I recently told a client that she needed to be more selfish. This may sound like surprising advice coming from someone who helps people to become the best versions of themselves, but it was the advice I gave. So often we think that in order to be our best self we have to be more selfless, and that we have to put others first. However, what I teach people is that the only way to become the best version of yourself is to love who you are fully. In order to love yourself, you actually have to learn how to be selfish. Selfish here is not defined as being narcissistic, unwilling to see others perspectives and/or unconsciously doing things to fill yourself up without regarding other people’s feelings. We want to think of selfish here as being more self-full, meaning that we get in touch with our needs and make sure that those needs are met. It's about doing the things that light up our hearts and make us feel joyful and loved.
When we try to create transformation in our lives by putting others first instead of starting by giving love to ourselves it can have detrimental effects on our mind, body, and spirit. In the instance of my client she said that she needed to be more selfless like her mother, and she felt bad about herself because she believed she was too selfish and often put her needs first. The first clue that she was starting in the wrong place was that she was comparing herself to someone else and making herself wrong for being who she was. That is an immediate sign that there is a lack of self-love. So I started by asking her what needs she was putting first. Her answers were things like she would spend money on herself by buying herself things, paying for exercise classes, or going out with friends. When I asked her how she felt when she did these things for herself she said that it made her feel really good and more vibrant. This is the key. If we are doing things that make us feel more vibrant and it isn’t hurting anyone, that is what we need to do more of. A course in miracles teaches that when we allow ourselves to shine, we give others permission to do the same. And what the world needs more of is for people to shine. Therefore, when we do things for ourselves that make us feel joyful and lights our hearts up, it does more for the world than being what we think of as selfless.
More often than not we put others first because we feel like we have to or that in doing so it makes us better people, instead of from a genuine desire to be altruistic. We say yes when we really mean no, we wear ourselves out because we never give ourselves a chance to rest, and we give until we have nothing left. We wind up giving so much of ourselves that we no longer shine. We feel drained and resentful, and then often times take that out on others. We get angry that people aren’t doing as much for us as we are doing for them, and in the worst case scenario we hold it over their heads or make them feel like they are not as good as us. In this case, the selfless actually become the selfish because they are not adding to the world, but instead sucking the joy out of it.
I think it is important to dispel the myth that if you are doing things to make yourself happy and doing things for yourself first it makes you selfish. You might be the kind of person who needs to do that first before you can give to the world. On the other hand, if you are filled up with love for yourself and it lights you up to give to others, than by all means go do that. We need more of that too. But that still doesn’t make you more selfless than someone who genuinely loves themselves and knows that first they may need to take classes or get a massage before they can help others. It’s about knowing who you are so that you know how and when you can give back to the world, and loving yourself no matter what that looks like.
I encourage you all to do a self-full act this week. Figure out your needs, and make it a point to meet them. Do something that makes you feel happy and vibrant, and above all else, love yourself. I would love for you to post how you decided to give to yourself in the comments below or share it to instagram and tag spirit society with the hashtag #selffull.