A Large Helping of Healthy Selfish
Today I feel re-energised, re-inspired, re-me. Yesterday evening my friend Diane, a fellow movement therapist and also life coach, reminded me that the energy I had been carrying around and trying to move forward with was not okay…I complained a lot! I knew I lived in London but this was ridiculous. Her positivity illuminated my negativity to such a degree that I had to ask ‘What’s your secret!?’. Her answer? I will get to that later I promise.
That evening I realised I had got into a rut of being; in which the negative was so easy to focus on and the role of victim was way too comfortable. Unnoticed, this way of being had slowly crept upon me during the past few weeks. There had been new challenges in my work, in my new home, in relationships...and in my phone (where some of my relationships seemed to actually live).
As we talked and shared, revealed and unravelled (I already felt better), our conversation delved into relationships; friends, family, partners and professional. There was a pattern emerging, that pattern was mine and it was just me complaining! Its so easy to do…except as I talked with Diane I could hear myself and it was getting repetitive. What was my role in these relationships and what could I do to shift from resentment to reverence in every single interaction in each different relationship? In all seriousness Diane suggested I get a large helping of healthy selfish into my life…then listed a few ways in which she did this. Her list? Later. I double promise!
Healthy selfish? It was sort of a familiar notion, but it felt slightly well, selfish. I’m almost certain I had not learned it growing up, if I had followed my dad more maybe (wise man that he is)…but I was my mother’s daughter. I grew up cultivating a desire to please, to be nice, to look pretty and not cause trouble (my brother was there for that). I learnt from my mum to always put other people first. My mum is one of the most giving people I know, it is amazing and I love her so much for it. But she is also one of the people I worry about because she exhausts herself out trying to do everything for everyone and prioritising other people’s needs before her own, in spite of her family’s plea to just say no!
The concept of looking after myself so that I can look after others seems like such a simple concept yet it doesn't come naturally to me and recently I have found it hard to maintain. New situations throw me off centre and I fall back on familiar patterns of looking after everyone but me. Looking back, I see that the moments in which I have given the most to someone, were the moments I have first given to myself. Giving to me equals making time for simple daily rituals that keep me balanced, clear decision making, giving myself time to make decisions, saying no to others, saying yes to me, my yes being a joyful yes and my no being a joyful no! In summary, listening to my heart and acting on what I hear, is one sure way of getting some healthy selfish into my life.
Right next to the voice of my heart is of course a few ‘shoulds’ and that’s where I’m learning to question where exactly that ‘should’ came from and do I need it in this current situation? The word ‘should’ is over-used and is unconscious, unhealthy and totally unnecessary. Usually. Part of getting me some healthy selfish is about being able to decide what is the best response in any ‘should I shouldn't I?’ moment; it slips out so easily! Why not ‘could I couldn't I?’
Meditation. This magical practice is three in one when it comes to giving. It re-energises and restores me so that I can give to others from that desired place of reverence that always makes my relationships so much sweeter . Secondly it helps me see my thoughts, hear my heart and decipher between the two. Lastly it is one way in which I can give to myself something that is so completely and intimately mine, something that is always evolving, something that helps me undo old patterns of thoughts no longer needed.
I’m not saying that meditation is the final word on healthy selfish but it is something really worth considering if like me you struggle with moving forward from the heart rather than the should.
I will instead end with the promised secret to Diane’s positive energy and her top five list of ensuring she has a large helping of healthy selfish in her life.
Diane’s Top Five
Get some healthy boundaries. It can be difficult sometimes to recognise that we are not responsible for other people and that our responsibility is to ourselves first and foremost. Know where others begin and where you end to maintain a healthy separation between yourself and others. Give yourself and others space and remember that there is a difference between ‘caring’ and ‘care-taking’. This one took me a while to learn.
Get real. You are a caring, loving, patient, compassionate, beautiful being. You are also a jealous, ugly, angry, lazy and selfish being. You are a human being, not a saintly presence. Embrace it all as part of who you are, and don’t be afraid to show it to the people you love and trust. Be honest about who you are. They’ll appreciate your ‘dark side’ a lot more if you embrace it rather than project it on to them or expect them to fix it for you. Guilt is a corrosive emotion so drop the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary. Aim for ‘wholeness’ rather than ‘goodness’.
Get connected. Find time to just ‘be’. Whether that’s connecting with loved ones, dancing, swimming in the sea, making love or meditating, find what recharges your batteries, makes your spirit soar and your heart sing – and make sure you build this into your daily practice. And if you don’t know what this is, make it your priority to find out. Knowing yourself and what really turns you on is the single most important thing you can do. You cannot give from an empty cup.
Get present. Observe children and animals at play. They live entirely in the moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about an uncertain future. That doesn’t mean you don’t learn from the past and allow it to inform your present, and it doesn’t mean you stop making plans or having goals. But stay alert to what is happening now. Once you learn to live in the moment and notice what is happening right now, the universe starts giving you signs (also known as synchronicities). When you start following these, it feels as though life is giving you a helping hand, and there is an ease and flow to it. If you’re always living in the past or the future, you miss these signs. When I’m experiencing an abundance of synchronicity, I know I’m on the right path, even if I can’t make sense of it at the time.
Get a sense of humour. At the end of the day, we only have this one life. Choose how you want to live it. Find your tribe, the people who ‘get you’ and help you see the lighter side of life. My life and work have taken me to some pretty dark places and I would never have survived if I hadn’t developed an equally dark sense of humour. This doesn’t mean always ‘thinking positive’ or ‘looking on the bright side’, and it doesn’t mean using humour as a defence mechanism to mask painful thoughts and feelings. But be prepared to see the absurdity of your situation and keep your eye on the big picture so you can maintain a healthy perspective.
Diane’s secret: Work hard, laugh wildly, love passionately, and don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m not advocating never giving a fuck, but just be discerning about the fucks you give. And the rest? Fuck it. Life’s simpler that way.
Get in touch with Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Gonce Ahmet @goncemandala . email@example.com