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I find it somehow disturbing that we actually still need to explain to others that taking care of our needs is not selfish.
First and foremost, let us shed light on the true definition of selfishness as explained by Webster: “A concern for one’s own welfare or advantage at the expense of or in disregard of others.”
Having said that, as long as I’m not causing harm to someone, I am not selfish. If I turn down a favor that I find is beyond my capabilities, you have no right to make me feel guilty about it.
What people need to understand is that when we help you, it’s only because we want to and because we can. It is neither our obligation nor most definitely our responsibility. If you want me to take care of your needs while I’m dealing with my own adversity, I will most probably let you down. Don’t make me the villain in your story.
When I say “I can’t,” then take it as it is, I don’t even have to explain why. Save your “why can’t you?” or “it won’t kill you” reactions. Well no, it won’t kill me but if it’s going to overwhelm me, that is, when it takes some of my chill-out time, cause me stress, or even disrupt my mood, then I am better off left alone.
There are some lessons in life that I have learned the hard way. One of them is that, no matter what we do for others, it will never be enough.
I learned that when you say “yes” all the time, the one time when you say “no,” you turn into the bad person.
I learned that losing people is not as bad as it seems. These were the ones we were going to lose anyway. But losing ourselves in the process of aiding others is something that we will regret for the rest of our lives.
It was only until later in my life that I have learned to set boundaries, and say “no” to things that might cause me discomfort. That was a liberating attitude.
One word that I had to practice is saying “no.” Easy and simple, but the feeling of guilt that follows is somehow hard to live with. However, I learned to overcome such feelings after the realization that guilt is so much easier to deal with than regret.
I love helping people, I mean, that’s why I’m a life coach. But one thing I know for sure is that in order to be able to help others, I have to take care of myself first. Which means, protecting my mental health as a start.
It does make me happy when I know that I made someone’s day, or that I even made a difference in their life. Yet, it doesn’t make me happy when I do it out of compulsion, or while abandoning myself.
What I have learned as well is that each one of us is responsible for our own happiness, not that of one another. I am my priority, everyone else comes next.
I know a lot of people who sacrifice a great deal, going out of their way to help, disregarding their own needs, giving all they have, and in most extreme cases, putting themselves on the line for the sake of others.
And what happens to those eventually? They get walked over or get burned at the stake.
This is the ugly truth: no one can love us if we don’t love ourselves. In their way, they reckon they are spluttering us with love when indeed they are using us for their selfish purposes. The outcome is that they lose respect for us.
Once we put ourselves last, others will put us last. We cannot blame them, can we? That is what we taught them to do.
And we, in turn, will develop a sense of resentment toward them after we start feeling drained and consumed by their excessive dependence on us and never-ending requests.
What most people don’t know is that going out of their way for those around them and the belief that the only way to receive love is by helping or focusing on their needs, stems from childhood trauma. So this shouldn’t be the norm.
I don’t have to neglect myself in order to be seen as a good person, and I don’t have to be there at your beck and call to earn your love.
If you only love a person when they are of benefit to you, then this is what I call selfishness. If you cross someone’s boundaries by persisting on your request even after they decline, this is totally selfish. If you focus on your own needs without taking into consideration what the other person has to give up for you, you are the selfish one.
I prioritize myself. I take care of myself. I have my own life, my own issues to handle, and my own goals to focus on. I can only help you when it’s convenient to me, and as much as my capacity allows me to.
And no, I am not selfish. I just love myself. We need to reconsider our views and rectify our notion of selfishness.
“Selfish” is not a stick to beat others with if they do not conform to what we want or meet our every desire.