I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately with people about selfishness vs. selflessness. When I asked one friend why we surround ourselves with selfish people, she said, “Because the planet might implode if you and I act like that. Or not.” When I told another friend about changes I was making in my life, she said, “Hmm. That sounds…selfish.” Another friend in a bad situation tells me that she has come to a solution: she will just be completely selfless and then everyone will be happy.
Here’s what counseling has taught me: a person can only be completely selfless for so long before they implode and go to the dark (selfish) side. And do something they will regret because they are so NOT selfish people at heart. The problem is, you don’t realize the price you pay when you give up your own needs and wants for someone else’s. So what to do?
Someone I used to trust once told me that you have to know what you want. I spent a year trying to figure that out and always came up against a brick wall. I couldn’t figure out why. Until now.
How can you know what you want if you don’t know who you are?
It’s not just about what you want. That is starting in the wrong place.
I mean, I want a new truck but I can tell you that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. And I think that’s a selfish point of view to start with. No. You have to go one step back first. It’s about knowing who you are and what truly matters to you. When you know who you are, you will know not just what you want but what you need to be truly happy. And when you can make yourself happy, care for yourself, the rest will follow. I am just starting on this path, so hear me out.
I would argue that there is a middle ground between being selfless and selfish. It’s called self-care. If you are selfless, you will end up hating the very people who you are giving everything to…because you are getting nothing in return. Or at the very least, not what you really need. If you are selfish, on the other hand, everyone will think you are a selfish asshole and avoid you like the plague. 🙂
Want to be happier in 2014? Take time to think about who you are. Here are five questions that are helping me. They are not earth-shattering or difficult. Just something to make you think. I hope they will help you, too:
1. What makes me happy? Make a list. Do one of those things for yourself every day. Or once a week. Or once a month. Start somewhere. Just make sure you are on your to-do list. How can you make anyone else happy if you are not? More importantly, how can anyone else make you happy if even you can’t?
2. What am I most proud of? Make a list. You may have thought that 2013 was crap. Personally, if I met 2013 in a dark alley or cage match, I’d kick its ass. But making a list of all the things you’re proud of – accomplishments, small moments, tiny victories – it all adds up faster than you might realize. And it reminds you that, girrrrl/dude! You \ still got it going on. You always did. You just lost sight of it for a while.
3. What matters to me? This one reveals a lot. Look at the top three things on your list and focus all your energy there in 2014. Or pick one. No pressure! You might be surprised to see that you are spending your time and energy on people and things that aren’t even on the list. Change that. You’ll feel so much better. And if some people drift out of your life because of it – think of it as making room for people who are more aligned with who you really are.
4. What lights me up inside? Remembering or finding your purpose gives every moment more meaning. It makes the difference between existing and really living. Bonus: it makes you feel (and look) younger, IMHO. Do more of this.
5. What – or who – is stopping you? Is it your own negativity? Other people draining your energy? Selfish people? Fear of standing up for yourself or saying what you really think? What is the worst that can happen if you just remove that obstacle or person? When you think about it, the worst may not be as bad as your brain is making you think it is. Just tell yourself you can handle anything. And you know what? You will.
I am including here a picture of me and my dad on Christmas Eve, our first ever alone together. He confided in me that night that he never liked pierogis, the traditional Polish dumpling that was the cornerstone of every family Christmas for as long as my mother was alive. It was her favorite dish, pride and joy. By my approximations, I figure my father ate some 177 pierogis in his lifetime. How many pierogis are you going to eat before you finally speak up and say: I hate pierogis! I never want to see another damn pierogi as long as I live!
Wishing you the best year ever. 🙂