For most of my life, I bent over backwards to assure that I was not being selfish. This led me down a winding path to discover the true meaning of selfishness and self-care, and the vital importance of a life worth living.
What is selfishness, really?
As my dad always said, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”
When I dug into depths of selfish people, I found that the root of their selfishness was simply the fear of not getting and being enough. When they didn’t feel “good enough,” they believed that they did not deserve to receive goodness or a good life. Then they behaved in “stupid” ways and blocked goodness out, and became angry at everything.
Victims of selfishness
Both the victims and the perpetrators of selfishness suffer.
Having lived and worked with addicts who could not care for themselves, much less care for others, I allowed myself to be a “victim” of selfishness. My thoughts, feelings, dreams and goals were always less important to than their addiction. After many years of feeling misunderstood, hurt, unsupported and at odds with those closest to me, I lost hope, believed that this was “just the way it was,” that I would “always feel this way,” and I should “just accept it,” so I could “stop feeling disappointed.” At times this was enough to make me consider ending my life. I realized that remaining a “victim” of selfishness would be a “dead end.”
Although it may have seemed “easy” for me to simply be angry at selfish people, it took far greater awareness, love and understanding to see that perpetrators suffer greatly. Without pitying them or making their selfish choices seem “OK,” I chose to see the reasons behind selfish actions. I found the old saying to be true, that “hurt people hurt people.” Whether in my own life or in the lives of those I work with as a willpower guru, the more selfish the person, the more hurt I found them to be. I have witnessed the depths of pity and sorrow that selfish people experience. Although they may appear to be “on top” when in the public eye, at home, they often feel alone and sad. They treat themselves and others with cruelty and things that punish them—like drugs, alcohol and violence, and live with the fear of being “found out.” They carry the heavy burden of pretending to be better than they know they are. They carry the burden of trying to manage everything around them because they cannot manage themselves. And they carry the overwhelming burden of their own criticism. When I asked these people to describe themselves, the words I heard most often were that they were a “failure,”a “loser” and a “f-up.” Under the debilitating weight of these titles, most of them also had varying degrees of desire to end their life. By watching selfish people, I realized that being selfish was also a “dead end.”
Searching for LIFE in Life
I didn’t know what life could be like without being a victim or a perpetrator of selfishness. I looked around me and could not find examples of people that lived a different way. Think about who you know … are people in your life who do NOT park themselves in the camp of being a victim or perpetrator of selfishness—or sometimes both!?
My step toward empowered living, which wasn’t quite “there”
I wanted to create an empowered Angelique, one who was neither a victim nor a perpetrator of selfishness. So, I set my “character sites” on mentors who were spiritually enlightened. On people who seemed to remain empowered—even during persecution. I looked to several enlightened beings: Jesus, who gave his life to be an example to us of how to save ourselves, Ghandi who fasted and walked as a stance against injustice, Buddha who gave away his royal heritage to teach the masses to find true meaning in life, Mother Theresa and everyday mothers who gave up their dreams to support the dreams of their husbands and children, and to my perception of God, who never gave up on anyone or anything. I thought, “surely my needs will be taken care of by someone or God or both, or maybe my needs aren’t actually important.” Nevertheless, I was not attending to my needs. I did not see that self-care was important … during this time, self-care seemed selfish. After living this way for 20 years, I realized that I had gone too far. I again was left without joy in being alive.
The quiet JOY and respect of self-care
It wasn’t until I began my discovery of healthy self-care that I felt truly alive and grateful about living. I grew to understand and respect that my talents and dreams were worthy of respect and support and pursuit from and by ME. I quit putting my best off, waiting for later. I took that yoga class. I exercised in the sunlight. I ate healthy food. I read about healing. I quit watching TV. I learned to meditate. I only chose jobs that fulfilled my desire to be creative and that supported my freedom to do what was best. I chose to write about things I believe in. I listened to what life wanted me to learn and I humbled myself and became worthy of receiving guidance. I did what I knew was best, and looked to no one for accolades. And it was right about that time, when I truly respected myself and life, that I received more support and encouragement from life and people than I ever could have imagined. And this felt invigorating! Through self-care, I felt ALIVE and GLAD about life.
What is self-care?
Self-care is acceptance of our significance.
Self-care is acceptance and respect for life, ourselves and life’s gifts within us.
Self-care is taking the time to learn about ourselves and life.
Self-care is learning what is best.
Self-care is asking for what is best and what we want.
Self-care is taking action in thought, word and deed that move us towards what is best.
Self-care is not straying from the path of what’s best.
Self-care is standing up for what is best.
Self-care is being willing to listen and receive what life offers.
Self-care is being willingly to grow and change with life’s “tides.”
Self-care is doing kind things for ourselves—whatever that means to us. Not indulgence, kindness.
Self-care is encouraging ourselves and others to be our best. It is not criticizing ourselves for not being enough.
Self-care is loving ourselves gently and continuing to persevere and enjoy life in the best ways we know how.
Self-care is knowing that the talents, passions, dreams and true needs within us are a life-spark that is worthy of nurturing, loving and growing.
How can we care for ourselves without being selfish?
Caring for ourselves can be a full-time adventure. In addition to needing food, clothing, shelter, exercise and love, we need to nurture and pursue healthy growth of our hopes, dreams and spirituality. It’s amazing we find time to do anything but care for ourselves.
When does caring for ourself become selfish?
When we become enamored with our growth and prosperity and it becomes more important than anything else, we have gone too far. We all have our own lives to live, and our own balance to discover. Will you find yours?
Could you care for yourself more?
What is truly best for you? Could you become stronger and more courageous about how you care for yourself? Please share so we may grow in care and willpower together …
Always with Love,