Jan 17 2010

Healthy Kind of Selfish

Published by at 8:49 am under Healthy Selfishness

A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose.
It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers
in the garden to be both red and roses.

~~ Oscar Wilde

I always equated selfishness as putting my needs over the needs of others, causing harm. We all know that kind of selfishness does exist in the world. If you don’t, if you haven’t experienced that, maybe its because they are all hanging around me lately but don’t thank me yet. See, I’m in the process of kicking them out of my life which means they could all be over at your place tomorrow.

Truth is, if self-centered people had pinups, it would be me. The one who is always willing to drop everything and be there for them — listen to their stories, commiserate on their problems which are many, and accept that yes, indeed, they ARE the center of the universe.

But here’s the thing.

There’s no end to that kind of giving. None at all. The self-centered people of the world will keep taking for as long as I have it in me to give. That’s what I’ve realized. And when I finally run empty, when I have nothing more to offer, they just move on to the next person. I don’t blame them for this, its a variation on the Frog and the Scorpion fable. Its just who they are at this point in their journey.

And then there comes the day when I am empty and I have nothing left to give which is about where I was back in October when the great realization finally hit me.

As a child, growing up in a household with an alcoholic (and an older sister who would embrace alcoholism later on as others embrace religion), I understood early on that some of us are meant to be on the stage of life and others in the audience. Course, in my household, the ones on the stage all had diagnoses so I was content to be in the audience. Not being noticed was how I survived.

So, audience and pinup girl for the self-centered of the world, I am now in the process of becoming. And part of that process has to be learning how to be selfish — a healthier kind of selfish — the kind of selfish that recognizes my own needs and gives them priority, at least part of the time, over the endless, life-sucking needs of everyone else. What goes along with that, giving my own needs priority, is knowing how to demand that time from the people around me.

Because here’s another thing.

The self-centered ones in my  life, like the way things are. They resist me trying to change because they’ll have to change in response (at the very least, find someone else who will give them their undivided attention). Change isn’t easy at the best of times — we all know that.

Hand in hand with learning how to give my own needs priority is learning how to say NO. And that’s not easy because apparently the self-centered ones, at least the ones I’m in the process of evicting from my life, are incredibly eloquent. They are good at running roughshod over whatever arguments or explanations I provide.

Heard once, from a former salesperson I knew, that when he was trying to sell something, he wanted a reason why the person was saying ‘no.’ Because if he had a reason, he could mount an argument, convince the person to say ‘yes’. The only effective way to stop a salesperson, he said, was to just say NO. Refuse to give an explanation. And that works with sales people by the way — I’ve tried it. Just shuts ’em down.

Doesn’t work with the self-centered ones. Tried it with them too.

But let’s set that whole topic aside for now. Learning how to say NO  is for another post. At the moment, I want to get back to healthy selfishness.

Are you with me on this? Meeting your own needs is the way to happiness, reduced stress, and a whole lot of positive growth. As I’ve seen, the well runs empty and someone has to refill it. As I’ve also seen, that’s not going to be the ones who drained it in the first place — because those kinds of people just keep dreaming up new needs to be fulfilled. They like that. ALOT.

So, given that its not going to be the people in my life, who place their own well-being above mine, then its got to be me. In the past four months, I’ve taken a good hard look at my life. At where I am and who I’ve become. And I don’t much care for what I see. In the next 1001 days, I intend to kickstart my life. Get me moving in the right direction again, reach for the life I want, and strike a balance between giving to myself and giving to others.

Where does that begin? Looking at the big picture all the time doesn’t work — I tend to get overwhelmed by how much there is to do. So instead, I’m going to break down some of my major goals into more manageable tasks. Smaller pieces that are easier to accomplish so that I can build on success rather than failure and pain.

For instance, as I’ve said elsewhere, getting back into art could be broken down into sub-steps. An easy first one would be taking my sketchbook with me. Reading more, could be making sure that I have a book with me or, if I lived near one, getting a library card. A small, easy to accomplish first step, and from that baby step, setting another and then another after that.

As the steps get bigger and take more time, I’ll need to take my time back. Give to me first and that I’ll talk about in my next post. For today, I recognize that

  • I had dreams and plans for my own life that aren’t being realized.
  • I am surrounded by people who don’t care about that — and are happy to take whatever I’m willing to give, even if that empties me, leaves me a shell of a person.
  • Taking back my time, putting me first, meets with resistance from those around me who are used to taking everything from me.
  • Learning to say NO is hard work — and will require more study, more practice.

And finally, I commit to giving myself priority. To working on my dreams, making them come true, because I’m worth it. Because I want to be excited and challenged by life. I mean to do this. I’m not backing down … no matter what.

Books, Blogs and Articles I’m Interested in Reading on This Subject:

  • Sacred Selfishness: A Guide to Living A Life of Substance by Bud Harris (Quote I saw in the preview: “Often we end up living cover stories authored by others that cause us to avoid the possibility of creating our own stories”).
  • There is a difference between healthy selfishness and narcissism as discussed in an article by Roy Biancalana, The Difference Between Sacred Selfishness and Narcissism, (the quote that I really liked is this one: “The purpose of a relationship is the growth and expansion of the individuals in it. A truly healthy and blissful relationship is one in which neither partner is giving up anything of importance in exchange for being in the relationship.”)
  • Understanding Healthy and Unhealthy Selfishness by Jennifer Shapiro (the quote I liked most is: “If we instead are selfish in an unhealthy way, we begin to expect that others will somehow fulfill our needs and when they don’t, our emotions erupt and happiness fades for us as well as those we get upset with.”)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Healthy Kind of Selfish”

  1. Ramona Davidsonon 20 Jan 2010 at 3:37 am

    I can relate to how you are feeling. I have had people in my life at various times that have sucked me dry. One time I realized I did not have just one child and one husband and myself that I was responsible for, but including my family I had three husbands, two wives (& myself), and nine kids I was responsible for. I literally got on my face in the floor (when I realized this) and cried out to God to deliver me because I could not get rid of them. Over time they left my life and I was delivered. I am more aware now and protect myself more. There are people in my life that I have to pray about before I get around them as they think they can run my life. I have to be careful what I say so they have no entrance to start on me. Anyway, that’s enough about me. I am proud of you for realizing and putting up barriers. What you are doing is hard, but with persistence you will gradually get them out of your life, or at the least control their access to you. Sounds like you have a good start on all of it. Don’t give up.
    .-= Ramona Davidson´s last blog ..Misty Mountain Sunrise — Acrylic =-.

  2. Indigoon 20 Jan 2010 at 12:15 pm

    First, thanks for responding — and I know that feeling so well. The utter despair I felt, the withering of everything positive and creative. The last few days I have started to feel a kind of peace that I haven’t known in so long. My creative side is opening up again and I’m hard at work (doing rough skeletons at the moment).

    Thanks for the encouragement — its greatly appreciated.

    You know, I found a quote that really spoke to me this morning:

    ” All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” (Anatole France)

    Maybe that’s what I’ve been going through of late — experience the death of one life as I’m being born into another.

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