A client recently asked me what the difference was, between healing and loving yourself and being selfish. To that person, they appeared to be the same thing.
Learning to love ourselves is an important step on our journey to grow in our emotional intelligence. Yet, fear of being selfish is a hurdle that many of us face, in our journey to self-love. We all want to be kind, decent people and discover and share our spiritual gifts. But what is the difference between loving and caring for ourselves, and being selfish?
First off, let's talk about what selfishness is NOT. It is not selfish to:
- Think highly of yourself. You actually are amazing, and have spiritual gifts that make you capable of much more than you realize. There is nothing wrong with being aware of this. In fact, having this awareness allows us to accomplish even more amazing things. Understanding our gifts is a very important step in developing emotional intelligence.
- Forgive yourself. Forgiveness doesn't mean that the action is all right. It means that we let go of the anger and judgement. Once you stop judging yourself, you can look at the fears and misunderstandings that led you to make the mistake in the first place. If you can't look at the reasons for your behavior, you will have a very hard time making any changes. Forgiveness is a necessary step in the healing process.
- Be compassionate toward yourself. When you are more in tune to your own needs, you have an easier time understanding others. We interpret everything we see through our own experiences. When we've been extremely kind and understanding toward ourselves, we can't help but treat others the same way.
- Seek support when you need it. We're not meant to go it alone. There is absolutely nothing wrong about reaching out to others, when you feel like life has thrown you more than you can handle.
- Spend time on yourself. You are a part of humanity, and you deserve to be happy as much as anyone else. When you enjoy life, and see how amazing it all is, you will naturally pass this on to others.
So what is selfishness? Ironically, we often find that we are acting very selfishly when we aren't doing all of those things. When we don't know ourselves well, we judge our actions, thinking they are a part of who we are. This leads us to become afraid of ourselves, and we become unable to see and to share our many spiritual gifts.
We can do any number of things, when we're experiencing this fear. What did I do?
- We seek out approval and validation, and continue seeking it out when our doubts inevitably creep back.
- We become fearful of being alone, and of being abandoned by the people who give us validation.
- We appear very needy and clingy, because we do not trust ourself.
- We can only see our story and our struggles, and we expect everyone to drop everything to constantly give us validation.
- We overspent, overeat, and engage in other behaviors in order to find happiness and safety.
Selfishness is not caused by loving yourself too much. It's a manifestation of fear, and nothing more. We all do it, from time to time. The important thing is not to judge ourselves when we realize that we are in the pattern--judgement will only make the problem worse. We need to look at the fears and misunderstandings compassionately and--surprisingly--give ourselves a lot more attention. This may be counter intuitive; we often believe that the answer lies in forgetting ourselves and giving back to others. However, ignoring the fear will not make it go away, and the selfish behaviors and tendencies will return. Learning to work with the limiting beliefs that lead us to fear is a major step in healing and developing our emotional intelligence.
We need to attend to the fear first, and then giving back becomes much easier and fulfilling.