I was having an intimate conversation with a psychologist friend one day, and it came as quite a shock to me when she suggested that, often times, our acts of kindness are motivated by a subconscious desire to be needed, liked and loved … because of our own lack of self-acceptance and self-love. She added that this is evident if we feel resentful when our acts of kindness are not appreciated.
I had always thought of myself as being a caring and loving person, yet I did feel resentful when people appeared ungrateful.
Did she have a point? I didn’t like to contemplate the possibility, because I preferred to think I was just kind. But then I did anyway. And she was right: I had to admit I was not as kind and selfless as I liked to believe.
After a fair bit of soul-searching and with a heart-wrenching pang, I had to admit that I did have a need to be accepted by others because I did not really accept myself fully, flaws and all. (Flaws? Who, me?) In fact, with this realisation came also the the realisation that I didn’t even know myself, what to speak of accepting myself as I am. Then, if I didn’t even know myself and accept myself wholly, how could I even begin to truly love myself?
Most of us have grown up being told not to be selfish and, as a result, we have been conditioned to focus outwards for fear of being considered self-centred.
What a sad story!
The truth is that we cannot be of any real good to anyone else without self-care, or truly love another without self-love, because our behaviour would be wrongly motivated, and that cannot end well.
Even on a plane, the safety procedures demand you put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your own children – imagine that! Indeed, if you fainted, who would care for your children then?
If you love your partner because he or she fulfills your emotional needs, when something happens that breaks them down and they need your unconditional love for a while, what would happen then?
If selfish could mean just the amount of self-care and self-love necessary to allow for ultimate selflessness, shouldn’t we all be a little selfish?
The time had come to chuck out that sense of guilt and begin to do something for myself every day. And I had to ditch the need to be needed, accepted, appreciated and loved.
This was the beginning of a most wonderful journey towards authenticity and transparency, two of the values I have come to cherish most today.
I began to live by these four rules:
- I don’t have to be (my or others’ self-constructed ideal of) perfect, I just have to be me.
- I am not responsible for how others feel about me, for their reactions, or for the outcome of any situation.
- I take genuine interest in others for their sake, focusing on listening and understanding them, irrelevant of how they respond to me.
- I make time regularly for those things that make me feel good, such as dancing, or being in water.
What I quickly discovered is that, by relinquishing the need to live up to any expectations or control any situation, I was able to tap into the authentic me, and transparently and vulnerably show her to the world while remaining unattached to outcome. Furthermore, by taking responsibility for my own happiness and allowing others to take responsibility for their own, my relationships improved drastically.
If selfish could mean self-care and self-love, I would recommend to anybody to be as selfish as possible – it is the only way to genuine care and love for others!