What if being selfish wasn’t such a bad thing? How would that change what you do? Would you spend more time doing the things you want or need to do, rather than all the things you feel you should do to please others? Being a little selfish can be a good thing. Let me explain…
Many people who focus entirely on giving end up overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed and anxious. They bounce around putting out (other peoples) fires and often wear ‘busy’ as a badge of honour. It’s an easy mistake to make.
At first, it feels good being the expert, being needed, receiving praise for a job well done. Over time you build up a reputation for being capable and competent and the go-to person for any issues that arise.
Before you know it though your days are taken over with putting out other peoples fires and you have an ever-increasing list of things to do and no idea how you will ever find the time to do them!
You start to feel frustrated, resentful and are becoming short and snappy. You feel so out of control and know deep down that if you don’t find a different way, you will reach breaking point.
You can’t remember the last time you did something just for yourself without feeling selfish, anxious or guilty. You just want to stop the world for a moment and get off. To have some space to breathe and think. To put down the weight of responsibility you’ve accumulated and been dragging around with you for so long.
I feel you!
It took me years to find a way out of this soul-sucking, crazy-making, time eating cycle. Before this point, I felt stuck and powerless to change the rod I’d made for my own back. I worried about letting others down, of dropping all the plates, I just couldn’t let go, even though my own health and wellbeing were suffering.
If you are feeling the same way, read on.
I will show you
- The difference between selfish and responsibly selfish
- The foundations of becoming responsibly selfish
- The mindset shift that will change your life
You with me? Good. Let’s dig in…
What is the difference between ‘Selfish’ & ‘Responsibly Selfish’?
Let’s start by getting clear on the definition of the word selfish –
“Lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”
In my experience, if you struggle with over giving you would have to go a long way before you would ever fit that description!
In reality, often people are so concerned with not being seen as selfish that they overcompensate and instead become selfless –
“Concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish.”
And this is where the problem lies.
When you consistently forsake your needs for others, what you are showing through your words and actions is that your needs matter less, you are less important, you deserve less.
Over time this eats away at your self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. It also shows others how to treat you and becomes a breeding ground for being taken for granted and taken advantage of.
Responsibly selfish sits in the gap between selfish and selfless. It means –
“To take care of yourself well so you can be your best and sustainably give to others.”
Here’s what it looks like –
Foundations of Being Responsibly Selfish
- Taking care of yourself with no intent to harm another
- Doing what is right for you, not necessarily what is easy
- Tuning in to your inner wisdom rather than deferring to others to make decisions
- Embracing who you are and, as a result, becoming better at loving yourself and others too.
- Understanding where you end and others begin
- Having difficult conversations and speaking your truth
- Being a little selfish to take care of your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing
- Asking for and accepting help
Now if you’re reading that list thinking well that’s all well and good but where do I even start, I have an amazing FREE guide on ‘How To Say No & Be Ok With It’.
This will help you to pinpoint the areas in your life where you tend to over-give the most and help you to think about how you’d like it to be different – the first step of changing anything is always awareness. It will then give you some simple tools to play with to start bringing back a sense of control into your life.
When You Change The Way You Look At Things, The Things You Look At Change…
If you get really honest, whilst of course you love to help others, often you feel like the people around you aren’t capable of putting out their own fires. Or you worry that it won’t be done how you would want it done, which might reflect badly on you or create even more work, or maybe it’s just quicker and easier if you just do it.
Does that sound familiar?
Being the one who gives often feels safer than being on the other end. The one who gives has control whereas the receiver is more vulnerable.
“In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, innovation, authenticity, creativity and change.”
– Brene Brown
So I’d like to share with you today something that I learned through my coach training that has become my mantra.
“People are creative, resourceful and whole (not broken).”
This is the mindset that coaches embody to ensure we do not slip into rescuing, fixing and saving our clients. And it’s not just useful for coaches; it’s the mindset switch that moves you from over-giving to becoming responsibly selfish.
Because when you do for others what they can do for themselves, and consistently save them from the consequences of their actions, you block their learning and growth. You train them to rely on you, which in turn disables them and creates dependency.
It becomes the vicious cycle that feeds your sense of overwhelm and busyness.
When instead you embody the belief that each human being is creative, resourceful and whole, it enables you to allow time for the learning process to unfold and see other people as capable of making their own choices and dealing with any consequences.
By leaning back and letting go of control in some areas, it frees up more time for you to take control of others.
Focusing on building the foundations of becoming responsibly selfish empowers you and the people around you, and in turn builds courage, confidence, self-esteem, trust and a better relationship with yourself, and with others. Win-Win!
A few final thoughts to keep in mind:
- Take some time to reflect on all the things you are doing for others that they could do for themselves. This will give you an idea of where you can start to play with saying no.
- Change can be difficult so when trying to do something differently embrace the idea of playing or experimenting with it. When you play or experiment you can’t get it wrong and instead you use every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- A question I often ask myself when I’m scared of taking a leap or doing something different is what happens if you don’t do it? When the thought of that is worse than the thought of staying where you are then it’s time to jump…
Remember if nothing changes, nothing changes! 😉
If you want some help with becoming responsibly selfish, download my free guide ‘How To Say No And Be Ok With It’.
You can also check out these articles –
- ‘Turn Your People Pleasing Into Your Superpower’
- ‘Boundaries: What Are They And Why Should You Care’
- ‘Self Worth – The Value Of You’