Selfish, Self Centred or Selfless?
Which of these do you aspire to? Do you put yourself first or consider the needs of others above your own?
You might think the ideal is to selflessly serve your community. It has a religious flavour. You suffer so others can be happy. You sacrifice so others can be abundant. There is often an unwritten agreement about the payback for this service. This can be a way of gaining love, attention and approval. The trouble is this often leads to burn-out, when there is nothing left to give, or resentful and angry feelings when the payback does not come as expected.
When you put the needs of others first, you are often in a care-taking role. Notice your desire to be needed, how you live through others and where you are denying your own needs and keeping yourself from growth.
On the other hand, self-centred is just as unhealthy. The individualism of ‘every man for himself’ assumes that there is ‘not enough’ of whatever you desire (love, money, friends, resources) to go round. Thinking only of yourself makes you fickle and manipulative. You cannot trust anyone and no one can trust you.
Both of the above are about attempting to stay in control. Looking for time, money and attention from the outside in order to feel fulfilled is mistaken; this has to come from inside.
Being Self-ish, with a capital ‘S’ means you meet your own needs first before you attend to others. You invest in the wellness of your body, mind and spirit and orient your life around your values and passions. In this way you actually have more to give others and you expect less in return, so your giving is unconditional. You can build your reserves, you are stronger, and you are a role model showing others how to treat themselves and others with true respect.
I hope you consciously take opportunities to be Self-ish and see how rewarding it is to delegate, collaborate and give others the opportunity to help. There might be some standards you drop or plans you change in the interest of being happy rather than right. Looking back I trust you will see how, in the long run, being Self-ish actually serves everyone around.
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This article first appeared in Wellbeing Magazine