Are You Selfish or Selfless?

selfless

For many selfish is a bad word with bad connotations.  For some it is a sin to be selfish.  Unfortunately many have labeled most forms of self-care as selfish and have trouble distinguishing when it is okay to think about their own needs.  Some have swung to the opposite of selfish and tend to be selfless.  These people believe that denial of the self is a good and pure way of living.  Are these our only two options:  Selfish or selfless?

I want to take a moment and create some sort of working definition of these two words.  This will better help you decide if you really are selfish and if you really want to be selfless.

An example of a selfish act would be if you have eaten two pieces of pie already and your coworker has not had any and there is only one piece left.  Do you eat it anyway or let your coworker have it?  Eating your third piece while she has not had one is an example of being selfish.  My I-phone gives me this definition of selfish, “(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”  Is this how you function the majority of time?  We all can be selfish sometimes (it is part of our human nature) however, now that you read this example of selfish you probably aren’t as selfish as you think.

What about being selfless? The word somewhat defines itself.  In short, taking no consideration for yourself; putting others and their needs above your own; denying the self.  Many of us have been taught the importance of thinking of and caring for others.  As a mother I know this well.  There is nothing wrong with considering other’s needs.  The issue with this way of functioning is when one avoids their own self in the name of caring for others.  If this self-avoidance continues over a long period of time it can cause serious emotional, physical and spiritual damage to the person.

What if you we could find a balance; a way that allows you to care for others and still care for yourself?  The word I have been using for this is self-full.

This is a version of you that knows when to say yes to helping others, when to say no, and when to say yes to your needs.  This individual both gives at times and is also able to receive from others.  A person that knows it is okay to fulfill her needs in order to best help others.  This person is aware of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and takes responsibility for meeting them.  She functions from a place of fullness not emptiness.  Her giving is free of obligation and comes from a full heart.

My hope is that those of you who have struggled with prioritizing yourself will learn to be more comfortable thinking of what you think, feel, need and want.  I understand there are people who are very well versed with thinking of themselves.  I am speaking to those who know you have been neglecting yourself for too long.  Learn to believe that you deserve your time and attention.  And know that learning to be more self-full will allow both you and the other to benefit.  In my field we call that a win-win situation!

 

 

 

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Are You Having A Positive Impact On This World?

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It is getting harder and harder to come up with creative ideas each week for my blog. Would love to hear from you! What do you want to hear more about? What do you want to learn more about? What interests you? I am here to be a blessing to you after all! I appreciate any feedback on potential topics of interest.
This week I have been thinking about the small things; the small things we do that may have a big impact on others. It seems all too easy to minimize who we are; minimize the value we each have. Have you often wondered what you are contributing to this world? Maybe not; maybe you are actively engaged in some sort of ministry like Marianne Williamson or Wayne Dyer. Well, if neither Marianne nor Wayne is reading this (and the countless other who are in the public eye) then sometimes you may wonder if you matter; if you are contributing enough.
I don’t think this is a bad question to ask. It is good to evaluate where your energies are directed and if you are happy with that direction. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget the bigger picture. The ‘whole’ if you will. You are more than just your daily routine. However, in that daily routine you can contribute much in ways you may not imagine as significant. Often it is the small things that may matter most.
Maybe it’s giving the person in line the few extra cents they needed to pay their bill. Or maybe it is helping someone pick up their mess after they dropped their bag. Maybe it is letting the person who has fewer groceries than you go ahead of you in line. The smile you shared with the woman on the elevator may be just enough to brighten her day. Taking time to make and deliver a welcome pie to your new neighbors. These may all seem too simple however, you never know what kind of day or week that person has had. You may be just the friendly gesture she or he needs to make it another day. Never minimize these small caring acts.
I remember when I was in graduate school (a long time ago) and I was in need of money. Someone anonymously left me $20.00 in an envelope! I still remember it today! I imagine you can think of small things that meant a lot to you. I am not saying that the big gestures aren’t important too, however, today I want to remind you the importance random acts of kindness. I read a quote yesterday that sums it up. It is written by Desmond Tutu and reads “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put all together that overwhelm the world.” How awesome is that! Post this quote someone where you can read it daily.

Ways to Cope With Change

change
How well do you cope with change? Do you find it fairly easy; are you at ease with being flexible? I have found that for most people change can be very uncomfortable, difficult and for many it feels intolerable. For those that experience change on the high end of distressful or intolerable life is very hard to manage. These individuals experience change as so threatening that it can disable them from functioning.

I am assuming that at this point in your life you have all learned that change is inevitable. And yet so many of us seem to resist it. And I am not thinking of only change that you perceive as negative. Change, whether positive or negative can still trigger the same feelings. Change indicates that you are moving from something familiar to something new. Change is an unknown; something unexplored. My hope is to give you some ideas on how to tackle the inevitable changes yet to come in ways that make it more bearable for you.

Reflect and remember are great tools to help ease your fear and worry. Reflect on the many changes that have already occurred in your life. Good and bad. Sometimes it helps to write four or five of these experiences down. Then remember the truth; which is that you did survive! The change didn’t swallow you whole. Reflect on ways you coped with those changes that were helpful and ways that you adjusted that you don’t want to repeat. Highlight what was helpful during those previous changes.

It is also helpful during times of change to focus on what aspects of you and your life are secure and not currently changing. For instance, what is unmoving for you may be that you still have the same partner, pet, family members, sport etc. Remind yourself of the constants in your life. This could be non-tangibles like your sense of humor, your faith, your love of nature. It is important to remind yourself of what you do have some control over during these times of transition.

Since change can be taxing on the body both mentally and physically I strongly recommend you attend to these areas. Ways to help ease and comfort the physical and mental include but are not limited to meditation, yoga, prayer, exercise and talking to supportive people about your worries and fears. It is also important to find time to play and have fun. Allowing your body and mind to have a release and rest is imperative in riding the waves of change as smoothly as possible.

How Do You Compare Yourself to Others?

comparison blog
How many of you are willing to admit that you compare yourself to others in one way or another? I am pretty sure that most of us have done this at some time in our lives if not still. Sometimes I think it can happen so automatically that we may not even realize we are doing it. It is as if we are just so accustomed to it that it seems normal. Do any of you relate?

Essentially it seems to be a form of competition. I am sure this historically stems far back in our history and would be an interesting study, however for the sake of this blog I will just put this truth out there and you can research it on your own. Sadly, today we as a culture carry this generational issue with us in our families, society, education, occupation and relationships of all kinds.

I was pondering the beginnings of this comparing one against another in our own lives. Think back to your childhood. How were you doing this then? Did you have many siblings? That comparison can start right in your own home. Maybe one sibling received better grades than you. Maybe you thought one was prettier. I won’t venture into how parents may contribute, however, I know the comparisons often starts in our own family unit; intentional or not.

In my family I was the oldest with a sibling that was four years younger than me. I was naturally athletically gifted; all genetics. I also had opportunity given to me to use those gifts. I tended to be good at whatever I tried athletically. I was also naturally outgoing. My sibling on the other hand was not naturally athletic and did not have a naturally outgoing personality. The reasons for his comparison to me are many, some natural being that I was the older sibling. Sadly, he didn’t have help identifying his strengths and finding his special gifts.

Then there are the wonderful school ages. Comparisons start early. From clothes you wear to how you look to who your friends are, etc. These travel throughout middle school, high school and into higher education. Assuming one survives those times you then continue this pattern into your adult life. How do you do this in your life today?

I believe changing this tendency of comparing oneself to others takes intentional mental focus. It won’t decrease just because you don’t like it. Most importantly is to become aware that you are doing it. Even if nothing else, that is a significant start in interrupting this automatic process.

I have many creative ideas on how to alter this habit once you are consciously recognizing it, however, for the sake of limiting the length of this entry I will recommend that once you recognize that you are comparing yourself then take a moment and write a reframe or an affirmation. It may be “My name is Nancy not Sue and three things that are special about me are…” This redirects you back to yourself and the positive truths about you. In summary, start recognizing when you are doing this and then shift the comparison to reminding yourself to focus on you and your positive qualities.

What Is Your Athentic Self?

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Can you describe your authentic self? Do you know what it even means to be your authentic self? Your authentic self is the real you; the genuine you. There are many contributing factors from your history that could have prevented you from being your true, authentic self. So, what do you think? Do you know your innate, authentic self?

Try listing the qualities of your authentic, true self. For example, here are some of my authentic qualities: outgoing, welcoming, encouraging, inviting, open-minded, loves being in groups, expressive. These are just some. However, in my history I was shamed for many of these qualities. I was taught that I was too much; that my personality was too big.

Therefore, throughout the years I have struggled to be whom I most authentically am and to learn to accept these parts of myself. On the scale of outgoing I am at the very high end. As I have aged I have learned how to honor who I am within the bounds of society and others. Many are intimidated by my strong personality qualities.

Most important is to identify and take ownership of your authentic self. If you are not sure, I encourage you to take time to learn. Without this I don’t believe you or I can be truly happy and free. Next is surrounding yourself with people close to you that accept, embrace and love you for your authentic self.

If in your most significant relationships your authentic self is not accepted; is put down or shamed and you adjust yourself; you try to accommodate the other for acceptance this will have a very adverse effect on you. This person could be your partner, parent, sibling etc. In effect, you are basically denying and shaming your essence. If this continues for too long you may forget who you really are. Burying your authentic self is a form of dying; death. In turn produces depression.

I encourage you to save yourself. Start remembering who you really are. If you don’t know, get some help. As you dig your true self out from the grave you will come back to life. Then slowly you can figure out how to be your genuine self in your relationships. If you find that being who you really are with those closest to you brings great fear, that is normal. Seek support from wise people who can help you begin to take risks or set boundaries in those relationships. Never dim your light for someone else. Shine your brightest!

Don’t Succumb To The Darkness!

Beacon of Light
It seems so many people are feeling dissatisfied in their lives. We hear it daily on the many newscasts about individuals making so many negative choices: from dishonesty, to addictions, to murders, to suicides etc. More so, we hear it closer to home, such as in our neighborhoods, workplaces and in our social situations. And, many of you reading this are struggling with general dissatisfaction and discouragement.

When we feel this way we tend to make decisions that hurt us in one way or another. What can we do to feel more satisfied and in control of our lives? Well, for starters, since we cannot control all the external events that occur, let’s start with an aspect we can do something about: ourselves! This is one area you DO have the power to effect positive change!

One area you can have an influence on is your thoughts and attitudes. Be mindful about not allowing yourself to get swallowed up by others negative attitudes. Guard the attitudes you have that serve your good; attitudes that are more focused on positive truths than negative truths. Even during difficult times you have a choice as to how to view the situation.

Same is true for your thoughts. Your thoughts have so much power over your feelings and behaviors that it is critical to stay aware of them. Certainly it is okay to acknowledge the bad event that has occurred and to speak whatever your truth is about it. Then I encourage you to be mindful of your thoughts in general. Remind yourself of the good people you have in your life today and the many good things you have done for others and they have done for you. Put the bad in perspective with the whole. Allowing dark thoughts to overshadow the light will only let the negative win.

Your reactions and behaviors are also critical to overcoming the negative that does occur. When something bad happens whether it be globally; to people you know; or even closer to home, your reactions and behaviors can help counter the bad by bringing in the good. If a violent act has occurred in the world you can teach and model peace and cooperation. Do the opposite. If someone you know has suffered a loss or is experiencing a painful event, be an encouragement. Visit them, bring them a meal, clean their house, do their yard, whatever you can do to show kindness. Remember, only light overcomes darkness. Be part of the light.

As long as humankind has existed bad things have occurred on all levels. Yet, humans have a way of overcoming. Choose to be part of the healing, not part of the divisiveness. Being an encouragement and a source of hope to a few is a wonderful gift to give. Never minimize what your light can do to those who need it. When you bless others you also are blessed.

How Could I Be That Selfish?

selfish blog
What do you think it is that makes it so hard for many of you to put your own self-care first? Is it selfish to think of your needs? If you struggle with this I encourage you think about what it is for you that makes this idea difficult or uncomfortable. It may be that you were taught this verbally or non-verbally by your caretakers. Or it may also originate from cultural or religious learnings. Whatever has influenced you to believe it is “bad”, or “selfish” to think of yourself and your needs usually is learned young and has significant power over you; sometimes even at a subconscious level.

I often use the analogy that we have an unconscious rule-book we are living by. If you don’t become aware of some of these rules that may be hurting you then you will continue to struggle. I invite you to think of some of the rules you may have learned about thinking about yourself and your needs. Write as many down as you can come up with. Here are some examples:

It is wrong to put myself first
It is more important to help others
Others feelings are more important than my own
My needs aren’t important
Good girls are never selfish

Hopefully you were able to personalize your list of rules that are influencing you. Each person’s may be very unique or if we compared them we may find similarities. Once you have listed 6-8 rules then I invite you to evaluate how you can correct these so the new message will be more helpful to you. For example, “It is wrong to put myself first,” might be corrected to “It is important that I put myself first sometimes.” Or, “Taking care of myself is just as important as helping others.” You can chance any messages that aren’t serving your best interest.

This can be done with any of our rules about any topic, but for today I am focusing on the topic of self-care because I find so many of the client’s I work with have great trouble with this. They come to me depressed, drained and often with physical health issue all because they have not learned how to take care of their emotional selves. You are all grown up now and no one else is going to do this for you! I vote that you learn more about how to give yourself permission to take care of your needs.