“Selfish” is an insult used against those who don’t want to always do as they’re expected. Maybe they’re egotistical and just want power regardless of who it hurts, but it’s quite possible they are simply choosing to do what makes them happy. The term “self-serving” certainly can be used as a synonym for selfish, but I’d like to dig in and explore this idea, pull it inside out and look at what it could mean when taken as a positive direction in our lives.
There are those that, for whatever reason, can get up in the morning and immediately get everything they need out of the way so they can start taking care of their family, go to work and take care of business, or head out with hands ready to serve those less fortunate. Some can do this day after day with little thought to themselves. Those kinds of people are amazingly gifted and talented. If you’re feeling a little bad because you’re not one of them, don’t worry because I’m not either. Not even close.
I seek out and recognize those types of people- those “idealists” who just keep on truckin’, fighting the good fight relentlessly every second of every day. They are whole-food eating vegans, they are zero-waste super divas, they are flawlessly minimal godfather figures, they are effortlessly optimistic child development specialist mothers. The list goes on and on. These people give me so much joy and inspiration, as well as motivation to be better, but another feeling creeps in- and I know automatically that this feeling is emanating from my mind and not their message. It is the feeling of “not enough”. I’m not happy, green, healthy or independent enough to be like them. These self defeating thoughts are like weighted stones that sink my heart down deep in my chest.
The analytical side of the human mind is amazing. It is what allows for these comparisons to happen and for us to continue to strive for better efficiency and effectiveness. The only problem with it is that it can cause the emotional response of despair when we can identify the objective, but know at the same time that it is a huge hill to climb, so big that it overwhelms us. This feeling can be constant when we have multiple objectives in our life and we’re also frantically trying to take care of every other person we love or cause that we champion.
At this time I’ve decided to put all of that on hold, and to challenge myself instead to be self-serving just a little bit every day this week. This definitely isn’t my first challenge like this. When Sierra was an infant I tried to instigate a “30 Days of Self-Care” program for myself, but halfway through I just ran out of steam. As a mother it can be hard to take care of ourself at all, even in the smallest ways, sometimes. It can be painful to take a long shower, and hope the little one doesn’t unplug the outlet cover again and electrocute herself. It can be hard to admit to the boss that it just isn’t the right fit any more. I know all too well the fear of disappointing others can magnify to the same level that they appreciate and depend on us. It can be hard to tell our spouse we need some time alone to reflect when they are sensitive and want to be near us. In all the striving to save the planet as well as it’s animals and humans and babies in every way that is humanly possible, it’s so easy to neglect ourself.
As hard as all of it is sometimes, when we become unhappy we have to put it all on the shelf for just a moment, give ourselves a break and a breath- and remember that we, too, are deserving of our own love and attention, the same as every one and thing else that we continually provide it to. There are many hurdles to get over in doing this, though, as everyone will expect us to continue to run at full speed ahead as we always have. Breaking the cycle, stopping the current that pulls us through life to nurture ourselves is the first step. Secondly, it’s about letting go of all those greater societal expectations and subconscious thought patterns that become engrained in our minds from our culture. Mindfulness and meditation are a great start to this. What comes to mind for me is I kind of flip out when the house gets messy, as it always does with toddlers afoot. I know this feeling of panic comes from my upbringing- when I watched my mom stress out about the house looking picture perfectly clean before any person other than immediate family entered the door. The truth is I feel very tense in perfectly clean homes because it reminds me of those hectic, tense memories. When I come into a home that has some junk lying around and some dishes in the sink I feel like I can breathe and relax, “They aren’t perfect either! What a relief!” This is just one example of a way to “break the cycle” of influence from the outside world. Thirdly, it is being as diligent with taking care of ourselves as we’ve been with any other task we handle each day. This seems simple but it was the big misstep I took on my last self-care journey).
It doesn’t mean we are selfish. It doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we are cold, or broken. It doesn’t mean we’ll never come back in the ring and start fighting hard again. It just means that we have recognized that our candle is starting to dim, and we need a moment to create a new one so that we may continue to burn our lights bright for the benefit of everyone around us. No one but ourselves can know how we feel and give us what we need. We are our own superheroes. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.