Give Yourself Permission to be Selfish

woman sits on rock enjoying nice weather looking at mountain blue sunny sky
by Vance Larson

Being selfish is the first step to giving your best. I know it’s a hard concept to grasp, but the reality is you can’t pour from an empty cup. That is one of my all time favorite sayings. I write about this topic a lot as self care is lost on so many. People have allowed themselves to believe that putting themselves first, makes them the worst and it is healthier to let go of that particular belief system.

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Those who have set firm boundaries, are generally the ones who give the most generously. How is that possible? It is possible because they see the value in service. As one rewards of taking care of themselves, it is easier to extend a hand because they themselves are whole. I have lectured on this countless times for the helping professions. The rate of burn out, addiction, divorce and health problems are exceedingly high among them. When this happens, mistakes are made, and resentment can set in.

I see a lot of empathy burn out

There is a reason why I have lasted over 3 decades in the mental health field, with 20 of those years being a crisis counselor. This was because I was good at setting boundaries. Yes, there were times in which I burned out however the older I got, burn out became a distant memory. Giving too much will accomplish 2 things. First, you set a precedent that you are the go to guy/girl, and people quickly will identify that. You know the saying “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know”? That’s not a good thing. People are actually quite capable, when they have to fend for themselves and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them it just means be selective with your availability. The second thing that will happen if you give too much is, you lose yourself. In the 30 years of helping care givers get care, most could only identify that they were a care giver and had little knowledge of who they were as an individual.

light filled path

I see a lot of empathy burn out. You give and give until there is nothing left. That is usually when the resentment and hurt feelings set in. I tell my clients that it is possible to help and not enable. It is possible to help and not take on ones problems and it is possible, to live a life of service that has a healthy balance. I want to say that again. It is possible to live a life of service that has a healthy balance. Did that hit home? If so, then I am talking to you.

If you give too much, and it’s not quality, you may be accused of not putting your heart into it. If you give too little, you maybe accused of being selfish. We must learn to give in a way that makes sense to us. We must feel good, and not pressured when giving for that is not service—it is manipulation.

I value you, because I value me

I think our best service comes when we truly value ourselves. What I mean by that is knowing who you are. When you know that, you can give freely. I value you, because I value me. When you prioritize yourself, and acts of service, there will be an endless stream of energy and opportunity to give back.

So give yourself permission to be a little selfish. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It is an affirmation of health.

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