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Selfish to Selfless - A Dose From Dr. Denise

Written by Dr. Denise Chranowski

It is engrained into us to not be selfish.  Yet, I am.  I really am.  I think of myself and my well-being and my needs and my wants.  And the question I have for you is, is that so wrong? After all, I was born this way.  Guess what, so were you.  Isn’t that what we are taught?  Just look at a little baby.  They scream, literally.   Take care of me.  Feed me.  Change me.  Burp me.  Rock me.  Repeat.  Then a few years later we begin to speak and many times our first word is me or mine.  Teenage years, there’s a lot of me, my looks, my opinions, my body, my future.  There’s more of the same in our young adulthood, my mate, my career, my children, my life and it’s various stressors.

At some point as we ‘grow up’ we are meant to magically grow out of this selfishness.  If we’ve lived long enough, we do in fact know that service to others and focusing on others versus on ourselves is more rewarding.  The question is how do we make this leap?  Or perhaps a better question, do we have to make the leap?

The best visual I always go to for relating to going from selfish to selfless is the proverbial putting your oxygen mask on first.  You’ve heard it hundreds of times if you are a frequent flyer.  If the pressure drops in the cabin, the oxygen masks will drop, and you are instructed to put your oxygen mask on first BEFORE assisting others.  You could put your child’s oxygen mask on before you put on yours and that would seem the more obvious or selfless thing to do.  However, that is not what we are instructed to do.  You’ve heard it over and over.  Put on your oxygen mask first.  Technically, that’s selfish.

The definition of selfish is “seeking one’s own well-being without regard for others.”  I would take out the words “without regard for others” to redefine a good selfish.  Selfish, “seeking one’s own well-being.”  When I seek my own well-being physically, nutritionally, emotionally and spiritually, I inherently know this is a good selfish.  A good selfish makes me better and in turn those around me better.  It is indeed putting on my oxygen mask first.

Is it selfish for me to exercise four to five times a week?  This adds up to 300 minutes each week.   Selfish?  Yes, it is good selfish.  It makes me better.  The more physically fit I am, the better I can help others, mainly my family and my patients.

Is it selfish for me to meditate every day for 30 minutes?  This is another 210 minutes a week.  Selfish?  Yes, it is good selfish.   It makes me better.  The more I can quiet my mind, allow God in and through, the better I am able to raise others’ vibration up to mine.  I love the quote, “when the tide rises, it raises all boats.”  My tide rises when I meditate. 

Is it selfish for me to read one to two books each week?  This takes another 420 minutes a week or more.  Selfish?  Yes, it is good selfish.   It makes me better.  As I learn, I grow.  What I learn, I share.  As I learn, I become empowered to live up to my potential.  As I learn, I see areas in my life I can improve.  As I learn of other lives that have thrived, it makes me want to be a better human being.

Is it selfish for me to insist on getting eight hours of sleep each night?  That’s 3,360 minutes each week.  Selfish?  Yes, it is a good selfish.  As I rest my body and mind, I wake up refreshed ready for all that is in store for that new day, the good and the not so good.

How about my Friday date afternoons with me, myself and I?  Every couple weeks, I take myself out on a date.  Selfish?  Indeed.  I go out for a nice lunch.  I get a manicure and pedicure.  I listen to a favorite podcast.  I may hit the library.  I may take a long leisurely walk with my dog.  Whew I am overdosing on selfish activity on my Friday date days.

When all is said and done, my good selfish can add up to half of each week.  50%!  But look what it leaves me, the other 50%.  The opposite of selfish is self-less.  I like to define selfless as thinking less often about myself.  Notice I did not say, thinking less of myself.  I think quite highly of myself.  God likes when I do that.  After all the bible does say one of the greatest commandments is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  That means we need to love ourselves.

What to do with that 50% selflessness you ask.  50% selflessness to think of others higher than I do myself.  50% selflessness to take care of my husband and sons’ needs.   50% to work outside of our home to provide for my family, my patients, my government thru my taxes, and provide money to contribute towards my tithe.  50% selflessness to provide for those in my community that are in need of a helping hand. 

Yea, I’ll take being selfish any day.  It’s how God designed us.  Selfish and selfless.    It really is just semantics.  When I am the good selfish I become more selfless.  I actually think less of myself.  I just don’t need to think about myself all that often.  I don’t need to think about being in pain because I’ve taken care of myself physically.  I don’t need to think about feeling guilty or shameful because I’ve taken care of myself emotionally.  I don’t need to think of myself because I am so darn tired, because I’ve taken care of myself by getting adequate rest.  50% good selfish to be 50% selfless.  Adds up to 100% of God’s plan for my life.