Are you Selfish?

“That sounds so selfish.” That comment is voiced regularly in my office and I’m delighted when I hear it. It shows me that there’s some awareness of a feeling that’s uncomfortable enough to examine. Usually, the “that sounds so selfish” question comes from the belief that the wishes of others should come first. That’s the belief—the thinking—that needs to be corrected in order to address the feeling.

The statement, “that sounds so selfish,” confirms two things for me:

  • the idea that we are obligated to take care of others first is pervasive in our culture; and
  • the understanding of the economy of care is completely backwards.

When the notion of what self-care really is sinks in, and when the confounding expectation that we are somehow responsible for making those around us happy, the stage is set for a radical transformation. The conversation shifts dramatically from what is selfish or what is selfless to what it means to be responsible for our own self-care in relationship to others.

Consider what the world would be like if everyone took 100% responsibility for responding to and resourcing their own needs and wants. (I know I’m gonna get some flack about that statement – read on.)

When I wrote Sweet Relief from the Everyday Narcissist, the primary message I wanted to communicate was (and still is) that despite how acute our sensitivity and our intuition are, we are not mind-readers. We are fundamentally unable to satisfy other people’s needs and wants when they themselves are not aware of what those needs and wants are. Even when someone else’s desires may seem obvious, trying to supply those desires to their satisfaction is a slippery slope indeed.

Even if you do everything they’ve asked for, there is no assurance they will find what you’ve done satisfying. Trying to be a mind-reader is frustrating for both you and the one whose mind you’re trying to read.

In the end, you can best be there for others by being there for yourself. Figuring out what you need and want, being responsible for attaining your own desires, responding to your own needs, and tending to your own self-care is far from selfish. Rather, it provides an economy of value: we offer care and attention to ourselves in order that we may be more who we truly are—and thus have more to give others.

In the end we have a choice. We can recognize what we need through developing our awareness of ourselves and finding resources to meet our needs and wants—or we can expect other people to read our minds and then blame them for not figuring out what we want and supplying us instead with what it is they think we want.

Are you ready to give up mind-reading and focus on what you want?

Road Closed, Change Directions

Late last summer I had to change my route from home to wherever I was headed. The most expedient, convenient, logical way from my house to the main thoroughfare was inaccessible. My road was closed. I could no longer take my familiar way through by driving around barriers or outwitting the road construction. A new […]

Invited to Invisibility

Really? You said you’d call and you didn’t. Did I make that up? Oh, no, I have the text right here. I’m not crazy. Are you avoiding me? Or, did you forget? If you forgot, how can I show up enough for you to remember me? Or, can I? If I bring it up, this […]

I Hate Being Scared…It Scares Me

There are no tigers in my back yard, no snakes about my feet. Yet there it is—that protective sense deep inside my brain that generates fear. It’s that reaction that comes as an inheritance from the long line of those who have come before me—ancient cave dwellers, medieval servants, settlers on the frontier. Foes today […]

Can You Think and Feel at the Same Time?

Thirty minutes flew by last week when I was being interviewed by my friend and colleague, Donna Parker. She’s an acupuncturist and health coach with a radio show—way cool. I hope you’ll listen in as we discuss thinking and feeling at the same time, ways we recreate upsets from the past and simple solutions to […]

How Are Your Framing Your Life?

Five years ago I wrote and published a book, Sweet Relief from the Everyday Narcissist. At the time, it was a heart-felt offering of support for people who find themselves stymied by their relationships with folks who are perpetually displeased with them. It was the “amen” to relationships I’d encountered that provided me a curriculum […]

Scratching around for what to fix for dinner, I pulled shrimp out of the freezer and asked my daughter to marinade them in something. As she poured Ponzu over the shrimp, she asked “Is this a ‘wing-it’ marinade”? Since she tends to cling to rules (unlike her mother-maybe it skips a generation), cooking without a […]

I Think I’ve Got IT!

Well, I had it for a brief moment. Thank goodness I lived on a farm for 20 years. I learned to temper my frustration by accepting that maintenance takes the most time. By spending more time filling tanks, sharpening blades or replacing bolts than I spent mowing, I learned to slow down and take one […]

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My favorite memory of Valentine’s Day is a white paper sack that I carefully decorated when I was a second-grader. I cut out construction paper hearts, added stickers, and doused the whole thing with glitter. It was for collecting Valentine’s cards from my classmates and friends. It was filled to the top, and I felt […]

Do You Know What You Want?

This is probably the most difficult question for people to answer when they meet with me. The answer usually quickly degrades into wanting people in their lives to change and do something differently. But those things are not up for grabs here. Directing the lives of others is beyond your authority. This is not about […]