“He’s so self-centered.”
“She’s a thoughtless snob.”
Ever hear something like this?
Ever say something like this?
In doing so, we subscribe to a cultural philosophy that throws not caring for others and caring for ourselves both into the same basket, to be labeled “SELF-CENTERED”, and consequently condemned to our judgement and contempt.
In reality, concepts such as “selfish” and “self-centered” have been wildly misused in our culture for a very long time. Let us imagine, for a moment, what our society would dub the quintessential “selfish” person.
Gets up in the morning. Makes a great deal of noise, no regard for the others sleeping. Makes breakfast for self, doesn’t make any for others. Takes the last of the coffee. Goes to work. Allows coworkers to pull most of the weight. Goes home. Seeks attention from spouse. Spends evening relating the events of the entire day in excruciating detail. Leaves dinner dishes in sink. Goes to bed.
I think that we’d all agree that this description fits the societal perception of what “selfish” is, on many different levels.
But how do we define “selfish”?
Someone who spends time and energy caring for themselves? Someone who recognizes and meets their own needs? Someone who makes self-care a priority in their life?
That doesn’t quite match the person in the story. A person who only wants to do what is in their own best interest doesn’t undermine their home relationships with thoughtlessness. They wouldn’t underperform at work. They wouldn’t sacrifice the well being of a spouse by monopolizing time and overdrawing on compassionate listening.
Of course they wouldn’t. None of those things are in their best interest, long term. And any reasonable person would be able to articulate that to you in a conversation.
For this reason, I have coined a new term, something I call “Take Oriented Behavior.”
Take oriented behavior is the taking of energy, time, or resources without any regard for the potential consequences to oneself or others.
This, of course, begs the question, why?
Why would someone do that?
Why would someone take more than they give, in direct contradiction to their best interests?
Fear. Of. Lack.
Fear of Lack, or a scarcity mentality, is a subconscious mental construct that whispers one thing into your mind over and over.
There’s not enough.
A person might make breakfast only for themselves because they are afraid there won’t be enough food, or that there isn’t enough time, or that the food they do cook for others won’t be good enough. They might allow coworkers to do all the work because they fear their work won’t be good enough, or that they’re not smart enough. They might overdraw their relationships in a futile attempt to justify an existence of which fear of inadequacy is the primary theme.
They just might do these things.
Out of fear.
Fear of lack.
Fear of not good enough.
Of not enough money, not enough time, not enough love.
And so, we do all do these things, these take oriented behaviors, taking more than we give out of fear, and we then mislabel them as “self-centered.”
What does a self-centered person look like?
Someone who honors their own needs?
Someone who stands up for their values and principles?
Someone follows their individual path rather than following the groupthink?
Someone who is stable and consistent emotionally, spiritually, and mentally?
That doesn’t sound so bad.
I vote we stop calling people selfish, and start being conscious of the scarcity mentality that causes take oriented behavior.
I vote we start recognizing that a self-centered person has a great capacity for giving, by virtue of their self care.
The way I see it, sacrifice of self for the sake of others isn’t a selfless act. It is a desperate attempt to be needed, a tactic to combat the feeling of lack that stems from subscribing to the scarcity mentality that whispers to you “it’s not enough. you’re not enough.”
Humans are not meant to be single use. We are designed to be sustainable, continual creators of abundance. To share our gifts with each other and the universe. To do so requires self care. Truly, it is by far more selfless to well maintain the vessel of those gifts so that all may benefit. It is cowardly, by comparison, to suggest that a life of service to others involves disregard for one’s own well being.
To serve others, you must be capable.
To be capable, you must care for yourself.