“If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”
– Flight Attendant around the world
In this episode you’re going to learn why it’s not selfish to put your own interests before the interests of others in your life. You’re going to learn how this will not only benefit you, but also benefit them.
What is Selfishness?
In order to be able to free yourself up from the idea of selfishness, we need to understand the difference between narcissistic behaviour and taking loving care of yourself. In a nutshell, selfishness is when your needs come at the EXPENSE of others.
Let me explain this idea a bit further so you completely understand. If you don’t do something that would put someone else further ahead, that’s not selfishness. But, if you don’t do something that will cause someone to lose something, that is selfishness.
So, if your actions have a cost to others, you should reconsider. For example, if you’re living with a family member and spending money on yourself while they cover all the bills, that’s certainly selfishness. Obviously, stealing another person’s property has an expense to them, so that would fall under selfishness.
What is Not Selfishness?
When we say no to someone who wants us to give up something of our own (time, money, etc) so they can have more than they do right now, this isn’t selfishness. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them out, that’s certainly your call and helping them would be a very generous act, but not helping them is not selfishness.
When you let your co-workers know well in advance you’re going to be on a two week vacation in the Bahamas and then you refuse to address their “emergencies” when they email you about something they forgot to do when you were still at work. Again, helping them out would be very kind and giving on your part, but not helping them out is NOT selfishness.
It’s a Simple Formula
- They LOSE – You Gain – This is selfish on your part.
- They GAIN – You Lose – This is selfless on your part.
- They Remain – You Gain – This is not selfish.
Hopefully this little formula helps you differentiate between selfless, selfish and self-care. Now let’s look at why it’s important to engage in healthy self-care so you are better equipped to serve the needs around you.
An Under-fed Person Cannot Feed Others
If you’re a parent or caregiver for someone else, imagine for a moment what would happen if you were so giving you fed them first and didn’t leave anything for yourself. They’re dependent on you so you feel, given their needs, you should take care of them first. In doing that, you gave most, if not all of your food to them. It wouldn’t take very long before you became weak, sick and frail and you were no longer able to care for them.
This is what happens to so many of us when we neglect our own needs, whether those are nutritional, psychological, emotional, spiritual, financial or whatever. We eventually become weak in those areas and no longer have anything to give to those around us.
You’re Conditioning Them to Be Dependent on You
When wildlife rescue organizations bring in sick or injured animals, they have to be very cautious to not create a dependency on the caregiver for food and other needs. Of course, initially, they may provide care without regard to this in order to save a life, but they quickly switch over to a system where the one being cared for must earn their care.
When you give of yourself to others, you’re conditioning them to be dependent on you. As we discussed earlier, if you keep this practice going, you’re eventually not going to be able to care for them. All the care you provided has now compounded the problem because they no longer know how to care for themselves. What you thought was actually loving compassion has actually become a detriment to their survival.
Why Some of Us Are People Pleasers
I’ll admit it, I am a people pleaser. In fact, I’ll go to great lengths in order to not disappoint someone or cause them to experience pain in order to get ahead. I do this with my kids as well as associates of mine. So, I’m fascinated with looking at why we (myself included) do this.
Keep in mind, I never want to come across as the know-it-all guru who is gracious enough to bestow my grand wisdom upon you lowly people. Instead, I try to see myself as someone who shares what I’ve learned as I’ve worked on improving my life and dealing with my weaknesses. I think this separates me from so many others in the personal development niche and it probably costs me some credibility with people who need someone who has all the answers. I’m ok with that.
So, why do I (and maybe you) feel this compulsion to please others no matter what cost it has for us? It most cases it comes from a need to be needed, which raises our perception of our own value. As we think further about this, who needs to have their value raised? People who have low self-esteem. This is how we, the people pleasers deal with our low self-image. Ouch!
How to Put Yourself First in a Healthy Way
One of the first things you can do is to set boundaries for those around you. Lay it out early on so there’s no expectation for you to do more than you’re willing or able to do. Sometimes we feel like we’ve disappointed someone because they expected us to be there for them and we weren’t. Make sure you let them know early, you can’t be there for them in certain situations.
The next item is potentially more difficult than the first; set healthy boundaries for YOURSELF. Tell yourself early on what you are and aren’t willing to do. This way they’re no guessing about whether you should or shouldn’t put yourself out for someone else. You don’t need to vacillate on any of the issues you’ve considered long before the demand arose.
Stop trying to establish your value through the approval of others. You must come to a place where you understand your value isn’t dependent on whether someone else bestows it upon you. Be honest with yourself about your motives and whether you’re taking from them for your own gain and then be ok with the outcome. The selfish people around you may even try to manipulate you into seeking their approval by telling you you’re unfair or mean. Don’t accept it.
Set up rewards for yourself and don’t feel guilty when it comes to time to cash them in on some self-indulgent activities. If you’ve spent this weekend doing a deep Spring cleaning around the house, reward yourself with a day at the beach next weekend. It’s ok, you got the work done and you deserve to relax.
Ultimately, it comes down to loving yourself as much as you want those you’re trying to please, to love you back. This is what we’re seeking, a sense of love and value. When we don’t give this to ourselves, we seek it from others. Love yourself and you’ll be better able to love others in a healthy way.
30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself
This is the fourth part in a series called “30 Things to Stop Doing To Yourself” written by Marc and Angel Chernoff. They did a fantastic job outlining these 30 things we need to stop doing, but I wanted to dig deeper into each item, mostly because I felt I had so much to learn from the process. I’m thrilled I get to share my results with you. If you’re interested in learning more from the series, I’ve set up a special page with the podcasts and links for each item.
Please share this with others who you feel could benefit from exploring these items. Also, make sure you’re subscribed to my Mental Mastery Moment podcast in iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. That way you won’t miss any of the 30 episodes in this series.