When it comes to your relationship with self, one thing I see over and over again in women of all ages is putting themselves last. They put everyone else first, denying themselves even the smallest time out and they do it because they don’t want to be selfish. The truth is that too much selflessness can have terrible consequences, including repressed anger, burn out, depression, feeling taken for granted or completely lost in the world, and actually, it’s really selfish.
“That’s selfish”, I tell those people who never put their needs first. “Never giving yourself anything or getting to do the things you want is a very selfish act because someone misses out: You.”
This is a shocking reality for people to hear. They are trying so hard not to deny anyone’s needs they end up denying themselves of everything.
And the consequences of this have a long flowing effect.
- You aren’t getting what you need out of your relationships.
You feel like you are always losing because you are not giving yourself space to voice your desires, state your opinion or express your emotions. You feel used up and your cup is empty, your care of others feels like an obligation, rather than a joyful act.
No one can maintain this. Eventually you’ll start looking for a way out of the relationship, or come to resent those you love most.
- You are denying others the joy of helping you.
Wouldn’t it also be fantastic if the people you love and care for had an opportunity to express that love through caring for you and helping you out in return? Think how good it feels to help others? By refusing their help, you are saying no to the joy and satisfaction they can feel by doing a selfless act for you.
- You are denying other people an opportunity to learn.
Always running to the aid of your kids, partner or best friend? You could be denying them a great learning opportunity or personal growth. By allowing them to feel a way through they learn import lessons.
- Less to give.
If you aren’t giving yourself care and filling up your own cup then you are limiting how much love and energy you have to give away to others.
If, on the other hand, you take the time to develop an incredible relationship with yourself, then you have more love and more experiences to share with others.
To have a connection with yourself is so vital for a happy life where you can pursue your goals and get your needs met. Selflessness is when you give that up, you give up on your self. That doesn’t mean you have to be a selfish person.
The answer is, like with all things, a balance in the middle. If you think of it like a swinging pendulum, on one extreme is selfishness, where you act without having any care or regard for other people, you just do what works for you. On the opposite extreme is selflessness, where you care about others but have no regard for yourself, your identity or having your needs met.
What usually happens with a pendulum that is pulled to one extreme is that it will swing across to the other side and back again, over and over. That can happen with selfishness too. You can get so burned out or fed up doing everything for everyone else that you can snap and lash out with selfish acts. Then comes the remorse for being selfish that swings back across to total selflessness, for the cycle to continue.
In the center of these is selfullness. A medium where you care about others as well as yourself. In this space you act according to your deepest values, you are highly motivated and energised, you are able to replenish yourself when you are tired, you are your true and most authentic self. Best of all, because you are so filled with love and limitless opportunity, you have more to give to those around you.
And it’s okay to swing one way or the other on certain occasions, as long as you check in and make sure you are getting enough balance overall.
The fear of being selfish is usually taught to us at a young age and often people will work their whole lives trying not to fall into that shameful selfish label. “You are so selfish.” It can be the worst insult you can give a person. Trying not to be selfish can lead to a person refusing their desires, going against their instincts and living out another person’s dreams.
It can even get to the point where someone might feel guilty about going on a holiday, they can’t relax and enjoy themselves, because it seems like they need to be looking after someone else.
For some of you it may have been a while since you have received love and kind acts, so it will take some getting used to, so be prepared to practice until you get comfortable. Here are some ways to help you be more selfull and get to a place that is win-win for everyone.
- Feel good about saying no
There is a limit to how much you can do in a day. If you say yes to everything and everyone seeking your help you will spread yourself so thin no one will really feel the benefits. Before you automatically say yes to a request, stop and think about it. What will it cost you? What will you have to give up, and what will you get in return? If your gut is telling you it’s too much, go with that. If it’s something you are interested in it’s okay to say, “Can I get back to you on that?” while you go over your options. And remember, when you say no to something, you give another person an opportunity to step up and do their part.
- Practice self-love
Looking after yourself is important and that means taking care of your body, mind and soul. Make sure you eat well, sleep well, exercise and allow time to relax, which might be meditation, a walk on the beach or sitting by yourself at your favourite café. Determine your goals and take steps every day towards achieving them. If you need a personal trainer or life coach to help get you to a place of health and action then definitely bring in those people who can teach you how to make positive changes in your life.
- Speak up
You have needs and wants and they are not only valid, they are really important. Make time in your day or week or month to get your needs met and let others know your values and expectations as well. Write a bucket list of all the things you want to achieve, both big and small, and tick them off regularly. Some of the activities you include might be frequent, like you might want a bubble bath or massage every fortnight. Everyone has different needs, while one person might really crave a girls night out once a fortnight, another may need some alone time or to go skydiving. Look for new ideas outside of your circle but always make choices that fill your cup and inspire you. It can be fun to revisit things you loved as a kid as well, like flying a kite or going down a waterslide.
- Say thank you.
If someone asks if they can help you with something, say yes, thank you and appreciate their time and support.
Do check in on your behaviour and see if you are giving and receiving in balance. There will always be options and solutions available that allow everyone in your family and life to get where they need to go. Ask everyone for their honest input and get creative to find the compromises and agreements that work for your unique situation. Being open and honest about how you feel goes a long way in having those close to you understand how to treat you and for everyone to feel fulfilled, satisfied and on purpose.