What’s Called Selfish - Some Thoughts:
When anyone says, “you’re being selfish,” we typically stop in our tracks, often feeling somewhat ashamed or suddenly not-okay about the behavior or choice that’s being called selfish.
Like other words/ascriptions used by the dominant (white male system) culture to negatively reframe women’s self-empowering behaviors, selfish is a word that Anne Wilson-Schaef (in her best selling book Women’s Reality) would classify as a “stopper.” Stoppers are those words/reframes that, in a knee-jerk fashion, quickly stifle behaviors in women that are perceived as threatening the status quo.
So, here’s an anti-doting, alternative re-framing of the word:
When someone tells you that your behavior/choice is selfish, try immediately asking your self (or, if you feel up to it, the person) what it is that they want you to do instead of what you are doing. Or, alternately, why they want/need you to stop doing what you’re doing.
Calling someone’s behavior or choice selfish is actually a disguised way of manipulating someone’s behavior to be more aligned with the wants/needs of the person who is calling the behavior selfish. It’s really insidious shorthand for “You’re not doing what I want you to do!” Consider remembering this when you hear someone (or your own inner critical voice) say that you’re acting selfishly.
And, the deeper, overarching truth is that selfish is NOT a dirty word and being self-ish is NOT a negative way to be. When we are acting self-ish, we usually are acting to take the very best care of our selves; it’s an act FOR our selves and NOT AGAINST anyone else. When we take the very best care of our selves, we don’t need to manipulate others into taking care of us. And, when we need something we’re unable to provide for our selves, we can ask – directly/openly – for what we need, fully willing to take the risk that the other person may say they can’t or won’t be able to provide whatever we’ve ask for.
Women have traditionally been expected to place everyone else’s need before our own. This expectation sorely needs to be re-examined and questioned. Remember, when we do what takes the best care of our selves, we have the energy and room to take into account and tend to others needs in a much more healthy way.
Consider this re-framing when next your own inner critical voice or anyone outside your self calls your behavior/choice “selfish!”
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