Selfless, the way we all want to be described. The popular adjective used in so many powerful stories and rooted in heroic acts where many give their lives for another.
So when I followed that initial selfless encouragement with the unyielding honesty that I was encouraging it for selfish reasons (I wanted to enjoy my space without feeling their discomfort), it's not surprising that I received such utter disappointment. The kind of disappointment that was immediately evident in their body language and facial expression.
The message was clear - I was telling them that their needs were only as important as my own. Dare I tell you the truth though? The truth that no one really wants to hear? Most of our perceived “selfless” behavior is rot with selfish motives. There are still true selfless acts occurring in the world, but it’s much more rare than is recognized.
Our motives, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings intrinsically are rooted in our own survival (and that of future generations, if you want to get really serious). That means we cannot help but to remain selfish, even when acting selflessly in most cases.
Even in situations where we sacrifice for another’s well-being - a rather selfless act - it causes us to feel good about ourselves and this is a selfish motive. This isn’t a bad thing, but somehow we’re living in a world where admitting that feels like a bad thing. We’re all guilty of it. We’ve set a standard that we must be perceived as selfless individuals, rarely if ever acknowledging our own needs.
Maybe it’s time to start recognizing our own needs without apology. Let’s accept and own our selfish motives as something good, rather than something that should be kept hidden. It is true that some selfish acts are born with ill intentions, but not all. Ultimately, I am asking you to be a bit more compassionate and accepting of your needs and let that guilt melt away.
I want to challenge you today to try to be unapologetically honest in your selfishness. Identify the feelings that come up and see what that sparks in your own journey of self-improvement and self-compassion.