Selfish…it is such a heavy word! It carries with it such
condemnation to our core, and we internalize “I’m a bad person.”
This label is often used to manipulate and control and get us
to do the bidding of someone else’s desires for us.
How can we know it’s not true? “What if it is though?” we second
guess ourselves. “Maybe I’m making this all about me, and I
should be thinking of others?” It can cause us to spiral downward.
I was called selfish a long time ago by a boyfriend because
I didn’t want to make the time to take care of his sick dog. I felt
really bad for the puppy, I but I had other commitments and things
to get done, and so I said I couldn’t.
The accusation was, “Your time is ‘too precious’ to help me out!”
This really bothered me because I wanted to to help out, but I felt
it would have caused me undue stress.
If we have insecurity about our lovability, enough-ness, and
inherent worth, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of believing that
we are wrong or bad when someone calls us selfish.
But what if it has nothing to do with you personally, but more about
their own need for things to look a certain way, to feel safe and in
Most of us are selfish on some level because we can only see
through our own eyes and have the history of our own experiences
from which to fall back on, as far as deciding if something is or
isn’t right or fair.
I want to stress that it’s important not to make the person who accused
us of being selfish bad or wrong for saying this, because that creates further
angst and separatism between us. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
So how can we know what is the right thing to do? Should we NOT
do something because of the accusation or should we let it slide off
I say follow this guideline: “If my actions won’t harm myself or another,
go for it.” But how do we define harm? It’s so relative to each person’s
lens through which they view the world. My definition of “harm” may
be entirely different from yours.
The definition must come from you, not the accuser’s perception.
Do not deceive yourself here. When you’re in a calm space, ask
yourself, “How would I define harm, taking into consideration that
harm can be inflicted not just physically, but mentally, emotionally
and spiritually as well?”
This is admittedly a complex question because it’s so easy to take
over-responsibility for other people’s feelings, especially when we are
are highly sensitive, empathic women.
We must know that we don’t control anyone else’s emotional
response, and yet, we don’t want to become callous to other
people’s needs either, and wipe our slate clean with the blanket
statement of “It’s not my problem!”
In other words, we don’t want to be overly responsible or lacking
in responsibility to other human beings’ needs. We want to be
responsible in a balanced, mature fashion.
Being responsible in this way brings many challenges because many
of us have mom and dad issues. We were neglected, abused,
or mistreated in some way by them. If this is the case, we will tend
to want to make others responsible for our love needs.
For my entire life up until very recently, I unconsciously put the
onus of feeling loved on my husband or romantic partner, or
perhaps on anyone with whom I felt in close relationship.
When they inevitably didn’t fulfill that need, I’d feel hurt and rejected
and naturally so, because it was an order that they could never
fulfill. The upside was that I didn’t have to do the tough inner work
of feeling my feelings and loving myself.
When I began to truly see my hurt little girl inside and offer her
comfort, love and understanding for WHY she does what she does, my
need to expect others to love me in place of me loving HER is getting
less and less.
When I can make decisions about my life from this place of
loving myself, my mind and heart are clear about what really
What’s interesting is that from this vantage point, I naturally
consider other people’s feelings EVEN MORE. At the same time,
my number one priority is to make myself happy. That may sound
very selfish indeed, but it’s just the opposite.
When I make it a priority to make myself happy, and I feel free to
live unapologetically me, this frees up the space within to love, give
and serve with kindness. Do you see how this works?
How when you love you enough to make you happy, everyone
Back to the question of harm and the prescription of, “If my actions
won’t harm myself or another, go for it.”
From this vantage point of being what I call a Loving Self-Advocate,
you can trust yourself enough to know that you aren’t out to hurt
anyone, because you love others and truly want them to be happy.
So if you want to do something and it’s going to advance your own
happiness, healing and well-being, but another person might be sad
or overwhelmed about your decision, this is one of those times in
which you can confidently say to yourself, “I need to do this thing.
I’m sorry that it will upset or inconvenience another, but I’m not
going to hold myself back from growth in order to keep them inside
their comfort zone. That is NOT my job.”
You aren’t brushing off their feelings. You’ve considered them and
realize they are not within your control.
Please reply and let me know how you respond when someone
calls you selfish. Do you shut down and do as they wish? Why is that?
PS: If you can relate to this discussion and are ready to become a
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