Exploring Misguided Acts of Selflessness
Updated: Feb 12
We celebrate selfless acts without taking a moment to analyze the psychology of modern day selflessness.
Many, if not all, acts of modern day selflessness are rooted in the desire for external validation. So one must ask oneself, if a kind gesture or an act is done with the intention of receiving praise from all the eyes watching... (our handy smartphones are live-streaming to make that possible), then how selfless are those acts, really?
If the misery or circumstances of those around you appear as an opportunity to portray yourself as a well-to-do human being... an opportunity that you seize, then that’s exploitation and not selflessness.
There are many people who put themselves at a disadvantage to help others, you have a bone to pick with those people, too?
Not a bone, necessarily. Maybe a few clarifying questions if ever we meet at a cocktail party.
I recognize that our society rewards and holds in high-esteem those who self-sacrifice themselves for the, “greater good.”
Self-sacrifice translates as many different things. All the examples I could provide boil down to putting oneself in harm’s way to help or elevate those who need additional support.
Look at Mother Theresa. A well respected, highly viewed human being who dedicated her life to the service of those around her.
She’s the benchmark.
Immediately, many of us feel demotivated. If Mother Theresa is the depiction of true selflessness... then maybe dedicating oneself to the service of others is too tall an order to accomplish. Maybe... Myself and others like me, who are not carrying MT’s torch, are just not that good of persons to ready ourselves to the task.
Except, I disagree.
I believe the great majority of us are very good people. I think we may have a distorted lens of what, “being good” looks like, and how that translates in our daily lives.
If there is anything that COVID-19 has taught me, it’s that martyrdom is overrated.
Not just overrated, to aspire to be a martyr is irresponsible.
What?! You have a problem with Mother Theresa?? During the holidays!! Goodness...
No, I don’t have a problem with her, per se.
I have a problem with the idea that self-sacrifice is only acknowledged if it’s at one’s expense. Further, I have a problem with the overarching idea that selflessness is only considered as such if you’re somehow hurting yourself in the process.
You disservice those around you, those who depend on you and rely on you, if you don’t focus on your needs first.
How many of you would be happy if a medical practitioner with COVID-19, “took one for the team” by going to work and administering your care? Not. Very. Happy.
Or how about the airplane safety guidelines? You put on your mask before you assist your children with their own.
Why you ask?
If you don’t take stock of your safety, in a very time-sensitive crisis situation, then your misguided good intentions will be the result of both your and your child’s unfortunate demise. Even if your probability of survival was not very high to begin with, you decrease that small window, for yourself and your child, when you do not put your needs first.
So, what? You want me to embrace being selfish?!
I want you to embrace the idea that putting your needs first is NOT selfish.
In fact, it’s the first thing you need to do to be selfless. Even if my acts are well received and people benefit, if I’m hurting myself in the process, and depleting myself, then that’s distorted. That’s being a martyr.
Being selfless requires you to focus on all that you need to do, to feel good and to be good, then seeing what you can do to provide for others. You are not exempt from an act of selflessness. You are very much included.
The equation that leads to selflessness, to be a beacon or the anchor in the relationships, families, communities, and/or societies within which you find yourselves, starts with you.
Taking care of you.
As you ready yourself for whatever this pandemic holiday season brings, know your happiness and well-being are important elements to consider. Take care of you, mind, body, and spirit.
Much love, and happy holidays!
**Be on the lookout, I have a surprise coming out in the next few weeks!
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