“I don’t have time to work out.”
“I don’t have time to cook.”
“I don’t have time for me.”
“I put myself on the bottom of the list; I consider everyone else’s needs more important than mine, and at the end of the day there is nothing left for me.”
“I am exhausted; I don’t have much left to give.”
This is not an isolated incident here in West Michigan. This is an epidemic that is leaving us resentful, tired, sick, and angry. Somewhere along the way the belief that self-sacrificing, over working, and over giving is the most honorable way to live. Our culture praises us when we put ourselves at the bottom of the list and continue pushing our “just keep going” button. Especially parents. Especially moms.
Lets review some definitions so we are all on the same page:
Selfishness – having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people.
Selflessness – having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for yourself.
We are all aware that selfishness is a characteristic taught at an early age to avoid.
“Don’t be selfish; share with your sister.” “ Stop that son; you are being selfish.” This makes sense since nobody wants to spend a lot of time with someone who only considers themselves.
However, selflessness seems to be praised as a virtue. It is modeled and taught by many of our parents and culture. So we start neglecting our own body, our own needs, and just keep asking everyone else, “what do you need?” and “how can I help you?” While this may get us approval initially, it certainly won’t sustain a happy and healthy life. Sometimes we even form a belief that sound like this: “Certainly If I take care of everyone else’s needs somebody will recognize mine and will take care of me.” But this rarely happens. In fact we work harder, give more, and sacrifice until we have no time for our own hobbies, exercise, vacations, or even regular meals. We have worked so hard to be noble people of selflessness – exhausted, resentful, and often unsure of even what makes us happy anymore.
Like most things in life I believe the answer lies in the middle. Somewhere between self-absorbed and self-sacrificing is selfullness. Selfullness is a term coined by Marshall Rosenburg the creator of Non-Violent Communication.
Selfullness – filling the self from the inside so that authenticity overflows to the outside or fulfilling the values which motivate healthy outward action.
Selfullness is a relatively new word and it implies care of the Self prior to outward action in order to cultivate the adequate energy needed. Meeting someone’s needs when coming out of a selfull place feels entirely different to the giver and to the receiver. Imagine giving from your abundance – from a rested, generous, and open heart – as opposed to giving from an exhausted, irritated, and potentially resentful place. Marshall Rosenburg notes that when we give from a place other than Selfullness (guilt, shame, obligation) that it doesn’t feel good to the giver or the receiver. The best kind of love comes from a place of overflow and abundance, not depletion and duty.
You may start this week by simply feeling your body and asking “What do I need?”
It may be a nap, a snack, a vacation or a hug?
See if you can meet the need your body has.
Author: Micah McLaughlin is a Naturopathic Practitioner specializing in the integration of the body and mind. In 2008 he founded Continuum Healing, a holistic health clinic located in Grand Rapids, MI.