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 Proactive or Reactive?

Proactive

There seem to be many people these days that express a general dissatisfaction with their lives. Often they seem unclear about how to change or even wonder if change is possible. We all get into “ruts”, however, I am speaking more of a perpetual feeling of discontent. If you are struggling with this feeling you may be living in a reactive versus proactive manner.

What do I mean by the above statement? You are being reactive when life happens and you ebb and flow wherever and whichever way it takes you. Life and all of its circumstances control you. When you approach life more proactively you are alert and consciously aware of the direction you choose to move with the circumstances life brings. When you are proactive you take the initiative and responsibility for directing your life. Of course there are many aspects of life one cannot control (natural disasters, deaths, etc.), but I am talking about being proactive in attitude; a general stance towards life. A proactive person will not let life and its happenings win.

In what areas of your life do you need to take more responsibility and ownership? I have developed what is called “The Circle of Life” which describes various components of your life. These areas are: emotional, social, physical, spiritual, occupational and intellectual. Emotional entails your emotional and mental health. Social includes all aspects of your social lives, such as, close friends, acquaintances, lovers and family. Physical includes your physical health and also your need for physical touch and your sexual self. Spiritual is about seeking your highest level of spiritual truth and growth. Occupational involves all aspects of occupational well-being and balance including one’s financial security. Intellectual has to do with your mind’s need to be stimulated and enhanced.

The “Circle of Life” is best when seen as a whole. If you are lacking in any area and especially if you have a deficit in several areas, then you probably feel unsettled or discontent. I find it useful to review this “Circle of Life” at a minimum every six-months as a ‘self-check’ on how you are doing. It is meant to help you take responsibility for the areas that are out-of-balance so you can feel more fulfilled. Balancing your life so you can be more fulfilled is a constant challenge!

If you allow yourself to stay stagnant and do not take responsibility for the areas in which you are most lacking then you will usually feel like a victim. Victims generally feel powerless and unable to succeed. It’s unlikely that anyone would feel fulfilled with this kind of outlook or approach to life.

 

If You Would Just Stop Making Me So Angry!

blaming
There is a wonderful saying that I both love and hate which states, “No one can make me feel anything without my permission.” How often have you heard yourself saying, “He makes me so angry?” Or “She frustrates the crap out of me.” While this response is a naturally reactive one it leaves you in the one down position or the victim position. The above saying reminds me that only I am responsible for my feelings.

When someone does something that you then feel angry, it is better to reframe it correctly; such as “When he didn’t return my calls I felt very hurt.” Or, “I know what she is like and I let her get to me again.” Both of these statements put the ownership back on you! This gives you power to do something about it. It takes the power away from the other and leaves it with you. When you take responsibility for your reaction you then are in control of how you want to handle your response or feelings.

Putting the responsibility back on yourself is the primary way of feeling more in control of your life and the various situations life brings your way. I encourage you to pay attention to how you word your statements. Notice if they are more I statements or more blaming statements. Make the conscious choice to remove yourself from the one-down role to the role of empowerment and choice. It is only then that you can move forward in that situation or relationship in a productive fashion. You always have a choice! Choose responsible, mindful living! It is a much happier and productive existence.

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 We Remember Those We Have Lost.

loss
Today we all honor another Memorial Day and take time to be acknowledge and be thankful for the many brave men and women who have lost their lives or been injured serving our country. This day also causes me to reflect on ones I have lost in my own life. I imagine this could be true for others as well. Loss has a way of changing one, sometimes in ways you would never have imagined. And I think about the ways each of us memorialize or remember those that were once close to us that have now traveled on. And I know for each of us that the need to do this and the way to do this is different. What is important is that we each do it in the way that will be most helpful for our journey through grief.

I remember when I was growing up there was a local family who had one child. I wasn’t overly close to them or their daughter, but I had grown up with her. I remember knowing they wanted more kids. I think she was 12 or so when her brother, Bobby was born. When her brother Bobby was five his dad took him along on a business trip. The bus they were on crashed and Bobby was thrown from the bus and killed. I remember how tragic this was. I bring this up because I have never forgotten Bobby, or his family. I wasn’t involved enough with this family to attend the services. However, I did go to our local swimming pool almost every day. And at that pool the family planted a tree in honor of Bobby. Of course at the time it was a small tree, however as an adult when I traveled home I visited the tree watching it grow with time. The tree is now very large and beautiful. While Bobby’s family may have done that as their way of honoring Bobby, it was also good for the community.

I realize that the way each of us want or need to honor someone close to us who has died is different. I remember when I experienced my first major loss I lite a candle every night in honor of this person. Also after that first loss I developed an infinity for angles and cherubs. These gave me a sense of hope and comfort. I still collect them today. Some people have rituals of visiting the grave site on the person’s birthday, anniversary of their death and often, Memorial Day.

If you have lost someone close to you I hope that you have ways to still honor them in your life. Maybe you have others that remember this person too so that you can talk about him or her whenever needed. Maybe you have a garden you created to remember this person. Maybe you continue a ministry that this person started. Or maybe you are involved with his or her children as a way to honor and stay connected to your loved one. I encourage you to create or continue healthy rituals that will allow you to warmly connect with your loved one that has traveled forward and left you behind.

For Those To Whom Mother’s Day is Not So Joyful!

wounded heart

You read of those thanking their wonderful mothers for all the unconditional love and support they have received from her. How their moms were such a great example to them. How blessed they were to be loved so unconditionally. And, they truly were blessed to experience the rightful love of a mother.

But this is in honor of the many folks who didn’t have that kind of mother. Those whose mothers where too troubled to be consistent. Mothers that were sick. Mothers who hurt them verbally, physically and mentally. Mothers who abandoned them. Mothers whose addiction overshadowed everything. Mothers who tore them down more than built them up. Mothers who used them for their own comfort. Mothers that left a lasting void that seems to forever linger.

This is for those of you that relate. Those that struggle on this day. This message is a reminder that you are not alone. There are many of us. This is written to affirm to you that it wasn’t your fault and you did nothing wrong. This is to encourage you to remember on this mother’s day that no matter what the injury was that you incurred from your wounded or absent mother, you are good. You deserved the love you hear about. Be kind to yourself today. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that it wasn’t your fault. Seek support from those in your life that are available for you in a loving, consistent manner. You are worthy and you are remembered. You are not alone.

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