signify: “I’m about to express an opinion or make a perfectly legitimate request—apologies in advance.”

Since when do we have to prime our friends by telling them how selfish we are before we even get a word out? Since when do our opinions have to be served with a side of guilt or remorse?

You might chalk it up to a conversational tick—I myself am guilty of occasionally using the “s” word where it doesn’t belong. But if that’s all it is, why do women seem to use this expression more often than men?

Surprise, surprise: No man in my email archive has ever used the word “selfishly” to justify what he wants, feels, or hopes for. It seems that women are much more inclined to equate having basic desires with being inexcusably self-involved.

So ladies, I implore you: Stop labeling yourself selfish for acts that are completely unselfish, and in many cases, outright generous.

You’re not “selfishly happy that your friend is moving back” or “selfishly happy that there’s no cilantro in the guacamole” or “selfishly happy that your coworker liked the cake you baked her.” You’re just plain happy. And may I remind you: That is okay.

Share this post. We dare you.


Tory Hoen is the author of the novel The Arc. She spent five years as the Creative Director of Brand at M.M.LaFleur (where she founded The M Dash!) and has written for New York Magazine, Vogue Fortune, Bon Appétit, and Condé Nast Traveler. Read more of Tory's posts.

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