I was selfless to begin with. Always putting others first. After sometime, I felt uneasy, used and unappreciated.
Then I became mildly selfish. Started putting myself first, albeit rarely. Rather than happiness, I experienced guilt. So, the next time, I overdid my love for the other person(s) and overindulged him/her.
Then I became selfish, needless to say after crossing varying degrees of the said trait. Always putting myself first. After sometime I felt uneasy, unused and unappreciated.
My struggle with selfish vs self-love
“What am I doing wrong? I wondered. It took me years to come to an answer, an answer that is ever-evolving with age and experience. I never loved myself, in a nutshell. Now that may be a blasphemous statement to make but it’s true. I didn’t love myself because I never thought I was worthy. I always depended on others to give me love, and their love decided how much I should love myself. I found it tough to raise my voice and share my discomfort even when someone was exploiting my “good nature” repeatedly. Be it at work or personal life, I felt I should be good to all so that they don’t feel bad. But in all this, I never thought what about me feeling bad. It was after many such agonizing experiences that I learnt it the hard way. It took me long to respect myself enough to say, “I am worthy too.” I am still on a journey like all of you but here’s a glance for anyone needing any solace or the way forward.
Self-love is a beautiful journey that will introduce you to a “sparkling you” at the other end but is also fraught with disappointments especially if :
You have difficulty saying NO
Are low on self-esteem
Are socially awkward
I discovered I was low on all three. Phew!
Saying No was tough, thanks to the upbringing and childhood conditioning. To be clear about intent is a learning. Saying ‘No’ has many connotations. We can say it in arrogance, ignorance and/or habitually. Saying No for the right reason is rare.
Low self-esteem makes the difference between selfishness and self love blur. Choosing yourself over others will give rise to guilt, which is no good choice either.
Being socially awkward makes your personality forked. You want to say yes, and end up saying No, and vice versa. You find yourself drained and dysfunctional.
All the three traits are interlinked and overlapping. Clarity comes with age and experience. Or by learning from others’ experiences, the only reason I am sharing this here.
Read this before you choose Self-love
Love conquers all and overrules everything. This is not an age-old outdated love quote but a fact, and an ideal way of living. If you reach this state, your life is sorted and you can be rest assured you are doing the right karma. To reach this state, you need to navigate all tumultuous roads of relationships and even deep dive a treacherous path. It is on these roads you may need self-love the most, when life is down and you are being kicked from all sides no matter how good you are inside out.
Relationships are sacrosanct. How we look at them shapes our lives. Most of the times, people are just people without any categorisations. Since we cannot please all, and may have to walk through a web of emotions, we need to learn to love ourselves and others, and why to choose what we choose—–whether self-love or selfishness.
Something important to know
You reach a stage where you have to choose between self-love and selfishness only when the heart gets hurts repeatedly. It happens only with people who are close to you and form an inner circle. Your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, househelps, and any set of people you meet every day or often.
Extremely inner circle might get excluded here as they are based on unconditional love. Parents, spouses, siblings, 3 am friends etc. Extremely outer circle people are also not in the list because you meet them annually or biannually. In those two meetings, no one minds doing everything they can.
So the people with whom the choice between selfish vs self-love needs to be made are the ones whom you love but cannot live with. I mean not exactly but you get the gist, no? Those who form an integral part of your life but share a bond where you or they can exploit each other, may be knowingly or unknowingly. Mostly the latter. It’s just that we all are different human beings with varied layered personalities.
So, we need to align ourselves mostly with this set of people. Rest all are happy mistakes where your heart will eventually guide you to draw the line.
When would you to choose between Self-love and Selfishness
Choose self-love when someone stretches you to your farthest limits. When someone makes your heart cry with their acts and yet show no remorse. Give them the benefit of doubt but once that stage crosses, draw your boundaries and leave them out. Sometimes, your life situation may take you to these people again and again leaving you with no choice but to be with them. Have the courage to be disliked but stand your guard. This will break your pattern of obliging others at your cost and eventually to high self-esteem.
The best part about choosing Self-love in the tug of war between Selfishness and Self-love is it mitigates the resentment that brew inside when you are overstretching yourself. It saves you from reaching a stage where you can no longer feel joyful generosity. To be a happy giver, give yourself first. Charity begins at home, remember?
Some tricky situations
-Someone is always late but get upset if you are late
-Always undermine your feelings. Belittle you for feeling a certain way
-Always expects you to do their work and never do yours
-As a guest, always demands high of you but as a host, lowers the standard
-Does something that offends you repeatedly even when you have made yourself clear about the hurt
-Underline the word ‘Always.’ This is the first clue to choose between self-love verses selfishness.
Remind yourself this:
-Self love shifts you from victim mode to powerful mode. You are in control.
-Let love & compassion rule: These two emotions should always come first to make life worthwhile.
-Always give other the benefit of doubt. It is okay to be used than saying no to someone genuinely in need. As someone said, “We need more kindness than being right.”
-People will dislike you if they dislike you. Don’t do anything to be liked
-Creating boundaries is a huge peace-pact. Draw a line where nothing you ever do is enough or appreciated. I was never the one for it until I drew them with a few people. Since then, my relationships have drastically improved and not the other way round as I had imagined.
Beautiful lines to remember
“Never think less of yourself but think of yourself less.” I read this golden line somewhere on the Internet and since then it has been my saviour to know difference between selfishness and self love. What a beautiful thought to save us from getting selfish in the name of creating boundaries. Self-love is not selfish. It is being there for yourself as much as you wish to be there for others, or want them to be with you. Treat yourself well—- with love and compassion.
“I want everyone to be happy but I just can’t be bothered,” I heard it in some Netflix series, and realised this is sometimes me. Another beautiful way of being for introverts. Not everyone will do something for you. Sometimes, they mean well and that is enough. Self-love is not selfish.