In fact, being selfish can actually be a good thing but here’s where the problem with being selfish comes in…
Most of us have grown up with the idea that it’s not okay to be selfish. We may have been taught that being selfish is wrong and it’s more noble or important to put others’ needs above our own.
Along these lines, many of us were also taught that “unselfishness” is the greatest expression of love–or the way to be in relationship, as well as all the other aspects of our lives.
While ignoring another person’s feelings and desires can certainly drive a wedge between the two of you, so too can acting without considering your own wants, needs or desires.
What you may not understand or realize is that EVERYTHING that you, we and every one else ever does, is done for selfish reasons.
Even the desire to do something for someone else is always done for our own selfish reasons — because what we do makes us feel good in some way. This still doesn’t mean this is wrong or “bad.” It’s just that we find it to be very helpful to know our motivations behind the “why” of what we do.
Many of us have been in situations where we really didn’t want to do something but felt we had no other choice.
When you go ahead and do something you don’t want to do and your inner guidance is telling you not to do it, your heart is just not in it.
When you agree to do something because you are fearful that the other person will be angry with you, be disappointed with you, or make your life difficult if you don’t, you are lying to yourself and ignoring what’s truly inside you.
And believe it or not, this can be felt by the other person. Even worse, you may feel resentful and like a victim or martyr in those moments.
Whatever so-called self-less gift you were intending to give to the other person is totally undercut by your true feelings–and no true connection is made.
Monica was constantly “doing” for everyone including her kids and her husband–and she was tired. Not only did she have a full-time job but she was a taxi service for her kids after work and helped her husband with his business in the evenings–plus she looked in on her elderly mother several times a week.
As a lot of women, she had grown up with the idea that the role of a woman was to be completely selfless, always putting her family’s needs before her needs.
While she loved being a wife and mother, she was beginning to secretly get resentful of always “doing” for others. She began to notice that she was angrier with her loved ones than she used to be and she didn’t know what to do about it.
She didn’t want to appear to be selfish but she wanted some time for herself to do what she wanted to do.
If you can relate in any way to Monica’s situation, here are some ideas to help you create more of what you want in your life, while keeping your connection with your loved ones…
1. Take a moment to breathe before you automatically say yes!
Even if you aren’t ready to jump on the “selfishness” bandwagon, we encourage you to pause and take a few moments before you say yes to anything else in your life.
2. Notice what’s an internal “yes” and an internal “no.”
Create an internal way of recognizing your “yes” and your “no.” Think of a definite “yes” and notice how that feels inside you. Now think of a definite “no” and notice the difference.
Now tune in to what’s being asked of you and notice whether it has a “yes” feel to it or a “no” feel.
Do your best to set aside any judgments about what’s “right” or “nice” or “helpful” or “expected.”
Just notice the feelings you are experiencing right now. Try to remember that there are many ways for this other person to get what he or she needs. You are not the only avenue to what is being asked for.
When Monica’s husband asked if she would pick up his shirts at the dry cleaners after work, before she said yes, she paused, turned her attention inside herself and realized that she felt a loud “no.”
Her day was already packed with things to do and she couldn’t fit another thing into it.
3. Ask yourself what you want.
Learning to listen to yourself–to your wants, needs and desires–is the first step in consciously creating your life. Many of us aren’t even aware or think we deserve to have what we want so we go around doing what other people want us to do and living their lives–not our own.
When Monica asked herself what she wanted, she realized that she not only wanted some time for herself but also some connecting time just with her husband, without the kids. She and her husband often went to their kids’ activities together but they seemed to never have any time alone.
4. Ask yourself what you are willing to do, taking all of your self-judgments, guilt and expectations out of it.
Monica felt that she didn’t have time in her day to pick up her husband’s shirts for him. Although she didn’t want to disappoint or inconvenience him, she realized that if she did this for him, she would not be able to complete her other commitments and she would resent him.
So she decided that she was not willing to say yes to his request to pick them up today but she was willing to pick them up the next day.
5. Express what you are willing and not willing to do from your heart space–not from guilt, anger or resentment.
When Monica talked with her husband, she was clear that what she had already committed to wouldn’t allow her to do as he asked but she could pick them up the next day.
She said all of this with love in her heart for herself and for her husband.
He was surprised but listened to her and agreed that he could find time to pick them
6. Ask for what you want.
If you completely ignore what you want, you are not really serving yourself or your relationship. Your relationship can’t grow if you hold back on what you want.
When Monica told her husband that she wanted to have some time, maybe that weekend, for just the two of them to be together, he was excited that she had brought it up. He wanted the same thing but knew how busy they both were and hadn’t mentioned it.
They both knew that they needed to revitalize their relationship and this was a good beginning.
So just as damaging as it can be to ignore another person’s feelings and desires, it is perhaps even more dangerous to ignore your own.
Knowing what you want doesn’t mean you have to stomp on another person’s wants. In fact, sometimes when you act from what you truly desire, you find that there is room for everyone’s needs to be met.
We suggest that you leave all of your previous notions about selfishness behind.
You might even re-think the whole concept. Tune in to your feelings and what you want. Know that you aren’t the only one who could do what seems required of you.
When you act from your heart and with an empowered willingness, not only will you feel better, it is likely your loved ones will too!