Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless. ~ Edward Albert
One of the most common fears for the women I work with has been the fear of being selfish.
Even though they are burnt-out and resentful but the worry of being selfish holds them back.
These women are deeply driven to love and care for others, it’s like it is encoded in their very DNA. Selfish is the absolute last thing they want to feel.
To avoid feeling selfish, they just keep going, putting the needs of others ahead of their own. All the while, feeling like they are losing themselves and any hope that life will ever feel good.
And I understand that conflict. It is torture, really.
My drive to help and please others has been at the root of much of my pain and suffering. I’m no stranger to making decisions based on what other people think I should do, think, and feel.
I’ve been known to sit at my desk, feeling ravenous with my stomach screaming for food, answering one more email. Or waiting to pee so long that I’d be on the brink of peeing my pants just so the person talking wouldn’t feel interrupted.
I’ve spend all day helping and supporting others only to find myself exhausted and face first in gluten free muffins at night.
When I’d try to rest, I would feel the contrast between exhaustion and the drive to do just.one.more.thing.
Eventually, my body gave out.
I could no longer ignore the signals of not meeting my own needs. I guess for all that time, I thought that if I was busy putting everyone ahead of me then someone, anyone, would come along and put me first.
And well, they never came.
I had to be the one to save me.
In doing so, I learned some valuable life lessons about the difference between self-love and selfish. I’d like to share them with you:
# 1: It isn’t in you to abandon the people you love.
We often avoid taking care of ourselves because we think it means that we have to abandon those that we love. That if we put ourselves on our on priority list that their won’t be time or energy for others.
But the truth is that one of our Universal Needs is Contribution. As humans, we most likely would not feel satisfied by life if we didn’t contribute to others.
When you are thriving, you will want to support others, automatically.
You won’t be napping, taking a bath, or staring out the window forever.
You will get up. And you will feel good. And because you feel good, you will support others because you want to, not because you have to.
This is part of who you are. It is part of who we all are.
#2: Worth is intrinsic. It can’t be earned or proven.
We often believe that the path of being worthy is in doing, bending, and molding to the needs and thoughts of others. If we just help one more person or make this person like us, then, and only then are we worthy of what we most crave: connection, love, acceptance, a safe place to land.
But the truth is that worth can’t be proven. If it could be proven, I am pretty sure we would have all done it by now. I mean, how much harder could you possibly push, and do, and bend?
#3: Others will only benefit from your self-love and self-respect.
Similar to thinking that we’d have to abandon others in order to care for ourselves, it isn’t uncommon to think that taking care of ourselves would actually harm the people we love. Who will feed the kids? When will the emails get written? What about my clients? They need me.
Well, the truth is that when your needs are met, you will feel the way you want to feel.
And when you feel good, you show up in your life from that place and people will only benefit from you feeling your best.
Get honest with yourself. What are you really like when you are exhausted and cranky? If they deserve your best, then you have to show up from your best.
And you do that by taking care of yourself.
#4: You are responsible for meeting your needs.
We think that other people should just know what we want and need. And furthermore, they should just do those things automatically. We shouldn’t have to ask or be specific. They should understand how we feel without us telling them. I mean, isn’t that what other people are for?
The truth is that we are interconnected beings.
Relationships are the fabric of our lives.
And others can support us in meeting our needs but we, first, have to know what those needs are, and we have to be able to express them without expectation.
And no matter how others respond to our requests, our job is to assume self-responsibility. This might mean compromise in the easiest of relationships and, sometimes, different relationships all together.
But, that is up to you to know and decide. Your needs are yours after all.
#5: Having needs isn’t a weakness.
The longer we put the needs and thoughts of others on the front burner, the further and further back our own needs go. As a way to cope, we will tell ourselves that we don’t have needs. That having needs is a weakness. That certain needs are OK but others aren’t. That our needs won’t be met anyway so we might as well reject them.
But the truth is that having needs is human.
And, well, you are human.
All humans have needs.
You are unique in many ways but having needs isn’t one of them.
In fact, every single thing you do is an attempt to meet a need. From the overworking to the overeating and the avoiding your feelings, all of it is an attempt to meet a need.
And in order to get those needs met, you have to start by knowing and understanding them.
Be human. I love that about you.
I’ll tell you, when it all comes right down to it, if we want lives that feel the way we want them to feel, embracing these fives truths are the first steps. And it is a practice. Self-Love is kind of like riding a bike, the more we do it, the easier it becomes.
That doesn’t mean that we will never fall down.
It means that we get back up, over and over again, and that we enjoy the ride.