Being Selfish as an Effective Means of Selflessness

Acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation rank as a first place three-way tie in the love languages I use to communicate with those I care about.  My efforts in practicing them can be likened to Niagara Falls, mighty bodies of water flowing at rates similar to a speeding rollercoaster. I pour into the lives of the handful of people I call friends, the ones that I absolutely love and cherish, and the ones that I am fortunate to have share the same sentiments with me. This is especially meaningful to me given my personality as I have been described as an empath who is “intense”, “passionate,” and “deep.” I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl; there’s no in-between.

As such, my friendships are low in quantity but high in quality. It is rare that I am satisfactorily understood by others on multiple levels so having a mutual point of understanding with someone is priceless. This leads to enriching, substantial friendships full of intentionality and selflessness all of which bring me joy. However, recent events in that arena have not been so pretty. 

With a couple of people I know, I was their counselor, their confidante, their editor, their teacher, their mentor, and even their ticket to success in their endeavors only to find out I was merely “someone to talk to” to one of them; I was a person they used to attempt to quench their profound loneliness for the other person. What I thought was reciprocity was actually gestures to keep me around because I was emotionally and mentally stimulating for them. At the end of the day, it was about them, not me.

My fault in this was not listening to my intuition when I should have, blaming myself for paranoia or thinking to hard when my concern was valid. The lessons were learned the hard way, making me think that being the intense and passionate individual I am was too much. I thought that maybe I take friendships to seriously and should back off a little. Maybe I should not value people to the extent that I do and that my initial carefreeness with relating with people should be sustained throughout the entirety of our interactions. But when speaking to my dear trustworthy friends about these things, I became increasingly aware of my value, probably more than I have ever been in my life. And all of it reinforced the following:

Selfish Selfless (2)
It’s okay to be selfish. Your self-preservation and inner peace come first. You cannot afford to pour and pour into people only to be left out to dry. You cannot be depleted of your mental and emotional energies to find out that it was only meant to power their successes. Cut people out if your life if you must. Tighten your circle of friends and the folks you surround yourself with if it’s needed. Trust and stay faithful to your inner conviction as it has served you well. It is a gift along with your depth and intentionality. You have been selective before, but raise the standard for the kind of individuals who are worthy of that kind of attention if necessary. You have a purpose, a reason that gets you up and out of bed every morning. It is for these reasons and more that you literally cannot afford to waste your time and energies.

When the above is executed well and your inner circle is established, the people in it are less likely to become a source for you becoming emotionally drained. Your tight-knit circle is in place and there is an exchange of inspiration, encouragement, and support among you all coming from a place of trust and mutual respect. They see and speak value in your life as you also do the same for them. The time that you would have spent investing in relationships that would have drained you is instead used to pursue your purpose in a more efficient manner that will benefit your sphere of influence. This way you are self-preserving while serving others in the pursuit of your calling. And that is exactly how it should be. After all, you can’t give anything to others in your purpose-filled journey if you’re running on empty.

Have you ever had a hard time being selfish with your time and attention like I have? What are ways you can be selfish in order to be more effective in helping others via your purpose/where you are at?

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  • “Is it because as you say we are drowning in a peanut butter culture where fast and shallow is all that most people can manage and take it as normal.”

    I think it is precisely that. Shallowness is commonplace so no wonder when we get something substantial, we hold onto it for dear life. Unfortunately, some people abuse that substantial meaningful, giving nature of some friendships that they end up being leeches instead friends, sucking the energy out of the other person in the friendship. This has been something I noticed in my life when I wrote this and I found writing out to be helpful and therapeutic although the ideas are quite commonsense as you said. Thank you for commenting, Rafal!