09/13/2011 11:31 am ET Updated Nov 13, 2011

What is Selfish?

Were you brought up to believe that taking care of yourself is selfish, and that to be a good person you need to be self-sacrificing?

One of the false beliefs that stops many people, especially women, from taking loving care of themselves is the belief that: "Taking care of myself is selfish. In order to be a good person, I'm supposed to be self-sacrificing and take care of others instead of myself."

I was raised by a self-centered, narcissistic mother who, instead of supporting me in learning to take loving care of myself and discover what brings me joy, expected me to give myself up and take care of her. When I didn't do what she wanted, she called me selfish. Perhaps some of you have had the same experience.

Let's talk about what it really means to be selfish:

  • We are selfish when we only consider ourselves and do not consider the effect our behavior has on others.
  • We are selfish when we expect others to give themselves up and do what we want them to do, rather than do what brings them joy or is in their highest good.
  • We are selfish when we keep drawing a conversation back to ourselves rather than listening to and caring about what someone else is saying.
  • We are selfish when we punish others when they think and feel differently than we do.
  • We are selfish when we harm others for our own ends.

Now, let's talk about what is not selfish:

  • We are being self-responsible, not selfish, when we do what brings us joy, with no intent to harm another -- even if another person doesn't like it.
  • We are being self-responsible, not selfish, when we support our own highest good, even when someone wants us to do something other than what we are doing.
  • We are being self-responsible when we are considerate of others' wants and needs without giving ourselves up.

I was taught that if my parents were upset with me for my choices, I was responsible for their feelings. I was taught that if I continued to do something that was upsetting to either of my parents or other relatives, I was wrong, bad and selfish.

If parents teach this to their children, it has nothing to do with supporting the child's highest good -- it is about control. If parents do this, they are the ones being selfish, while saying their children are the selfish ones. Very crazy-making!

In order to be devoted to a practice of learning to take loving care of yourself -- such as Inner Bonding -- you need to move beyond the false belief that taking loving care of yourself is selfish. You need to recognize that, not only is self-care not selfish, it is the most loving thing you can do for yourself and others. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our loved ones, as well as to the world, is our own happiness. Our happiness takes the burden of trying to make us happy off of our spouses, parents, children and friends. People who love us -- rather than people who just want to use us -- want us to be happy, and if we are not taking responsibility for our own happiness, then others might feel responsible for us. Taking loving care of ourselves and making ourselves happy is the opposite of selfish!

Our happiness also contributes much to our planet. Our happiness, peace and joy have a very high frequency, and therefore contribute to raising the overall frequency of our planet. In fact, I believe our true happiness contributes more to our planet than anything else we can contribute! Imagine what our world would be like if everyone took responsibility for their own happiness and well-being. Since harming others never creates happiness and inner peace, our world would become a peaceful place if we each took responsibility for our own happiness and well-being.