Why Putting Yourself First is not Selfish: When Selfish Becomes Selfless

What are Emotions and Feelings? Are you using them or are they using you?
February 22, 2018
E.I. Jane -Why Putting Yourself First Is Not Selfish

Why Putting Yourself First is not Selfish

The Importance of Knowing, Loving, and Being Your Most Authentic Self



In my posts you'll hear me talk about the self very often. Myself. Yourself. Himself. Herself. Themselves...selves for everyone! Taken out of context, it would be easy to understand this as selfish and self-centered. But I want to share with you today WHY focusing on yourself and, more specifically, on knowing, loving and being your most authentic self, is the most selfless thing you can ever do for yourself and everyone around you.

Let's put things into perspective and look at 7 truths of life:

  1. People will come and go in your life. From family to friends to romantic partners, you name it! People will inevitably and eventually come and go.
  2. You will be with you until the day you die, whether you like you or not.
  3. What you say, do, feel, and believe will, in one way or another, affect those around you. By affect I mean, simply, that you and anything coming from you will somehow touch whoever is exposed to it.
  4. You and only you can know how you feel inside, how you think, all your memories, all your experiences...no one else can know that for you. Not even your identical twin, if you have one.
  5. You and only you can control your thoughts, your emotions, your feelings, your moods, and the meaning you give to everything you experience.
  6. If you don't love yourself, if you are not happy with yourself, then it would be extremely difficult to be happy with other people. To truly appreciate other people. To truly LOVE other people. So...
  7. If you want to be selfless and positively affect those around you, then you must first work on the most important relationship you'll ever have: and that is the relationship you have with yourself.

The first time I consciously learned about this was back in 2008 when I went on a 10 day mindfulness (vipassana) meditation retreat. This experience alone shaped my entire life because, among many other things, it taught me that EVERYTHING starts within. That everything we project onto the world comes from what we have inside, whether what we have is positive, negative, or neither. And the beauty of this experience was that I got to LEARN all these truths using my own mind and body.

On my other video “Meditation is Not What Most Think: Why Meditation is Essential for Your Emotional Fitness Goals,” I explain in more detail everything I learned in this retreat, but now I want to stay on the most important topic of today which is that focusing on improving yourself and your emotions is the most selfless thing you can do for you and anyone around you.

To give you one common example that shows why this is important, I want to talk about a very common insecurity that arises when one starts dating.

Let's say you start dating a new person. You're both in the process of getting to know each other. You tease each other. You call each other. You talk for hours. You send or receive flowers. And everything is going well. Now, you're just getting to know each other so there is enough uncertainty, enough unknowns. And your crazy mind starts wondering: “does he like me enough?” “Does she even want to see me?” “I wonder if he thinks of me throughout the day.” “He's probably talking to three more women right now.” Or: “she hasn't answered my text because she's probably on a date with someone else!”

How does thinking like that make you feel?

Does it make you feel happy? Excited? Fulfilled? … Probably not!

Most people would feel scared, anxious, and insecure, right? Now, this makes no sense yet we ALL do it. All of us, no exceptions. These are, at the very least, thoughts we all have at some point or another. These thoughts often happen because of a very deep fear that we are not worthy enough of another person's love. And, if not handled well, these thoughts and insecurities end up running our lives and causing lots of misery. So going back to the relationship example, maybe you start texting your new love interest your insecurities in passive aggressive ways that could look like something like this:

“Ummmmm, so I guess you're too busy today...”

Or, after 5 hours of not communicating:

“....who is she?”

Or you just shut down based on your own assumptions and say:

“Ummm I don't think this is going to work out. Bye Felicia!”

And maybe this could have been the man or woman of your dreams but you didn't even give the relationship a chance because you let your fears and insecurities get in the way.

Now how many times has something like that happened to you or someone you know?

The bottom line is, if we don't love ourselves and value ourselves first, it's hard to believe that other people will do that for us.

So what do we do?

We jump to conclusions quickly using assumptions rather than evidence. Normally, the assumptions emerge from our own insecurities and these insecurities are often symptoms of a bigger problem: we don’t love and value ourselves enough to adopt the attitude where we choose not to worry until we actually have good evidence to do so.

So, you see, working on yourself first is the best thing you can do for you or anyone around you. It is, without a doubt, what will determine the quality of your relationships, your health, and your life as a whole.

So how can we start to break through those old patterns and start walking the path of loving ourselves no matter what?

A focus in the following three areas has been crucial in allowing me to get to where I am today:

  1. Get to KNOW yourself. In other words, take the time to understand who you are as an individual. One way to start getting to know yourself is to practice awareness...This is part of the "Self-Regulation" component of Emotional Intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman. If you become aware of your thoughts, your beliefs, your emotions, and the meaning you give to those things you experience BEFORE you act on any of them, then you buy yourself time to decide how you want to respond to something and whether or not that reaction is in your best interest or the best interest of those around you.
  2. Learn to LOVE yourself no matter what. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. It is essential that you love yourself in spite of whatever your awareness picks up. Self-love must come from within and it is necessary in order for you to forgive yourself when you don't perform according to your standards. When you do or say something you're not proud of. When you're feeling sad or lonely or defeated.

    Self-love is what allows you to pick yourself up and keep working on that best version of yourself I know you can become. We all can!

    I want to share with you one of my favorite analogies that I heard Dr. Maya Angelou, one of my idols, say at a commencement speech she gave at Spelman College. She said: "I never trust anybody who tells me he or she loves me if the person doesn't love herself or himself. There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. I mean if he had something to cover himself first, right?"

    Self-love is the vehicle that will allow you to accomplish everything and anything you set your mind to.

  3. You must BE yourself. This means you live as authentically as you possibly can. Because, guess what? When you are able to do this, you will know freedom like you have never known freedom before. When you choose to do you and you know, love and are comfortable with who you are, with your virtues, your flaws, your successes and your shortcomings, then guess what? Nothing hurtful or unpleasant that anyone says to you will change who you are or will change the quality of your life. And this is because you and only YOU get to decide what you do and how you feel about what you experience. No one else can nor has the right to do that for you.

If right about now you're freaking out because you don't feel like you know, love, or can be yourself ... don't worry. Be kind to yourself anyway. Understand that, if you want to, you CAN most definitely get there patiently and persistently. And you can do so by deciding to be better. By learning strategies to get what you want, and, most importantly, by putting into practice what you learn to actually start seeing results.

If you make it a point to work on your emotional fitness and work consistently toward strengthening your emotional muscles like you would strengthen the muscles in your body by lifting weights, then I guarantee you, you will become emotionally fit to handle anything that comes your way.

Always remember: your best self is already within you and you can uncover it by knowing, loving, and being your most authentic self each day.

Why Putting Yourself First is not Selfish

The Importance of Knowing, Loving, and Being Your Most Authentic Self



In my posts you'll hear me talk about the self very often. Myself. Yourself. Himself. Herself. Themselves...selves for everyone! Taken out of context, it would be easy to understand this as selfish and self-centered. But I want to share with you today WHY focusing on yourself and, more specifically, on knowing, loving and being your most authentic self, is the most selfless thing you can ever do for yourself and everyone around you.

Let's put things into perspective and look at 7 truths of life:

  1. People will come and go in your life. From family to friends to romantic partners, you name it! People will inevitably and eventually come and go.
  2. You will be with you until the day you die, whether you like you or not.
  3. What you say, do, feel, and believe will, in one way or another, affect those around you. By affect I mean, simply, that you and anything coming from you will somehow touch whoever is exposed to it.
  4. You and only you can know how you feel inside, how you think, all your memories, all your experiences...no one else can know that for you. Not even your identical twin, if you have one.
  5. You and only you can control your thoughts, your emotions, your feelings, your moods, and the meaning you give to everything you experience.
  6. If you don't love yourself, if you are not happy with yourself, then it would be extremely difficult to be happy with other people. To truly appreciate other people. To truly LOVE other people. So...
  7. If you want to be selfless and positively affect those around you, then you must first work on the most important relationship you'll ever have: and that is the relationship you have with yourself.

The first time I consciously learned about this was back in 2008 when I went on a 10 day mindfulness (vipassana) meditation retreat. This experience alone shaped my entire life because, among many other things, it taught me that EVERYTHING starts within. That everything we project onto the world comes from what we have inside, whether what we have is positive, negative, or neither. And the beauty of this experience was that I got to LEARN all these truths using my own mind and body.

On my other video “Meditation is Not What Most Think: Why Meditation is Essential for Your Emotional Fitness Goals,” I explain in more detail everything I learned in this retreat, but now I want to stay on the most important topic of today which is that focusing on improving yourself and your emotions is the most selfless thing you can do for you and anyone around you.

To give you one common example that shows why this is important, I want to talk about a very common insecurity that arises when one starts dating.

Let's say you start dating a new person. You're both in the process of getting to know each other. You tease each other. You call each other. You talk for hours. You send or receive flowers. And everything is going well. Now, you're just getting to know each other so there is enough uncertainty, enough unknowns. And your crazy mind starts wondering: “does he like me enough?” “Does she even want to see me?” “I wonder if he thinks of me throughout the day.” “He's probably talking to three more women right now.” Or: “she hasn't answered my text because she's probably on a date with someone else!”

How does thinking like that make you feel?

Does it make you feel happy? Excited? Fulfilled? … Probably not!

Most people would feel scared, anxious, and insecure, right? Now, this makes no sense yet we ALL do it. All of us, no exceptions. These are, at the very least, thoughts we all have at some point or another. These thoughts often happen because of a very deep fear that we are not worthy enough of another person's love. And, if not handled well, these thoughts and insecurities end up running our lives and causing lots of misery. So going back to the relationship example, maybe you start texting your new love interest your insecurities in passive aggressive ways that could look like something like this:

“Ummmmm, so I guess you're too busy today...”

Or, after 5 hours of not communicating:

“....who is she?”

Or you just shut down based on your own assumptions and say:

“Ummm I don't think this is going to work out. Bye Felicia!”

And maybe this could have been the man or woman of your dreams but you didn't even give the relationship a chance because you let your fears and insecurities get in the way.

Now how many times has something like that happened to you or someone you know?

The bottom line is, if we don't love ourselves and value ourselves first, it's hard to believe that other people will do that for us.

So what do we do?

We jump to conclusions quickly using assumptions rather than evidence. Normally, the assumptions emerge from our own insecurities and these insecurities are often symptoms of a bigger problem: we don’t love and value ourselves enough to adopt the attitude where we choose not to worry until we actually have good evidence to do so.

So, you see, working on yourself first is the best thing you can do for you or anyone around you. It is, without a doubt, what will determine the quality of your relationships, your health, and your life as a whole.

So how can we start to break through those old patterns and start walking the path of loving ourselves no matter what?

A focus in the following three areas has been crucial in allowing me to get to where I am today:

  1. Get to KNOW yourself. In other words, take the time to understand who you are as an individual. One way to start getting to know yourself is to practice awareness...This is part of the "Self-Regulation" component of Emotional Intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman. If you become aware of your thoughts, your beliefs, your emotions, and the meaning you give to those things you experience BEFORE you act on any of them, then you buy yourself time to decide how you want to respond to something and whether or not that reaction is in your best interest or the best interest of those around you.
  2. Learn to LOVE yourself no matter what. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. It is essential that you love yourself in spite of whatever your awareness picks up. Self-love must come from within and it is necessary in order for you to forgive yourself when you don't perform according to your standards. When you do or say something you're not proud of. When you're feeling sad or lonely or defeated.

    Self-love is what allows you to pick yourself up and keep working on that best version of yourself I know you can become. We all can!

    I want to share with you one of my favorite analogies that I heard Dr. Maya Angelou, one of my idols, say at a commencement speech she gave at Spelman College. She said: "I never trust anybody who tells me he or she loves me if the person doesn't love herself or himself. There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. I mean if he had something to cover himself first, right?"

    Self-love is the vehicle that will allow you to accomplish everything and anything you set your mind to.

  3. You must BE yourself. This means you live as authentically as you possibly can. Because, guess what? When you are able to do this, you will know freedom like you have never known freedom before. When you choose to do you and you know, love and are comfortable with who you are, with your virtues, your flaws, your successes and your shortcomings, then guess what? Nothing hurtful or unpleasant that anyone says to you will change who you are or will change the quality of your life. And this is because you and only YOU get to decide what you do and how you feel about what you experience. No one else can nor has the right to do that for you.

If right about now you're freaking out because you don't feel like you know, love, or can be yourself ... don't worry. Be kind to yourself anyway. Understand that, if you want to, you CAN most definitely get there patiently and persistently. And you can do so by deciding to be better. By learning strategies to get what you want, and, most importantly, by putting into practice what you learn to actually start seeing results.

If you make it a point to work on your emotional fitness and work consistently toward strengthening your emotional muscles like you would strengthen the muscles in your body by lifting weights, then I guarantee you, you will become emotionally fit to handle anything that comes your way.

Always remember: your best self is already within you and you can uncover it by knowing, loving, and being your most authentic self each day.

2 Comments

  1. Dorys says:

    Fabulous!!!! Every day you continue uncovering your best self and helping people to do it. I love you

  2. E.I. Jane E.I. Jane says:

    Thank you mami! Love you too!

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