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Articles by Jane

Selfish, or looking after yourself

March 15, 2018

I’ve been thinking about the difference between ‘being selfish’ and ‘looking after yourself’, especially when it comes to helping other people.

It often feels like we’re being selfish when we don’t do what we think we should be doing, or what we feel like we’re expected to do when someone we know or love is facing a tough time. We want to help, we want to support, we want to be there for them - but what we feel we should be doing and what’s actually the best thing for us - and them - can be two very different things.

There are times in the past when I’ve done what I thought was right, what I thought I should be doing to help when a friend or family member was facing a challenging or difficult time in their lives. Very often, ironically what I was doing turned out not to be helpful for them in the long run - and definitely not helpful for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to help and support my family, friends, colleagues and clients - and I do! But not in the way I’ve done in years gone by. Now I’m much more considerate around my own needs and wellbeing, while taking theirs into account too.

I’d often get too caught up in other people’s lives while neglecting important aspects of my own. Some years ago I was there for a friend after a traumatic event in their life. I got very involved, I was in contact with them all the time, I was doing things for them all the time, organising things, sorting things.

Their life became too much of my life.

But I made that choice.

Nobody forced me to use my time in the way that I did. The only pressure came from inside me, telling me it was the right thing to do, that I should help as much as I could, that they were struggling, that I was able to support them - I knew what to do - so I should and it would be selfish not to…

Time spent there was time not spent with my husband and kids. Time spent organising for my friend was time not spent keeping on top of my own to-do list. Time spent giving time to my friend was time not spent giving time to myself.

I started to feel low, bogged down - and, I feel quite ashamed to admit, resentful. None of it was my friend’s fault. None at all. It was up to me how I used my time.

I made that choice.

I eventually did step back and I realised just how much time I hadn’t been spending with my family. I realised how much of my emotional headspace had been taken up with someone else’s emotions. I realised how many of the things that really made me feel good I hadn’t been doing. I realised that my own wellbeing had suffered. And I realised that I’d imposed myself on my friend, giving them more than they actually needed.

They were probably relieved when I took a back seat…I look back and realise that I never stopped to ask if they actually wanted so much of my time or help...

I know better and do things differently now (though, like us all, I’m always a work in progress!). I understand that even though I’m empathic and compassionate and love to ‘be there’ for people, being over supportive can be damaging for both me and the other person. It might feel selfish to think about the effect helping someone can have on yourself, but not doing that might be pretty damaging, and it might also come at the expense of giving that someone enough space to learn how to help themselves.

Caring for yourself, and the other person, in that way - well, it doesn’t feel at all selfish to me…

Selfish, or looking after yourself

March 15, 2018

I’ve been thinking about the difference between ‘being selfish’ and ‘looking after yourself’, especially when it comes to helping other people.

It often feels like we’re being selfish when we don’t do what we think we should be doing, or what we feel like we’re expected to do when someone we know or love is facing a tough time. We want to help, we want to support, we want to be there for them - but what we feel we should be doing and what’s actually the best thing for us - and them - can be two very different things.

There are times in the past when I’ve done what I thought was right, what I thought I should be doing to help when a friend or family member was facing a challenging or difficult time in their lives. Very often, ironically what I was doing turned out not to be helpful for them in the long run - and definitely not helpful for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to help and support my family, friends, colleagues and clients - and I do! But not in the way I’ve done in years gone by. Now I’m much more considerate around my own needs and wellbeing, while taking theirs into account too.

I’d often get too caught up in other people’s lives while neglecting important aspects of my own. Some years ago I was there for a friend after a traumatic event in their life. I got very involved, I was in contact with them all the time, I was doing things for them all the time, organising things, sorting things.

Their life became too much of my life.

But I made that choice.

Nobody forced me to use my time in the way that I did. The only pressure came from inside me, telling me it was the right thing to do, that I should help as much as I could, that they were struggling, that I was able to support them - I knew what to do - so I should and it would be selfish not to…

Time spent there was time not spent with my husband and kids. Time spent organising for my friend was time not spent keeping on top of my own to-do list. Time spent giving time to my friend was time not spent giving time to myself.

I started to feel low, bogged down - and, I feel quite ashamed to admit, resentful. None of it was my friend’s fault. None at all. It was up to me how I used my time.

I made that choice.

I eventually did step back and I realised just how much time I hadn’t been spending with my family. I realised how much of my emotional headspace had been taken up with someone else’s emotions. I realised how many of the things that really made me feel good I hadn’t been doing. I realised that my own wellbeing had suffered. And I realised that I’d imposed myself on my friend, giving them more than they actually needed.

They were probably relieved when I took a back seat…I look back and realise that I never stopped to ask if they actually wanted so much of my time or help...

I know better and do things differently now (though, like us all, I’m always a work in progress!). I understand that even though I’m empathic and compassionate and love to ‘be there’ for people, being over supportive can be damaging for both me and the other person. It might feel selfish to think about the effect helping someone can have on yourself, but not doing that might be pretty damaging, and it might also come at the expense of giving that someone enough space to learn how to help themselves.

Caring for yourself, and the other person, in that way - well, it doesn’t feel at all selfish to me…