This week, Alice Brink, a successful self-empowerment coach, writer, and speaker, addresses the topic of selfishness and eloquently redefines ways to take good care of ourselves in ways that allow us to embrace and celebrate our lives.
I found this track to be helpful for clients of all ages and both sexes- and several times for women over une certain age (gotta love the French,) who find themselves at a crossroads with a smorgasbord of challenges and choices they never had before.
Last week, a 63-year-old woman “Diane” expressed her feeling of unease and uncertainty around next steps to take and scheduled a coaching session to explore options. She was dissatisfied with her work arrangement and the amount of time and work she was putting in relative to the pay she received. She felt pressured at home and had snapped at her husband recently after he helpfully mentioned that an overflowing closet needed to be cleaned out. She was also frustrated that she was not painting, something she is good at.
Her house had become the receptacle for not only her own mother’s belongings, but also for her mother-in-law’s and she felt overwhelmed by the clutter and crowded out of her own house. Diane confessed that she spent time at the office without much to do, shopping, etc., just to avoid being at home.
Diane is a member of an artist’s group, but had not been attending lately. She touched on the fact that she didn’t want to put her art “out there” because she was worried that she would get attention from it. She also confessed that maybe she was just lazy and didn’t want to put the effort out to change anything. We both had a little chuckle over that last one … Hooray for her! Total honesty – now we had something to work with!
Issue by issue, I asked her what it would look like to take the risk to make some changes: Ask for more money? … Get rid of some of the things at the house? … Receive attention for her painting? After each answer came some variation of: “But that would be selfish …”
I asked her what “selfish” meant and she replied: “Well, it means you don’t care about other people, you’re mean, etc.”
When I asked Diane if she could be a little bit selfish, she visibly reacted, saying she didn’t want to be and would feel guilty if she was. She skirted the issue, trying to find words that she could use instead of “selfish.” I pay special attention to resistance in coaching because it usually means we are about to break through to the truth underlying the situation.
I asked if we could just stay with the word “selfish” for a moment to explore what the strong reaction was about. I wondered out loud how it would feel to take another look at that word and break it up into “self”-ish, as in; “most like the true self.” What would it be like to show up in the work and home situations most like her true self? Most like the real Diane?
As she allowed herself to imagine herself in the home situation, Diane said she wanted to think about getting rid of most of what had crept into her house. What if she only kept the things that she loved as a more true reflection of herself – her taste and choices? What if she used the home reclamation project as a way to get in touch with the “real” Diane and build her confidence in expressing herself? I return often in coaching to the idea of “building the muscle” and help the client start with change that is challenging yet fairly easy to attain, until enough strength and confidence has been garnered to tackle the big “thing.”
Maybe being selfish in this context is the best thing we can do. There is an aspect of trusting that we are no accident and maybe, just maybe we are here just as we were meant to be. Maybe it is being divinely selfish – not at the expense or harm of anyone else, but standing in our own truth who and as we are, and feeling a sense that we belong here and that our needs are just as important as anyone else’s.
It is very exciting to see someone embrace this idea at any age and I have found it to be helpful for clients of both sexes who find themselves at a crossroads with a smorgasbord of challenges and choices. Being of service and self-less of course has merit and has indeed kept us humans going for quite some time- thanks to a long line of service-minded folks, moms and dads that showed up and gave up so the collective “kids” would be ok. However, sometimes we keep ourselves so distracted with making sure that the needs of others are met that it keeps us from the uncomfortable business of looking within.
A significant side-effect of being selfish in this context is that it opens the door for those around us to consider the same for themselves. They may begin to see that acting in alignment with the true self is easier and allows for more possibility than contorting ourselves in pretzel-like yoga poses to “fit” and make others comfortable.
Maybe being selfish is the most generous thing we can do.
Learn more about Alice Brink and her work to inspire and empower others at AliceBrink.com or email her at email@example.com.