The difference between selfish and self caring
Have you been called selfish or are you afraid of being deemed selfish?
Even in these times of empowerment, there are still many of us who feel that looking after our own needs is selfish. Maybe we have been told that we are selfish if we put our own needs ahead of those of others, or maybe we have not been told directly, but the passive-aggressive sighs and eye rolls of those who claim to love us say it all.
The truth is that unless we live our life like our life belongs to us, it’s just a question of time before we begin to resent our life, our work, our spouse and our colleagues. If the pure expression of who we are does not get air time, it will eventually express itself in a demanding or even aggressive ways simply because it has been feeling left out and suffocating for such a long period of time.
“Yes, but being selfish is not healthy, either”, many say. Yes, it’s true that being only selfish and self-serving is not healthy. It’s good to remember that we are not talking about selfishness here, really. When I talk about giving your pure expression a voice, I talk about self-care. After all, if you live your life as if it belongs to others - to your work, your spouse, humankind in general, in other words, if you live your life so as to only serve others and the world, you lose the fire inside of you that keeps you doing that purposeful service for others. Try driving a car without no gas in it. It won’t go anywhere until you fill it up, and what fills up the gas that feeds the fire in our belly? Self-care and free expression of who you truly are.
If you are a chronic people pleaser, as in if you spend most of your waking hours taking care of others’ needs and wants and not your own, then start here:
Step 1: Try being completely self focused and self caring 10 minutes every day. If that means that you have to go away somewhere and be alone, then do that.
Step 2: In that time, tune into your body and ask it these 2 questions: how am I feeling right now and what do I need right now? If you get some answers, move on to step 3. If not, think back when you were a child. What did you love doing? Once you get an answer, move on to step 3.
Step 3: Do what your body tells you to do. If it tells you to get drunk or eat a bunch of sugary or greasy treats, then what you actually need is rest without interruption. If you are intending to do something you loved doing as a child and it’s something that takes a significant amount of time, then even just initially daydreaming about the activity for 10 minutes can be your first step.
For those who are not chronic helpers, but are still challenged by finding time for themselves, try this:
Step 1. Find yourself a hobby or an area of study that you really enjoy.
Step 2: Implement the hobby or the area of study into your life in a systematic way. It could be once a day, once a week or a monthly activity depending on the intensity of the activity and the time it requires. Continue with the activity for at least 3 months regularly before moving on to step 3.
Step 3: Find the essence of the activity, in other words, the meaning for you. What does the activity mean to you? Is it feeling good, is it a sense of freedom, maybe it makes you feel achieved? So, identify the essence that goes with the activity.
(Optional) Step 4: Find other activities that have the same essence and implement them into your life. If you don’t have time to implement new activities, find a way to implement more of the essence in your existing life. Let’s just say that you found exercise as an activity that gives you a sense of freedom. The movement makes you feel good about yourself and the flexible body feels very freeing, but you still have kids to take care of and a job that you don’t really like because it forces you to sit down hours on end. Are there times with your kids that you could make all about exercise? Kids, especially young ones, are almost always up for active things to do. At work, could you suggest a standing desk to your boss? Could you have walking meetings with your team? Could you even run a movement initiative as a team building exercise? These are all things that others have implemented before, and the way to sell it to your boss is by sharing studies that show increased productivity with workers who move more.
Is this giving you some ideas about how you could honor that innermost part of you that is not getting enough air time right now? Don’t fall into the perfectionistic trap of trying to change everything at once and then criticising yourself for not being able to do something that is unsustainable. People need to change gradually. Change takes time. Let’s start with small steps of 10 minutes at a time.
It’s important to recognise that what actually allows us to get to know ourselves better is a sense of wonder that keeps us engaged with the current moment. Stress is actually us thinking about the mistakes and misfortunes of the past or worrying about the future. If you learn to stay present with an activity that you love to do, then your stress levels begin to drop and you will start discovering what a purposeful life looks like to you.
Your life is meant to belong to you. It’s not meant to belong to anyone else. Without this ownership of life, we might be deprived from the light that shines inside you. Without you claiming your life, your inner genius may never be discovered, and if you ask me, this is the greatest tragedy of all.
Don’t waste your life pretending to be someone else. You were no accident. The world needs you as you.
Now, let’s get moving by supporting YOU. Join our Integrated Life with Merja Sumiloff group on Facebook to share your insights and discoveries alongside other like-minded integrators.