HEALTHY SELFISHNESS??? (3 Steps to Live the Life You Deserve WITHOUT Feeling Guilty For It)
In the book Healthy Selfishness: Getting the Life You Deserve Without the Guilt, coauthors Richard and Rachael Heller explain how a particular type of selfishness is good…that the selfishness that leads to honoring yourself and establishing boundaries on what (and how much) you’ll tolerate from other people is a healthy, virtuous and indispensable skill…
Unfortunately though, it’s a skill most of us never develop because we’ve all been taught to be self-sacrificing: in one way or another, we’ve all been taught to believe that there’s actually something wrong with defining our own needs and expecting others to respect them.
So it’s pretty deep: while on one hand we live in a culture that teaches us to be self-indulgent – to be consumers who constantly want things – we also live in a culture that teaches us to be self-denying…to be donators who constantly GIVE AWAY every last little bit of whatever we have. So…
>> We carry the burden of someone else’s ignorance and mistakes because we “love” them, and
>> We harbor guilt towards ourselves just for occasionally thinking of putting someone else second and ourselves first.
What’s also interesting is that the most self-indulgent are usually dependent upon and parasitic towards the most self-denying: it’s a yin-yang thing where one always capitalizes off of the other, but since they naturally attract, the dynamic ends only when the “host” steps up in a courageous, assertive and (so-called) “selfish” way.
Looking at a romantic relationship like this from the outside, most people think, “Dag, that’s messed up – why is she treating him like that?”, but the bottom line is HE’S ALLOWING HER TO.
HE (not she) has to realize that no one benefits from his sacrifices…that all he’s doing is hurting himself while reinforcing her inappropriate behavior. By failing to stand up for himself, HE PREVENTS HER from facing reality and learning her own lessons.
Likewise, if a business owner employs a lazy friend who only hurts profits by barely doing anything at all, he’s not doing the bum a favor by keeping him on payroll. His best bet is to sit down with the man and let him know he only has a short period of time to get his act together, or it’s a wrap.
A 3-Step Method for Healthy Selfishness
So if you’re personal productivity, personal health or personal life is currently being inhibited (and exploited) by someone else’s laziness, try this 3-step technique to bring things back into balance:
(1) First, get a full understanding of the sacrifices your making: don’t brush anything off as small…
Remember, if you’re noticing it now, chances are it’ll add up, multiply and eventually become something much bigger before you even know it…so if something (or someone) is annoying you now – even if it’s slight – honor that notification: project into the future what’ll happen if you don’t change things now, and think about the positives that can occur if you do.
(2) Second, be extremely present the next time it goes down: notice the details of everything that happens, AS it happens…
Take stock of the way you feel, the specific things their doing (or saying), etc. This way when you speak to them about it you can be concrete and objective. You’ll also come up with a better strategy and get more clarity on the situation…strengthening your resolve to actually change it.
(3) Third is the action, which in my experience usually just requires a serious talk.
If you stay specific and non-critical about it – if you explain WHY it’s a problem for you objectively, remain calm and speak with respect – you’ll get respect in return.
Use a lot of “I” statements (“When you do ‘x,’, I feel ‘y’ because ‘z,’” etc.). This lowers the person’s defenses, making it easier for them to truly hear what you’re getting at.
In Worst Case Scenarios:
I’ve found that most people are generally good-hearted and understanding: they’re not walking around with an agenda to “eff” with you purposely (unless they feel you hurt them first), so step to someone on a positive level and you’ll get a positive response…especially when it’s about things you deserve in the first place.
But in worse-case scenarios, my best option was to leave the situation altogether (end a relationship, quit a job, etc.). I’m not saying it’s ALWAYS between these two extremes (either a quick talk or just leave), but in my experience, people either respect you or they don’t, so when you’re feeling exploited, you have to force them to show that card.
Whenever I was in a situation where I’d mention an issue and not even see them try to make things better, there was always a long, drawn-out series of attempts by me trying to make things better BY MYSELF only to ultimately realize “Hey, this circumstance (or person) is never going to change: if I don’t remove myself from it (or them) NOW, I’m just going to end up in an even worse position then I already am..”
Here’s a link to get your copy of Healthy Selfishness: Getting the Life You Deserve Without the Guilt, and lastly, in the words of Richard Heller, “Respect your needs and feelings, even when others do not…ESPECIALLY when others do not.”