Being accused of selfishness is a common and effective manipulative tactic, wielded by people who are accustomed to having you do what they want. So common, most people do not even recognize it for what it is. I believe that most of us naturally do want to see others happy and receive pleasure in giving, it's part of being a healthy human being.
Core responsibilities aside, if you want to be a better contributor to your world, I think it is important to start paying attention to authenticity in one's giving. In other words, you can give more to more people by being selfish enough to tend to your own needs first and giving of yourself willingly. There is simply more energy, emotion and power behind something given or done freely, happily and without expectation. It's not exhausting, it's not draining, in fact it's energizing and fulfilling. It makes your own life better, happier, and you want to do more of it. It's a two way gift! This is not about doing less for others. It's about doing from a different perspective. Get behind your actions! Mean what you do and say!
This automatically makes you more trustworthy and reliable. Have you ever been there for someone when you seriously did not want to, helped them out but secretly resented it, felt that demands or requests were unreasonably demanding, given or bought something to be the good person, but really didn't want to? We all do it. But there is significant difference between giving out of love, and giving from pride (to look good), giving from fear, guilt or resentment. I suggest reading Power vs. Force, and googling something called the scale of emotions for a better understanding of this. Things that come from a state of love are inherently powerful, good and healing. Have you ever had someone buy you something and then comment on the price, or how buying it set them back? Have you had someone help you out and then received mixed messages over whether or not they were actually “ok” with it even when they agreed? How good do you feel about receiving these kinds of things? Have you felt someone in a relationship who wasn't into you but was faking the actions?
A very effective way to inject poison into your romantic relationship, perfect for reducing attraction, eliminating passion, and breeding resentment, is to engage in sexual activity that is unwanted. How would you feel if you knew your partner was engaging with and "tolerating" you sexually, but not wanting or enjoying it? Probably sick, betrayed, and doubting when and if they actually desire you. It changes things, it breaks trust.
One nightmare of an ex. used to occasionally make a big show, note I said show, of doing something nice for me. He was not nice as a rule, so he wanted to be sure that gestures were noticed and given applause, accolades, and adoring gratitude several times a day every day. As reassurance that his image was being maintained. For example, contribute to a meal, fix something, or offer to give me a ride to work. It would not be a week or two later and you'd think that he'd sacrificed not only his first born, but life and limb for me on a daily basis and boy did I owe him for that! He would demand money for it in retrospect: meaning, money for a past ride to the airport, a tune up on the bicycle, and want me to do ridiculous things such as collect any item large or small that he'd contributed to my life (tiny stuffed animals) and give it back. This is an extreme example, and we won't get into why I put up with things for as long as I did, but it did not take long before I was terrified to accept anything from him in fear of the backlash. He never could understand why I was happy to be taken out or receive small tokens of appreciation (in any form) from clients, family or friends, or to pay contractors for work, but would not accept things from him, ask him for help, or go to him when I needed any kind of support. Simple: he was unable to give authentically. Anything that he gave came with a painful price for the receiver. Can you see how giving in-authentically is not very generous or nice and may not benefit the receiver? Even if you think you're “being nice?”
Many of us have family members who are very happy to do things and then sigh afterwards, detailing how much it put them out to do so, how great a sacrifice it was in various ways. Yeah thanks, but no thanks.
Next time you give of yourself, take a good look inside and note what your motivating factors are. What is the price tag for your generosity in this circumstance, and ask yourself what it would take for you to be able to give from love and expect nothing in return.This feels WONDERFUL for both the giver and receiver and is an example of what I'm calling authenticity. Give from love, the receiver will get infinitely more.
Sometimes when you start to consider their own happiness as an obvious decision making factor, it angers others who have come to expect that when they pull your strings, you dance for them, the way they want. Selfish needs to be redefined! Lets try good boundaries, independent, healthy, unable to be manipulated, strong. I agree there are people who really are out for themselves and do not have compassion or give much, but I don't think they're the overwhelming majority and I don't think they're the ones who are concerned with the S word. It's natural for people to get upset when they don't get “what they want” and often saying no encourages them to develop their own independence, seek other resources (you're not an endless resource) and in fact, give them the opportunity to view you as something other than an object to meet their needs. Fear of being called selfish or being the bad guy is stifling to a lot of people who mean well. Let them get angry, they'll get over it. It does not make you a bad person.
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