In a recent wisdom circle, a woman who was present shared her choice to be self-full, opposed to selfless.
Pause. Let her words sink in. Self-full. Full of self. How often did you hear that recommendation?
For most of us, we were taught that the greatest gift we could give was to be selfless. To put our needs last and to focus our time, our energy, hell, even our imagination on caring for another. Often pejorative labels like selfish, greedy and uncaring were used to motivate us to act on behalf of another. (Have you ever received from someone who feels guilty? It does not feel very good.)
If you look up the antonym for selfless, you find the word inconsiderate, which means: “thoughtlessly causing hurt or inconvenience to others.” (Google definition)
Isn’t that interesting? The opposite of selfless is thoughtless. I don’t know about you but I actually put a lot of thought into the choices I make which benefit myself. More importantly, those choices which serve me are not made with the intention of hurting or inconveniencing others, rather they are made with the intention of nurturing the gifts inherent in me. In other words, my choices to care for myself allow me to be more self-full.
I, therefore, invite you to rethink the word selfless. Question the cultural or familial associations with this word. Then ask yourself:
How can I best bring my gifts into the world – by being selfless or self-full?
If you answer self-full, then the following practice was designed for you.
Go Ahead: Get Full of Yourself
Schedule Self-Full Appointments
At the beginning of every week, sit down with your calendar and schedule activities which nurture and celebrate yourself. If you find this practice challenging, then pretend you are scheduling time to spend with a loved one. This past winter I enrolled in a beginner’s tap class which met every Saturday morning. Because this class was on my schedule, I deliberately worked every other obligation and activity around my tap commitment. Quite often I would meet friends after class for breakfast. All winter I looked forward to Saturday mornings and noticed that I often was more attentive and patient with my family because of the time I devoted to filling myself up.
Question Your Motivation
When making a decision that involves serving another, ask yourself what factors are influencing you. Do you want to say “yes” or do you feel like you should say “yes?” If your answer is should, then you may be using guilt as your motivator. Of course, we all have things that we need to do that we don’t like to do. Paying taxes, cleaning litter boxes, potty training. And yet, we do them because we believe the short-term discomfort far outweighs the long-term consequences. Ultimately I do things I don’t like because I see the benefit in it for me. What I am more interested in is looking at the areas in my life where I feel guilt for not doing them. What message have I internalized that causes me to feel guilt? Is there room for another perspective? I invite you to look beyond the surface of your reactions to search for the deeper truth. Practice making decisions which give you an opportunity to share your gifts without depleting you. And even then, stop before you feel empty.
Daily Quality Assurance Test
Pick one quality every week on which you want to focus. This quality can be one that you easily recognize in yourself or one that you want to cultivate. Notice where this quality shows up as well as times where it is difficult for you to access this quality. When making a decision about which characteristic to pursue, I find it helpful to look at goddess archetypes. Do you want to embody more Aphrodite energy into your life? If so, then read the myths surrounding Aphrodite and imagine yourself behaving as the goddess of love and beauty. What areas of your life do you naturally foster love and beauty? Where in your life would you like for these qualities to show up more? Give yourself permission to explore and to celebrate your innate gifts and talents. Then notice what happens when you share from a place of fullness rather less-ness.
As always, I am interested in hearing about your experiences. Please share in the comments below or in a private email how you practice self-fullness.