Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The thing about the battle between selfish and selfless...

There’s an interesting little social battle between the words, selfish and selfless. Everyone wants to be called selfless. Supposedly, selfless people are the nice people. God forbid someone calls you selfish, right?

It’s become understood in our society that selfish is the name you get called after a fight, or in the midst of one. And selfless is the name you get called when someone is complimenting your human-hood. I’m not so into these being the only options. It’s like only having the choice of a crappy unhealthy fast food restaurant, and a ridiculously pricey vegan bistro. There can’t be just selfish and selfless. We’re missing a few levels.

I’m in the business of thinking about things, ideas, experiences, emotions, and words. So, here I go, doing my job again. Let’s pick apart selfish and selfless…This is so much fun I can hardly stand it.

OK, Selfish. Self is of course, my favorite part of the word. Hopefully by now you, my loving gorgeous SoapBox readers, know what capital S, Self means. But just in case…Self is all of it, all of you, all of your deliciousness inside, all of the real you, your inner gold and your inner core, all of your million complex parts. Ok, sorry, I get excited about the Self stuff.

And what about this whole ish thing? According to the dictionary “ish” is a suffix used to form adjectives from nouns, with the sense of “belonging to”…

So, selfish means, belonging to your Self. Moving on…

The word selfless really freaks me out. I mean, think about it. Self. Less. Less of yourself. Oye. That’s my most scary thought. Everything I talk about, every passionate moment on my SoapBox is about inviting yourself and your Self in. So, extreme selflessness is on a really scary road towards, well, self-gone.

So, now what? We don’t want to be too selfish, ‘cause we are part of a whole world here. And if we’re too selfless, we begin to lose ourselves. What to do, what to do.

It seems that many peoples cure to selfishness is to become ferociously selfless. And when people are so selfless that they start to lose themselves, they fantasize about doing things only for them, and that’s it. Why either/or? Neither really get me excited.

So, imagine a chart. At the top is Selfish. Then all the way on the other end… Selfless. There is a ton of space in-between, just waiting to be filled with color and texture and balance and the in-between.

There are so many unbelievably important levels of selfishness and selflessness. Surprise…there is healthy selfishness. And there is a reasonable and beautiful level of selflessness.

The thing about the battle between selfish and selfless is that it’s actually not a battle at all…they work best when they work together. I say, invite them both into your world. Let them balance each other out, intertwine, dance. I’m so over the either/or way of living…

Consider rethinking your black and white thinking. The relationship between selfishness and selflessness is such a great example of how life, pretty much all the time, leaves space for color. I call non-black and white thinking, “the color” rather than “the gray area” …and one day I’ll tell you why. But for now, just live in the rainbow. Go with it, invite it all in.

Be selfish sometimes…after all, you do belong to yourself in so many beautiful ways. And, of course, you want to prepare your strong fabulous self to be selfless sometimes…because after all, losing yourself in service and love for others feels pretty damn good.

And that’s the thing about the battle between selfish and selfless…



  1. This blog really irritates me on a personal level. I too fit myself into being the wonderful selfless being and get ridiculed for being the evil horrible selfish being. Although, I think after 29 years of existance I want to stop doing things for other people while putting my needs aside because at the end of the day, I think I'm the only one that can truely fit, nourish and feed my needs. Although, a bottle smirnoff vodk aand a trader joe's pizza also seem to do the trick on a boring saturday evening!

    These labels of selfless and selfish kind of push me into the discussion of codependant relatioships; either with yourself (Ayyy!) or with your intimate partner(s)! I like how you alude to finding a balance between these things, how do you measure it though? Can you be selfish enough to where you dont end up alone and hungry on the side of the street and can you be selfless enough to where you dont end up alone and hungry on the side of the street because you've given freakin' everything to everyone w/in your reach? I think the deeper issue, is really acceptance of both, being both selfless and selfish. We often split these parts off and only run w/one in one hand, while dragging the other part on the groud like a doll. Why can't we just carry both on our shoulders and speak and communicate with both. Talking to these parts is really cool and easily accessible, no easy payments, no 1-800 number just you or us, or me! Just loving each part of you, whether self-ish or self-less- the self is still in each equation.