Where does self-love end and selfishness begin

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Loving yourself does not mean you consider yourself better than everyone else. It simply means that you deserve the same basic needs met as everyone else: be well-fed, well-rested, have a little bit of fun and joy in your life

Where self-love ends and selfishness begins

 


Self-love is a bit of a buzz word these days. We are encouraged to embrace and practice it as it is good for our mental and physical health and for our relationships and happiness levels. But do we know what self-love really is and how much self-love is too much and when self-love ends and selfishness begins? These are all the questions I personally really struggled with, especially being a working mother and suffering from a serious dose of mother’s guilt. Doing something for myself meant I had to take more time or money away from my children and that seemed terribly selfish to me. Years ago when my older kids were still small I was working full time, raising three kids and starting a side business. I felt that every minute I wasn’t at work I absolutely had to spend with my children. I had no social life, I did not go to the gym, I only got my hair done once a year at best. I was overworked and overtired. Majority of those early years went by in a sleep-deprived haze, however, I clearly remember those times I used to drive down to my parents' house for the weekend. On Sunday my parents would get up with the kids and let me sleep in. The sweetness of those couple hours of sleep was so immense! I used to wake up like a whole new person. It's amazing what a little bit of rest can do to a person. Once in a while my friend Lyndsey and I used to meet halfway between our towns for dinner. We would have a glass of wine and chat all evening. Even on the late drive home, I used to feel full of energy. And that is the essence of self-love. Allowing yourself the time to do whatever makes you happy in order to re-charge your batteries.

 So when does the search for a bit of joy and fulfillment crosses the line to selfishness?

As an economist, I have also learned that everything in life is a tradeoff. You have to give something up in order to gain something. Following with my previous examples in order to have extra sleep I had to forgo making pancakes with my mom and my kids, in order to go out with my friend for dinner I had to miss bedtime stories! 

When you start a journey of self-improvement and self-development you might discover things in your life that you might have been blind to for years- things such as bad habits, bad relationships, bad friendships etc. Sometimes really tough decisions need to be made. What if those decisions that will serve you hurt others (at least temporarily). If you decide that you no longer want to spend any time with that friend that offloads all her life’s problems on you every time you meet leaving you feeling down, exhausted and emotionally drained. Such friendship is toxic for you but you feel that you cannot abandon that friend who seems down in the dumps already. How much are you willing to give up to make yourself happier and more fulfilled?

 According to literature I have read on the subject self-love comes from positive feelings we create about ourselves and within ourselves that benefit both us and people around us. Put it in simple terms, by allowing ourselves a little bit of time to rest, or to socialize with our friends we re-charge our batteries and we feel happier and more energized which makes us happier, more patient parents, more loving partners and more productive workers. Selfishness on the other hand comes from negative feelings we feel (usually about ourselves) which lead us to behavior that benefits only us and hurts or harms others.

Try and think of yourself as a loved one (like you think about your children or your best friend), what would you want for them? The most basic things we wish for those we love is to be fed, rested, happy, fulfilled and entertained (have some fun and some joy in their lives). Loving yourself is simply ensuring that those basic things are provided for you too.

If you find yourself in a situation where you fear that in order for you to reach happiness you need to upset other people the best thing to do is to change the point of reference. Put the shoe on the other foot. If it was up to the other person (the one standing to loose), would their happiness be worth the sacrifice you need to make? Would it be selfish on their part to ask you to sacrifice so they could benefit? Is it fair for that friend to use you as an emotional outhouse so she could feel better? The truth is the same laws apply to us all and in order to reach peace and harmony, it has to be a two-way street. If the cost of someone’s happiness exceeds the benefits than it is not coming from a place of love at all. So I suppose the answer is in the intention and in balance. Self-love does not mean you are better than everyone else, it simply means that you deserve the same basic needs met as everyone else.

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