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Selflessness or Self-sabotage?

by Felix Otoo 5 months ago in selfcare
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Re-evaluate your motivations for constantly putting others first.

Photo by Robin Mitchell from Pexels

Even superheroes sometimes need saving.

Damp it down, my friend. Breath, and let the moment whizz past you. Take a break occasionally from being a good person all the time.

Realize the situation seldomly is as terrible as your radical, compassionate self makes it out to be. Kathleen Smith believes this too and writes about it in her article. She points out how anxiety makes us think people need our help more than they do. That perception of their needs she tells puts us in a reactionary mode and makes us over function for others.

Today, decide to hunker down and resist the compulsion to be the superhero in everyone’s life.

Today, become selfish. I mean, become seasonally selfish.

Are you being selfless or are you self-sabotaging?

Do you experience an immediate rush of positive emotions when you do something good for someone? Did you show kindness and generosity to someone, felt happy and satisfied about it only to feel negative emotions like regret and resentment moments after?

Well I have many times in the past. It took time to learn and understand this very phenomenon. You could say, I had not yet considered that being considerate, kind and generous to others could be on the back of selfish and disingenuous interests. Yes! I found out each time I had experienced the feel-good emotions but short-lived; I noticed the motivations behind my acts were rather to achieve some personal goal — either recognition or acceptance.

For most of my life, I’ve displayed more compassion, love, and empathy than was necessary. I’ve showcased too much compassion, love and empathy to personal destructive ends.

I’ve been impulsive and extreme with my love and generosity. I’ve experienced emotional hurt and resentment instead of love many times that I’ve put other people's needs and interests first. There have been several opportunity costs suffered because I made emotional decisions rather than logical ones.

Being ‘too polite’, ‘too nice’ has cost me opportunities in the past. As noble as being considerate and sensitive is, the action in extremity, especially in business and other competitive environments, proved costly.

It’s taken me the past years to review my motivations. Why do I hastily jump to the rescue of others with little assessment of the situation? I’ve queried why I accepted commitments when I hated the responsibilities they came with. I’ve jumped to saying YES when I abhored the responsibilities and time it demanded.

Why was I constantly disregarding my interest and wellbeing?

I had felt overburdened, and consistently anxious about balancing my personal life with other people’s expectations and demands.

The word NO for many years felt harsh, wrong and difficult to say to people who reach out for help.

I disregarded my comfort, privileges, authority, and compromised my boundaries to make people around me feel comfortable and accepted. And by so doing, I helped design an environment of familiarity that collapsed my boundaries. People around me became presumptuous and entitled. They overstepped their bounds.

Over these past years, I’ve taken the time to re-evaluate my tendencies to be overly compassionate, empathetic, and generous. I made a record of the many major losses I’ve incurred because of my intrinsic and impulsive habit of offering a helping hand every time someone requested one.

I recall several times I prioritized other people's interests and well-being before mine, even when it was unnecessary.

Moments like when I said nothing and kept my opinions to myself, afraid or simply not wanting to offend someone. Times I hid or dampened my capabilities and expertise because I was being considerate (so I thought), or just uncomfortable about being the life of the party. I allowed others to take the glory and opportunities when I was 100x qualified. The reason was I was uncomfortable about outshining others, about making others feel unimportant.

Along with these reasons, the hardest truth I avoided was my struggle with self-esteem. I was comfortable being just good. Just good enough to fit in and survive. Keeping my head down and taking the bare minimum risk.

You can’t get anywhere in life without taking risks.

 — Esme Bianco

Several times, I had secretly done all the hard work and yet thrown away the credit to others with no effort and contribution coming from them. I recall retiring from such depressing days, feeling resentful and upset about people receiving more compensation and recognition than I did, although I literally put in all the work.

Moments like that left me feeling unappreciated, and that deteriorated my already crushed self-esteem.

If I’m honest, I’ve felt upset and resentful about some good deeds and generosity I’ve shown because of the wrong motivations behind them.

By re-evaluating my motivations for my kindness and generosity, I finally arrived at a self-help practice I term seasonal selfishness.

This practice saved me from self-sabotaging myself through extreme acts of selflessness.

Seasonal selfishness is about determining where and when to invest your time. Where you invest your efforts depends on the season you’re in. Some seasons are about you and your interests and personal wellbeing. Other seasons are about putting others first and sacrificing personal comfort to see others thrive.

Seasonal selfishness emphasizes self-care and self-worth.

The concept suggests you achieve the greatest good when you become periodically selfish. You put yourself and your ‘selfish’ interests first, before others. You hear people clamour for your help and support, but for the greater good of everyone, you suppress your innate, reactionary urges to jump into action, you seek first your survival, and then return to offer others a lifeline.

This sounds selfish and difficult. It truly is difficult, especially when your compassion and kindness are intrinsically motivated, like me. Yet the outcomes have proved incredible for me.

When you lead with “self,” not everyone will find you interesting or even tolerable. But you do ensure that the people drawn towards you will appreciate what’s real about you, and not just what’s negotiable.

— Kathleen Smith

In follow-up articles, I will share the incredible benefits I experience from practising seasonal selfishness.

Final Thoughts

I believe that kindness and compassion make the world a better place.

You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force. — Publilius Syrus

I strongly believe in this quote by the Latin writer Publilius Syrus.

Indeed, society thrives when everyone leads with kindness.

Yet we still have to re-evaluate our motivations for kindness and compassion now and then. Are you consistently abandoning your wellbeing to radiate a positive vibration in other people’s lives? Are you currently overwhelmed by the sheer thoughts of your perceived responsibilities to others?

Everything in life… has to have balance.

You must show compassion to others and show yourself some self-compassion as well.

It’s the way society thrives with everyone happy.

Happiness inspires kindness towards others.


About the author

Felix Otoo

Software Engineer, Writer, Lofi Music Lover

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