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Why We Think Taking Care Of Ourselves Is Selfish

The Missing Pieces To Overcome This

By Cody Dakota Wooten, C.B.C.Published about a month ago 5 min read
Top Story - March 2024

You hear stories about how it is Important to take care of yourself.

There is the classic airplane safety announcement that tells you to put your Oxygen mask on before assisting any children or elderly.

We see the push for Wellness and Wellbeing in the World.

People have a logical understanding that if they are not Healthy, they won't be able to help those around them.

Yet, people still Struggle to do it.

One of the common things that I hear people say in response to this is that it feels "Selfish" to take care of ourselves.

I get it, and it is a very common feeling that people have.

But why?

Why do we feel it is "Selfish" when we logically can understand why it makes sense?

What is going on with our Brains?

Well, when we dive into it, there are a few factors that are at work.

The first aspect is that of Culture.

Whether we like it or not, the Cultures that we are around impact how we think and approach the world.

Some aspects will be good, and other aspects are not helpful.

This is True in every single Culture in the World.

In many Cultures, there is some aspect of taking care of others, which is not inherently a bad thing.

However, over generations, the amount of "caregiving" that has become the "norm" has gotten out of hand.

It has gone from something Beneficial to Toxic in most Cultures.

What makes this difficult is that Culture is often one of our longest influences, and it can be hard to notice when it has pushed us in different directions.

It is up to us to question Cultural "Norms" and ask if they "Should" be Normal.

The second aspect is Habit.

See, when we mix Cultural "Norms" with Habits, it becomes very difficult for us to Change.

If we think about what a Habit is, we could think of it as an Energy (Mg-ATP) Superhighway.

The longer we do a specific Habit, the better pathway our body creates for Energy (Mg-ATP) to Flow through to accomplish that Habit.

This makes it more Energy Efficient to continue to do.

When we even consider doing something that is less Energy Efficient than our current "Norms", our Body's first reaction is to protect itself.

By Nature, we do not want to waste any Energy.

So even thinking about doing things a different way from our "Norm" sends up red flags throughout the body.

One way this plays out, Psychologically, is through Justification.

We will try to Justify why our "norms" are right - not necessarily because they "are" right, but because it is more Efficient to maintain they are "right".

So, our Brains will come up with something like, "It's Selfish", not because it is Selfish, but because it is trying to maintain an Efficient Habit.

What the Brain is failing to consider at that moment though is that even if the "Efficient Habit" is more Energy (Mg-ATP) Efficient today, doesn't mean it is the most Efficient possible.

Essentially, the Brain is justifying Energy Efficiency today, at the cost of what it will mean tomorrow.

The Brain is excellent at coming up with justifications for just about anything, both things that are positive and negative for us.

Sometimes, we have to look past what the Brain is telling us at the moment.

The final piece to this Puzzle is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Development Cycle.

Most of us know the first 2 steps.

Every baby starts as Dependent on their parents.

The Goal of the parents is to prepare their children to achieve Independence.

This is how we end up perceiving the world.

Dependent or Independent.

When we believe these are our only options, we look at things only from these perspectives.

If I am Independent, I am alone.

If someone needs me, they are Dependent.

If they are Dependent on me, and I go and be Independent and alone, then I am Selfish for abandoning them when they need me.

However, this doesn't represent Reality.

It's a skewed Perception.

There is another Stage that we don't realize exists.

It's called Interdependence.

The easiest way to think of it is like this.

Do you Hunt, Gather, and Grow all of the Food you eat?

Most people would say absolutely not!

To the few people who DO Hunt, Gather, and Grow ALL of the food they eat I have a "slightly" different question - Did you build the Device you are reading these words on?

So, in Reality, we all have Strengths and Weaknesses, and none of us can do "Everything"

Interdependence is about Recognizing our own Strengths and using them to Benefit those around us, as well as Recognizing our own Weaknesses and finding help from someone who has that as a Strength.

When we understand this, we do not have to bounce between Dependent and Independent.

Taking care of ourselves isn't about being "Independent" and "Alone" which might seem Selfish.

Rather, taking care of ourselves is about maintaining our Strength so that we can continue to play a role in our Interdependence.

If you lose your Strength, you end up becoming Dependent on others.

If you lose your Strength, those whose Weaknesses you aid with through your Strength can no longer be aided.

You become unable to provide to your role within the Interdependent web we all live in.

So, at the end of the day, these are the forces our Brain is internally fighting against when we believe that taking care of ourselves is "Selfish".

However, we can overcome the feeling by realizing the Reality.

Just because something is "normal" in a Culture, doesn't mean it is necessarily right.

Just because our Brain wants to "maintain" a current Habit, doesn't mean we can't develop better Habits.

Perhaps most importantly, if our role is to use our Strengths to aid in the Interdependent World we live in, then perhaps allowing ourselves to lose that Strength is "Selfish".

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About the Creator

Cody Dakota Wooten, C.B.C.

Creator of the Multi-Award-Winning Category "Legendary Leadership" | Faith, Family, Freedom, Future | The Legendary Leadership Coach, Digital Writer (450+ Articles), & Speaker


[email protected]

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Comments (19)

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  • Courtanae Heslopabout a month ago

    Love this! It really makes you think about how cultural norms can influence our habits in surprising ways. So true about our brains wanting to conserve energy! I wonder, what's one small step we could all take today to challenge the "selfish" narrative and start building a more interdependent way of thinking?

  • Andrew Pretzelabout a month ago

    great inshights . Thank you!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    "If they are Dependent on me, and I go and be Independent and alone, then I am Selfish for abandoning them when they need me." Omggggg this is exactlyyyyyyy how my stupid brain works 😫😫😫😫😫 I'm trying my best to put myself first now. I keep telling myself that I cannot and should not pour from an empty cup. I'm learning to set boundaries and say NO as well. So I finally made it here. So sorry I missed this earlier. Congratulations on your Top Story!! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Brin J.about a month ago

    A skewed perspective, indeed... it can also be very harmful to your mental health. Ex. I had a severe illness when I was younger. My mom was a single mom and was obviously horrified. But she had two other kids to take care of. So she told me not to tell my sisters about my illness so they could live blissfully ignorant. She told me it'd be selfish to burden them with it. My own mother... So I silently suffered for three years while I underwent treatment. Never telling anyone. I still get anxiety talking about it, because she made me feel ashamed to, and that mentality was very damaging to me. Even now, I find it hard to tell people about my issues because I don't want to be a burden. I've gotten healthier. I realize that it's not selfish to inform others of your problems. But as you said, it's hard to break that habit.

  • The Dani Writerabout a month ago

    Resonance LEVELS! I just wrote about this yesterday (still in draft.) I enjoyed you sharing your perspectives on the subject--definitely a biggie of a topic with lots of facets. Your formatting is clear and so easy to read. Great job and well done on getting a top story!

  • L.C. Schäferabout a month ago

    Well done on T.S., very well deserved!

  • Lana V Lynxabout a month ago

    Back to congratulate you on Top Story, Cody!

  • Sunnyabout a month ago

    Thanks for sharing

  • Rebekah Crawleyabout a month ago

    Really important issue to highlight. Well done on Top Story!

  • Gabriel Huizengaabout a month ago

    A very important, very well communicated perspective! The discussion of our habit-forming/energy-conserving tendencies was particularly eye-opening for me. Congrats on top story ,and well done!

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Elina Ajrie Officialabout a month ago

    nice article, brother. its ok to take care ourselves in a good way and not axcessive depend on the environment we have.

  • real Jemaabout a month ago

    Nice article, The forces you seem not to realize are natural ones, we are "social creatures" and that's why thinking only of yourself feels selfish. All over nature you'll see such groups of creatures who excel better in a group than alone and we are no different. That's why thinking just about yourself feels so unnatural

  • A. J. Schoenfeldabout a month ago

    Your arguments are straightforward and explained in a manner that is easy to relate to. Well done.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    At first, I didn't think I would learn anything from this because we all have our idea of what selfish means to us, but your perspective was food for thought. The takeaway for me was the intro to interdependence. I now have a better understanding of the role it plays. Thank you for sharing and congrats!

  • Kelly Sibley about a month ago

    Very interesting!

  • Josh Jessalynabout a month ago

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  • Lana V Lynxabout a month ago

    Excellent perspective, Cody. I'd also add that from the communicative perspective, interdependence is based in reciprocity and trust.

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