How to be Selfish (And Other Uncomfortable Advice) by Olga Levancuka

        Is it selfish to read a book about how to be selfish?  Ironic food for thought before reading this book! Life coach Olga Levancuka has written material that is controversial, to be sure. Teaching people to be selfish seems, on the surface, to be a negative task. So much of society shies away from seeming self-centered or “selfish”, when in reality, according to the author, taking care of our needs, thinking of how to make ourselves happier, can enrich not only our lives but our relationships with others as well. In other words, if we’re happy and content, we will react in a better way with people around us.

The book is written in a very conversational tone. It’s like having a friend give you a kick in the pants – a good pep talk that you’ve maybe been needing for a long time. But some of her opinions are shocking and potentially offensive and, as promised in the title, uncomfortable. She knows this, and even challenges readers to disagree with her, the theory being that any genuine feelings we have are better than no feelings or only socially-acceptable feelings. As she states early on, she brings up “all the topics that you’re not supposed to bring up at dinner parties…” and those would include religion, karma, body image, money, emotions, and our childhood pain.

She likens people to hamsters in a way – being trapped on the wheel of life. We’re doing what others expect us to do, doing what will please society, whether or not it pleases us, she says. She asks how feeling guilty about wanting something can possibly help someone else?  How can doing for others all the time at the expense of doing something good for ourselves make us a better person?  She offers advice on how to take chances – open our minds and hearts to what we really want, even if it is not the popular or acceptable choice.

Levancuka was born in the Soviet Union, during the last days of Communism. She had quite a life, having seen, at 6 years old, neighborhood boys trying to kill another boy, and being brave enough to reveal the names of those boys. She had a fortune and lost a fortune, became a widow in her 20s when her husband passed from cancer, lost a child…and worked for the Mafia (details on that are sketchy!). It’s apparently all made her fight back and come out stronger, and now she says she wants to pass along her life lessons to others.

There are readers who will be offended by her opinions on religion – on karma – on owning up to the fact that, in her opinion we are only short of money through our own fault. Controversial? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. And some elements of the book are not entirely new in terms of motivational material and affirmations  – it’s been said and done before. But it hasn’t been said and done before by this author, and her approach, though unusual, is worth taking note of. Particularly interesting are several exercises toward the end of the book. They are simple but mentally and emotionally challenging and apply techniques she’s written about earlier on.

Readers would do well to put aside any hurt feelings or shock at the tone of the book and concentrate on the overall message. It’s worth the read and might be just what’s needed to take a fresh look at life.

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