A couple of years ago a woman who was accused of being selfish by her fiancé came to my office. She had helped put him through medical school, cooked, cleaned and sacrificed much, even staying home on weekends most nights, in order to allow her fiancé the luxury of a greatly stress-reduced existence. She felt guilty because some evenings she wanted to go to the movies or a play with friends, and her guy seemed to resent it when she spent her time and money on herself. She was getting annoyed because each time she tried to explain how difficult it was for her to be in charge of nearly everything except his studying, he interrupted her saying she couldn’t possibly understand how difficult his own life was. Whenever she started to defend herself she heard the voice of her inner critic (born of her mother’s voice) telling her she should put the needs of others before her own.
She was raised to be thoughtful, and to make sure nobody was uncomfortable about anything she said or did. Like that’s even possible, right?
I’m here to tell you there’s a huge difference between taking care of one’s own needs and being selfish. Yes, we all must be considerate of others, but certainly not continually self-sacrificing. Don’t allow your relationships to kill the YOU in you. Sometimes people who know that calling you selfish will push your shrinking violet button will do so to manipulate getting what they want. Because THEY are selfish they project that onto you.
If a family member or friend is unwilling to take your concerns about feeling overburdened or resentful because of his or her demands on you, keep this in mind:
- If you don’t tell them how you feel, they’ll never know and their behavior won’t change. Give people the chance to honor your feelings by expressing them.
- Some people will take advantage of your misguided “niceness,” or guilt.
- We are not on this planet to give over our lives to those of others who think they are somehow entitled to have their needs met.
Your first need is taking care of you. It’s your first responsibility—even if you have kids. If you’re not happy, they won’t be either.