Over the last week I have asked family and friends to engage with me in a series of trick or treat questions. I was curious to understand what people’s opinion and interpretation is of selfless vs selfish, trick of the mind vs treat.
My favourite was to see all the answers to the question “what is the one thing that you know to be true about being selfless?”. The answers were so heart felt and certainly revolved around love. Love for others, unconditional love, loving even when disagreeing… beautiful acts of kindness.
But my biggest question here is: what about loving ourselves? What if the biggest act of kindness in order to be there for our loved ones, to do a good job, to be a good friend/relative/spouse… was to start from the foundations of our pool of energy and wisdom? Ourselves?!
I am someone for whom helping others, looking after loved ones and being there for friends and family is a priority. I am also someone who can be incredibly strict with herself, expecting high standards at all times: being a good person, a good mum, a good wife, a good sister… you get the idea!
If I felt that there was anybody in need in my circle of friends and family, everything else would have to wait because I would have to be there for those I care about. Up until recently, when it came to work and what I class as my “duty” I would often push myself to get just that little task completed, answer that last email or make sure the house is all clean and tidy before going to bed (my brother and sister would really know this feeling!). Yet in doing so I would fail to recognise the longer-term impact on my wellbeing.
The more I ignored what my body was nagging me to do – i.e. resting, taking a break, sleeping more – the more frustrated I would get. The more frustrated I got, the more I would get grouchy with others and then, eventually, get mad with myself for not having been that good person/mum/wife etc.
It is counterintuitive but the lesson here for me is to rest when I am really busy. It is not to eat into my down time when my emails are incessant or to leave those dishes and spend time with my kids when the house is a mess. It is, most importantly, to keep reminding myself that as mighty as I might feel inside, I am in a human body and I need to rest and recharge. As much as I might wish to be a superhero, I can’t be there for others if my wellbeing is not there.
So my own personal answer to the question “what is the one thing that you know to be true about being selfless?” is that being selfless means to learn to love yourself first before you can love others. Being selfless is put your own oxygen mask on before you help others and to keep recharging when your energy is low.
And if looking after yourself first doesn’t come natural to you, don’t worry – you can always start small. Remember the old saying about a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step?
Start this Halloween by going for a treat! Treat yourself to whatever makes YOU feel good and nourishes your needs – and if you can’t think of anything that can help you help yourself don’t forget that’s what I am here for! The more you support yourself, the more you will be there for others.
So, when your mind next asks you trick or treat – go for the treat, that’s the trick to be stronger!