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!

 

 

 

What’s So Special About Me?

Let your light shine

Can you describe your authentic self?  Do you even know what it means to be your authentic self?  Your authentic self is the real you; the genuine you; the spontaneous and free version of you.  There are many contributing factors from your history that may 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, creative and expressive.  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 discover who I most authentically am and to learn to accept these parts of myself.  For example, on a scale of outgoingness I am at the very high end.  I have slowly learned to enjoy and embrace this aspect of me.  And, as I have aged I have learned how to monitor my energy by paying attention to social and cultural clues.  Many are intimidated by my strong personality qualities and I am much more accepting of this truth now.

Most important is to identify and take ownership of your authentic self.  If you are not clear, I encourage you to take time to learn about these aspects.  Without this self-awareness I don’t believe you truly can be happy and free.  You may have similarities to others and yet you are uniquely you!  I encourage you to discover and embrace your own special qualities.  Next is to surrounding yourself with close people that accept, embrace and love you for your authentic self.

Examine your most significant relationships.  Is your authentic self encouraged, accepted, appreciated and celebrated by these people? Or do you often feel put down, shamed or judged?  Do you tend to adjust yourself by trying to accommodate the other person so they will accept 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 self-abuse.  This self-denial and neglect often causes one to feel depressed.

 

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.  Your light not only blesses others it ignites your soul!  Shine your brightest!

 

 

Are You Responsible For Your Relationships Problems?

drama triangle

Do you feel like you’re always doing all the giving in your relationship and rarely getting anything in return?  Do you ever feel that know matter what you do it will never be good enough.  Are often irritated by people who don’t have much common sense?  Maybe you are living on the Drama Triangle!

One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis to monitor my interactions with others is called “The Drama Triangle,” by Stephen Karpman.  While it is nearly impossible to give full credence to this wonderful perspective in a short blog, I will do my best to give a concise overview.

All unhealthy relationships take place on the Drama Triangle.  It describes specific ways one relates to others.  There are three positions on this triangle:  persecutor, rescuer and victim.  While only one position is called victim all positions are actually victim positions of sort.  We each have a primary position that tends to dominate our interactions.  The “starting gate position,” as named by Karpman is the one we learn from our history and shows up in most commonly in our relationships.

Imagine an upside down triangle.  On the upper part of each side of the triangle are the positions of persecutor and rescuer.  On the bottom is victim.  The persecutor and rescuer are on top because they are both one up positions.  Both of these positions require a victim to sustain their position on the triangle.  The victim is in a one down position.

The rescuer is the classic codependent.  This person is the savior, mediator, helper, fixer, etc.  The rescuer has to have someone who needs them to sustain their position.  Helping others is how this person defines who they are.  Rescuers often grew up not getting their emotional vulnerabilities met or validated.  Therefore they hide these emotional vulnerabilities by appearing needless.  They secretly keep hoping that if they keep giving and giving, one day someone will be there for them.  Their greatest fear is that no one will be there.

The persecutor sustains their one up position through domination.  They have to have someone to blame.  Hence a victim is necessary for the persecutor to project their unclaimed weaknesses on.  Persecutors do this in various ways; lecturing, teaching, blaming, yelling ect.  Persecutors believe they are always right.  Their greatest fear is being out of control.  Persecutors were often raised in abusive shaming households and sometimes take on the qualities of their abuser.  This position is often the hardest for one to take ownership of because the persecutor sees them self as a victim who is just trying to protect them self.

The victim position is one in which the person has given up or not claimed their God given ability to make decisions and trust their own competencies.   Instead they look to others to guide and lead them.  Often victims were raised by a strong rescuer.  Victims eat a daily venue of shame and believe they are intrinsically defective or bad.  The language of the victim often includes a lot of “yes, but…”

As you read this brief introduction to the three positions on the Karpman Drama Triangle which one do you relate too most?  Is it easy to pick your primary position?  The ultimate goal is to identify your pattern and learn to grow and change so you don’t fall into these dysfunctional ways of relating to others.

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

Gift giving 6

While it is true that giving to others often brings more to the giver than the receiver and that giving is a lovely virtue; it is also just as gracious to be able to receive what others may want to offer to you! This could mean receiving a tangible gift and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience without any qualifications such as “you shouldn’t have.” However, many of the gifts others want to offer are gifts of encouragement, loving affirmations and help. Just as you feel blessed when you offer these to others it is equally true that the one offering you this gift will also feel blessed when you allow yourself to receive from them.   Remember this when you are hesitant to receive from someone: that you will be depriving them of a blessing!!!

Maybe you are reluctant to reach out to others you do sincerely care about. Maybe you don’t know what to say or what to do. For many this is very uncomfortable. My suggestion is that you don’t over think it. Most people will be grateful you even remembered them. If this person is someone close to you then pay attention to what is important to them. What do they talk about often? What activities are they involved in? For example, all my close friends know I collect cherubs. Try to be observant and you will see.

If you are struggling to reach out to someone who needs support I encourage you to allow yourself to be uncomfortable and offer that encouragement within a scope that you can tolerate. Maybe it will be sending a text or an email. Maybe you will mail a card. You might be more comfortable with “doing” such as cooking or cleaning for them. The important thing is to reach out and let that person know you are thinking of them.

Being able to both give and receive is important all year long, not just during the holidays. Each of us has a need for both!

Are You There?

 

listening 2

Listening in body only is when you are talking and the person seems physically attentive, yet it is as if they are looking through you, sort of like they are in a conscious coma.  The person is physically present but is mentally elsewhere.  Have you had this experience before?   Usually after you have talked a little with no response you might wonder or even ask, “Did you hear what I said?”  Often the person will say “No, I am sorry.  Can you repeat that?”  The person truly was not mentally present for the conversation.  While I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another, it is an issue if it keeps happening with the same person.

Often the person who is zoning out while you are talking is preoccupied with something.  Life is overwhelming at times.  If you know you are overwhelmed and not able to give someone your attention who is asking for it, just let them know.  You might say, “I know you are really stressed right now and I do want to hear about it, however, I am too upset right now to focus.  Can we meet for lunch?”  This type of response is respectful to both self and others.  Or it could be that you have trouble with keeping up with what the other person is saying so it is easier to zone out and just do the best you can to give the appearance of understanding what they are saying.

Reflective listening is a wonderful skill to help you stay with the person mentally.  Reflective listening is simply repeating back what you think you heard the person say.  This is a very caring act.  It shows you are intentionally trying to hear what the person wants to tell you.  It is important when you reflect back what you think you heard that you do so without adding your own twist to it.

Think of this as if you were looking in the mirror.  What you see is your reflection.  No additions or subtractions; just you. With this type of listening that is all you do.  Reflect what you think you heard.  For example, you might say, “So you received exceeds expectations in every area but one and for the third year in a row you didn’t get a promotion?”  If you are correct the person will usually say, “Yes, and…” on they will go with more detail.  If you didn’t get it quite right the person can correct you so you understand what they meant.   “So you got exceeds in almost every area and they still did nothing to honor that?”  The person might say, “Well they did give me a good bonus, but I have been waiting for this promotion.  I am so frustrated.”   It is a wonderful gift to interact with someone who is sincerely trying to hear you.

 

 

Look Me In The Eye!

listening 1

Have you ever been talking to someone and they seem to be looking everywhere but at you?  This is a surefire way to make someone feel like you don’t give a hoot about what they are saying.  This is more than frustrating, it is downright rude.  Have you been at dinner with your partner or friend, just the two of you, and while you’re trying to have a conversation he may be looking around or watching the TV? Do you have to get right into the line of sight of your partner or friend and ask “Are you listening to me?”  It is curious when the person actually becomes frustrated with you for asking this question. Needless to say, eye contact is very important to attentive listening.

I have talked to many people who find eye contact uncomfortable.  They have said it makes them very nervous.  They can acknowledge that the poor eye contact doesn’t go over well with people even though they tell me they are sincerely listening.  Are you one of these people?   Ask yourself what it is about looking at someone when they are speaking that makes you so nervous? Working on your insecurities in this area will greatly help your connections with others. Practice makes perfect and I am confident that as you practice maintaining good eye contact you will gradually become more relaxed with this skill.

Poor eye contact is one form of negative non-verbal communication.  Looking distracted physically is another form of poor non-verbal communication.  Things like having your body turned away from the person; legs and hands crossed in a closed position; head nodding or turning in a disapproving fashion; grunting etc.  Back when I was in my undergraduate studies I was taught that 90% of communication is non-verbal.  What is your non-verbal language telling the person?  Is it showing the person that you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying? Or is it suggesting that you are disinterested and bored?

How Green Is Your Grass?

grass
I assume you have heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side.” And this is a pit we can easily fall in when we assume from what we observe on the surface that the other situation is better than our own. Or that sort of envy that we wish we had this better relationship, better job, better…you name it.
Recently I saw a different quote which states “The grass is greener where you water it!” I loved it! This is so profound: “The grass is greener where you water it!” I just want to keep saying it over and over! And this is the real truth; no matter what something looks like on the outside the truth is it is always greener where we water it!
This can be applied to many situations. Today I am going to apply this truth to your significant love relationship. When you complain about your relationship with your partner, ask yourself this question “How well have I done nurturing this relationship? Instead of finding all the fault in your partner take a look in the mirror. For many it is easier to focus on what the other isn’t doing instead of looking at their own responsibility in the relationship.
This is something I see often with the couples who come to my office. I have a partner coming in to session in shock that their loved one wants out of the relationship. Usually this person reports he or she had no idea the other was so unhappy. When I listen to the story of this relationship I am thinking “How could you not know?” And these are very intelligent, smart individuals who right under their nose didn’t realize how dried up and under nurtured their own garden was.
Ask yourself, have you been more of the nurturer in your relationship or are you more of the taker? Another way to ask this question is: have you been more of the one over functioning or under functioning in your relationship? If believe you are the one who does more of the watering and watering and watering; nurturing, nurturing and nurturing with little return then maybe for you it is time to turn the spout off and sit back and start thinking about your own needs.
If you have been the one that has been taking and taking and taking, and when you’re honest with yourself have not been providing consistent nurturing to your relationship in the way your partner needs, you would do yourself and this relationship a great service if you would pause and genuinely take ownership of this truth. Not for a brief period of time but for the long-term.
There is almost no excuse today to not do this. The resources for men and women to learn how to be better people, better partners are overflowing. There are many books, CD’s, workshops and therapy available. There is really no excuse. So if you think the grass is greener in some other relationship ask yourself; look in the mirror and ask “Have I really done everything I can do to nurture my own garden?”
And if you know that you have been giving; that you have been over functioning, maybe this is a time of grief for you. I time to let go; a time for you to take a risk knowing that your partner may not step up to the plate.
And if you can own that you have not been actively nurturing your relationship are you willing to take a look in the mirror? Are you willing to get the help you need to learn how to nurture the relationship on a consistent basis? If you have allowed your garden to dry up too much it’s not reasonable to expect to give it a little taste of water and then just bloom and grow. The relationship has been imbalance. To mend this you will have to continually give and give before expecting too much in return. This is how it works. Most in the under functioning expect immediate returns on their giving. That just isn’t the case, nor should it be your expectation. You may not like this, but these are the facts.
I hope this message gives you hope. If this message rings true for you, I hope you will take responsibility for your role and make the needed changes. Everyone around you will be blessed from this action.

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