Can you be selfish to help others?

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Being selfish to help others. Is there such a thing?

I was having an argument robust discussion with a friends the other night. The wife in the relationship explained how she tended to all her children’s needs before tending to her own. The husband told me that he had to look after himself before he could help others.

Have you ever met those people that do everything for everyone else and look absolutely ragged? The person that seems to help everyone except themselves? You know the type – the martyr that just looks tired and worn? Sure, they are selfless and generous and loving, but they wear everyone else down with their – their – I’m not too sure what the term is! They just seem to draw attention to themselves by being the one that ‘always helps out at great expense to themselves’.

Then there seem to be the other group of ‘pathological helpers’. These people still manage to do amazing things BUT they look after themselves first. It might be going to the gym, reading or gardening. People that seem to ascribe to the old airplane rule of ‘help yourself before you help others’. They are selfish, so they can help others. Their selfishness is often unseen – waking early for a morning gym session or stealing away at lunchtime for a quiet read. They do things to recharge their own batteries before helping others.

So what am I trying to say? There’s no point in running yourself into the ground to help others (even your own family) if it’s going to be at your expense. I know there are times when your personal resilience is going to be put to the test, when you’re going to be busy and when life just sucks. I’m convinced however that everyone has the ability to make time for themselves, to recharge their own batteries.

There’s a Pearl Jam tune called ‘All those yesterdays’. The lyrics are here:
“All Those Yesterdays”

Don’t you think you ought to rest?
Don’t you think you ought to lay your head down?
Don’t you think you want to sleep?
Don’t you think you ought to lay your head down tonight?

Don’t you think you’ve done enough?
Oh, don’t you think you’ve got enough, well maybe.
You don’t think there’s time to stop
There’s time enough for you to lay your head down, tonight, tonight

Let it wash away
All those yesterdays

What are you running from?
Taking pills to get along
Creating walls to call your own
So no one catches you drifting off and
Doing all the things that we all do

Let them wash away
All those yesterdays
All those yesterdays
All those paper plates

You’ve got time, you’ve got time to escape
There’s still time, it’s no crime to escape
It’s no crime to escape, it’s no crime to escape
There’s still time, so escape
It’s no crime, crime.
All those yesterdays

If you’re one of those people that loves helping, how do you manage your own resilience? is it boundaries? Doing your own thing? Having your own escape? Are you one of those people that just seems to have no time to themselves? How do you plan on changing that – for you?

Life’s like being on an airplane. You can’t help others until you help yourself.

Image from: http://elmo.cl/?m=200609

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2 comments

  1. paulfg

    Mr Vidins, this is a wonderful post : “Their selfishness is often unseen – waking early for a morning gym session or stealing away at lunchtime for a quiet read. They do things to recharge their own batteries before helping others.” Never thought about it that way.

    Love this for a lot of reasons. Thank you.

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