For many of us, being called “selfish” is worse than any four letter word that you can imagine. In fact, the fear of being labeled “selfish” often causes us to ignore our own important needs and deepest desires. When our entire lives are shaped around the foreboding dread of appearing selfish, not only do we suppress expression, we also disregard what would bring us the most joy in life. We might even stay trapped in jobs and long term relationships well past their expiration date, simply because we are afraid that our choices might be deemed self-serving to others.
On the spiritual path, or even the path of being a “good person,” we are often told to think of others before ourselves. Maybe as children, we were taught that it is bad to be selfish or we were even punished for thinking of ourselves first. In theory, it might sound nice to put others’ needs before our own, but when we constantly put ourselves last without question, we stay asleep and disempowered.
How can you awaken, when you are ignoring your Self?
I spent the first twenty three years of my life pleasing others. Whatever someone asked of me, I always said yes. That sounds like a beautiful way to live except for one big problem. Every time I said yes to the desires of others, I was unconsciously saying no to my own desires. It was as if the entire world was vastly more important than me, but I didn’t know any better. It was the way I was raised and there was a big pay-off for always pleasing others. But the pay-off didn’t make up for the huge emotional cost of my own well-being.
To be perfectly honest, I was terribly afraid of being called selfish so I bent over backwards to avoid this debilitating label, but it didn’t work because no matter how much I did for others, if I even thought of myself first, or I said no, I would be called selfish. Even though I would do back flips to prove them wrong, under the surface, I had growing resentment.
Why Don’t We Put Ourselves First?
There are three main reasons that we avoid putting ourselves first:
1. We Don’t Feel Worthy
When we are indoctrinated to put others first, it also implies that our needs and wants are not as important as the needs and wants of others; naturally causing us to question our worth.
It is a vicious cycle because, when we don’t know our worth, we degrade ourselves and negate our own personal needs, thereby increasing our sense of unworthiness. This sets us up for many issues in life, like depression, fear, lack of intuition, problematic relationships, lack of prosperity and even physical challenges.
When we put others first because we feel unworthy to put ourselves first, sooner or later, we also become resentful as our needs remain unmet – and because those we give to, don’t give back, we end up empty inside.
If we believe that we are not important or worthy, we become disconnected from our intrinsic power and our true ability to create the lives we most desire. If you are not accustomed to listening to your own needs and responding fully, how can you ever understand what your inner being desires, and how can you ever know what you are here to do and create?
2. It’s Spiritual To Be Selfless
We are taught that selflessness is a spiritual attribute and if we are on the spiritual path, we may adopt the idea of being selfless, but being selfless does not make us more spiritual. Selflessness is a byproduct of spiritual awakening but you do not wake up by being selfless. In fact, artificial selflessness often keeps people asleep because putting yourself last, keeps you disconnected from your true self, and if you are disconnected, you are asleep.
3. We Feel Responsible For Others
Perhaps we put others first because we believe that we are responsible and we must tend to the needs and emotional wellbeing of those we love. But we are not responsible. Yes, of course, if you have very young children, they must come first, but at what age do you regain your status of being first in your life – if you ever had it to begin with? Where did we ever get the idea that our friends and family cannot take care of themselves? With careful observation we might even see that our meddling enables those we love to stay stuck and powerless. When we remove our sense of responsibility, relationships also begin to heal.
Maybe it is time to question this idea of selfishness.
Maybe we have been taught all wrong. After all, if selflessness was the way to go, wouldn’t we all be so much happier?
After years of putting everyone first, I had a big wake up call. Because I suffered horribly from chronic fatigue and I became consistently sick and depressed, I knew I couldn’t live the way I was living anymore, so I courageously, and for the first time, decided to say, “No.” I said no to everything that I didn’t want to do and anything that felt out of integrity for me.
Do you know what happened? Everyone called me selfish, but because I had chosen to take care of myself this time, it went right over my head. I think my mom and boyfriend even got together to discuss how selfish I had become. But, no matter how many times I was called selfish, I didn’t budge, and it didn’t affect me. I was clear and confident for the first time in my life, and I began to feel better. My energy returned and my outlook on life began to brighten. As I was taking care of myself, I was beginning to remember who I was – and it felt so good to be me again. “No” became my mantra — and my key to emotional freedom.
When we keep putting ourselves last, eventually we become emotionally and maybe even physically depleted. This pain is our inner guidance system telling us that something is wrong, and we have to change, in order to heal. If we continue to ignore our own needs and desires, our physical or emotional bodies may give out – forcing us to withdraw our attention from others and focusing our attention on healing ourselves. Maybe we even use illness as an excuse to take care of ourselves. But, you don’t need the excuse of illness or emotional distress in order to start putting your needs first.
After many months of saying no and meaning it, everyone stopped calling me selfish. Probably because it no longer motivated me to their wishes. But, then something very unexpected began to happen. Because I was taking really good care of myself, I had a great deal more energy and good feelings. That energy and good will naturally overflowed from me and I had the desire to say yes – to help where help was needed and to be of service in whatever way was called for. At some point, I realized that I was doing the same things for the people in my life, as I had done in my “pre-selfish” era, but now it was coming from an entirely different place inside me. I was at choice. I wasn’t saying yes because I couldn’t say no. I was saying yes because I was inspired to say yes, and I had the natural energy to support that choice.
Instead of obligation and guilt being the fire in my heart, love became the guiding force. It turns out, love is infinitely more self-sustaining than guilt or obligation. I had discovered, what I now call, “Sacred Selfishness.”
Embracing Sacred Selfishness
Sacred Selfishness is about honoring yourself. You are a sacred being in physical form, and who you are on all levels deserves love, respect and the utmost kindness. In order to embrace Sacred Selfishness, you must let go of negative ideas about being selfish. You must stop feeding yourself ideas that keep you from self-honoring and you must stop worrying about what the world might say, or think.
Sacred Selfishness may mean speaking your truth, taking care of your emotional and physical needs or ending a relationship or a path that is not working for you, despite the fact that others involved are not willing to let go.
Sacred Selfishness might also mean following your heart, spending time alone, and only doing things when you want to do them. It might also involve letting go of “shoulds,” “have to’s” and emotional baggage like guilt, regret and obligation. As you begin to take better care of yourself, set boundaries and teach others how to be in relationship with you, you experience Sacred Selfishness and you become Self-Full.
Sacred Selfishness is about giving yourself permission to take care of you!
The truth is, you were meant to be responsible for your own life. You have been born into a sacred body and a beautiful life. Who do you think is supposed to care for it? Your first responsibility is to you. Remembering that you are the caretaker of your body and your life, how might you live better?
Once you master self-responsibility, then and only then, can you be of contribution to the world. You cannot give to anyone if you are empty inside. The giving must only come from a surplus of well-being. This well-being is the result of self-responsibility. When you are self-full, you naturally have an abundance to give without any cost to yourself. The bottomless well of giving comes from your wellness. This is the whole point.
Sacred Selfishness Means Choosing Yourself
Many of us go through life putting ourselves last because we have never chosen ourselves for the starring roles of our lives. We have carelessly given that starring role to everyone else – partners, parents, kids, friends, co-workers – anyone but us. The thing is, if you don’t choose you for the starring role of your life, no one else will.
Life is asking you to choose yourself. Not to negate yourself, put yourself second or disregard yourself for any reason, at any time, but to choose you – not just once and be done with it, but over and over again. Especially, not to wait for someone else to choose you because that can never work. If you don’t choose you, first and foremost, how can anyone else choose you? But when you do choose you, you become empowered and fulfilled and then it appears as if the entire world chooses you, because it does.
Once you have chosen yourself an inexhaustible number of times, there is a point where the choice becomes seamless and there is no longer a choice. It is as if something deep inside ignites and fullness births you and raises you up to be who you really are – in all your magnificence.
From this space of self-full-magistracy, the drama falls away and you are left with the purity of your own free spirit.
At some point, the most unexpected thing occurs. The self-full self that is now completely you disappears before your eyes, and what is left is a self that is Self-Less. Because you are full and need nothing from anyone or anything, you evolve into selflessness.
This is the organic evolution from Self-full to Self-less. This is the state that the mystics tell us to attain, but what they fail to mention is that the path to selflessness is in choosing yourself and becoming so self-full that you need nothing.
In order to become authentically Self-Less, we must first pass through Sacred Selfishness.
If we overlook our own needs and put ourselves last so that we can be self-less, we are putting the cart before the horse – limiting our ability to grow and evolve into a higher version of who we have known ourselves to be.
Ultimately, Sacred Selfishness allows you to experience a sense of wholeness, where love for yourself overflows naturally. From Absolute Fullness, your only desire is to serve and it is done with unconditional love because that is who you really are, and as a result you experience unlimited energy and enthusiasm. When you finally need nothing – you have everything to give.
In a nutshell… If you want to be the best you that you can be, you must honor yourself in every way. As you accept your own value and worth, you will naturally care for your divine body and sacred life, and as you do, you will remember who you really are, and you will naturally awaken. This is the journey from Sacred Selfishness to Divine Selflessness.
Zest Point – The Power of Choice by Nanice
Magic happens. Miracles happen. But nothing happens until you choose.
You have the power to create the life you really want through your power of choice. Are you ready to choose?
Nanice Ellis’ book “Zest Point – The Power of Choice” can help you learn how your power of choice can empower you to transform your life, overcome challenges, open your heart to love and joy, and be the change you want to see in the world.
“Zest Point – The Power of Choice” is available here in digital and paperback editions.