Given the choice of becoming more selfish or more selfless I suspect I know which one you’d assume you’re supposed to pick. I mean, come on – this stuff has been drilled in since before we could talk.
Suzy, don’t be so selfish, share with your sister!
And it worked and we’ve learned to share, and when we don’t, we feel guilty. But why do so many of us feel unsatisfied, unhappy and just plain confused about how to navigate our own lives and our relationships?
I am proposing that we take the distorted definitions of selfishness and selflessness and bend them back so we can see more clearly.
Are you ready for the twist? This will only hurt your brain for a second.
I say it’s time to be more Self – ish!
Yup, you heard me right!
Definition: in the spirit of ‘ish’ (the housework is done-ish, come by at ten-ish) so that SELF-ish is actually closer to the vicinity of Self, being in tune with what the Self needs and desires; getting into the ballpark of our unique gifts and offerings so we can get in the game we were intended to play.
And to complete the twist, I declare that it’s high time we stop being Self-less.
Definition: becoming less of who you are in order to fit in and earn the approval of others. Adopting a societally-approved version of how to do life to avoid being considered selfish (traditional definition). Getting so busy and involved that there’s no time for the Self to rest, grow and be.
The challenge is we get brownie points for making it even just LOOK like we’re selflessly there for our family and friends and we get the raised eyebrow when we’re making choices which appear self-ish.
The result being after a long time of making it look good, we start to look not so good. We get sick, depressed, we go underground with our desires and hopes. We start to forget what we look like on the inside and one day, we wake up and we’re lost with no idea where to find ourselves.
‘Where is that damn key. . .to me?’, we cry out in a dark night of the soul.
We’ve cheated ourselves (and others) by having an affair to escape reality, or we avoided the affair (just barely) but have neglected our bodies, not to mention our souls.
Or we sit outside the gates of our lives with a box of cookies or our newest purchase hoping that the treat will fill the aching longing of not actively living the life we hope we deserve.
Or we think and mull so hard that steam comes out of our ears, and our brain hurts and all this over-analysis still doesn’t seem to bring us back to ourselves.
Or we keep everything under such tight, protective control and now can’t seem to squeeze out a single authentic emotion (sarcasm isn’t an emotion, by the way!) and we watch other people soften to life and wonder when we forgot what love feels like.
I am sad to say that I have first-hand experience in all of these scenarios.
It got so dark that turning off the last glimmer of life was up for internal discussion. I remember well that hopelessness is not simply the dark, hollow absence of hope, it is a real monster with tentacles that wrap themselves around your neck until you cannot breathe.
The one true blessing of fighting for your own life is that if you finally say YES, you actually give yourself permission to live.
No one else has to give you permission again.
And for me, this has been the KEY. I have uncontested permission to care for myself, not only because I know what not caring can result in, but because when I said YES I didn’t say, “ok, I’ll give it a try” or “I guess I could for a while”. . .
I said, “sign me up, let’s do this thing!”
I now have a chance to do it from the inside out and damn, what a different internal navigation system this machine’s got!
What would it look like for you to give yourself permission to be SELF-ish right now?
I’m not just talking about the desperate fall-back of sneaking in some ‘me time’ , I’m talking about getting in tight with your inner SELF-ish-ness!
I suggest that one approach to being SELF-ish is actually learning from your inner selfish – the things you toss off as being selfish are often CLUES as to what you truly need and desire.
I’m not suggesting you mindlessly run out and buy the new pair of leather boots that you really, really want and would feel selfish buying because that money is allocated to your kids’ soccer registration. But before you give up hope and grab your treat of choice sighing the big sigh, I challenge you to stay with your inner SELF-ish for a little longer.
Finish this sentence:
The new boots [_________insert your personalized desire] hold the hope of helping me feel _________?
If you get completely honest about the deepest layer of that desire, you will have something real to work with.
Regard your knee-jerk ‘selfish buzzer’ going off inside you as a huge clue to follow that trail to your true heart.
Using the boots as an example, let’s just say you think the boots will help you feel sexier:
So if you felt sexier, then what would you have?
Maybe I could love my husband better.
So if you could love him better, what would you have then?
I’d feel like a better wife.
If you could feel like a better wife, then what would you have?
I’d love my life more and not feel guilty all the time.
And if you had a guilt-free, love-filled life, what would that give you?
Instantly you get a flood of ideas about cost-free ways you can seek peace that can keep your kids playing soccer and you loving your life.
If you find it difficult figuring out what sets off your selfish buzzer, begin to notice when it goes off as you look into someone else’s life. Our judgments of others’ decisions is a sobering way to discover clues about our own longings!
And here’s the bow on the gift. . .
when you are living a SELF-ish life, when you’re hanging out in the vicinity and getting closer to your Self every day – giving yourself complete permission to care for your mind, your soul, your body, saying YES to life – I guarantee that almost effortlessly, you will find yourself desiring to reach out to others from your overflow.
You will find you are motivated by love because you are loving and caring for yourself. The fuel we put in is what our life runs on!
People ask me how I’m doing now six years later. I am humbled and filled with bliss as I hear myself respond “I feel like I’m living in the centre of my life”.