According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary:
Self Help: 1. The theory that individuals should provide for their own support and improvement in society. 2 the act or faculty of providing for or improving oneself
Selfish: 1 Deficient in consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure; actuated by self-interest
I was recently part of a conversation where someone shared their belief that self-help can lead a person to become self-centered and selfish. Have you heard this sentiment before? I think it’s based out of fear. And I’d like to explore it here!
Does self-help make a person selfish?
The answer could fill a book (now, would that be a “self help, self help” book?…lol!) I have a few thoughts to share, and I’d love to hear your’s as well. For starters, what is self help? From Oxford’s definition, it sounds like it’s a method, an act of learning how to provide for/improve/support one’s own self. I would add that to help myself, I am really learning to lead myself in better ways of living. It goes beyond learning how to cope. From my personal experience, this has involved stretching out to my past (facing and getting rid of a lot of old garbage and lies) and also getting to know my deep passions and goals for my future. Both dynamics are helping me to live whole and alive in my present.
Beneath all of that, I think this is key: what drove my whole process of recovery was that I wanted to be me, the real me. I wanted to live my own unique life to the FULL, and I was willing to go through the pain, years of counseling, financial investment, and time commitment to find that life. I wanted to know my purpose for being on this earth (which has a lot to do with the question: how can I impact the world through being me?) Yes, I wanted to find relief and healing from my own pain. But I also wanted to learn how to live in a healthy outward way. I wanted to be a healthy, contributing, thriving part of this world. I believe this deep desire is at the heart of any person’s pursuit of self help, whether they realize it or not.
Some stages of my recovery do involve varying degrees of self care and inward attention, which might appear to be selfish. And, as I become more of the real me, others might feel like they have to relate to me differently, which is uncomfortable for them (I think that’s where the fear comes in). The thing with recovery is that we can’t know exactly what we’ll be like throughout the process. Our real selves may turn out to be very different than what people were used to before. I can understand how disconcerting that might be to others. But does that mean we’re selfish?
The big truth for me? I feel far less selfish now than I used to. I am less needy and more interested in engaging with the world. I have never been as free as I feel today. I have never understood what it means to give of myself with no strings attached, to be excited about other people’s lives as I am about my own life, to exercise my gifts and abilities in ways I was totally afraid to do before. I judge others less; I judge myself less. I’m learning how to speak my truth in ways that benefit others and myself equally. I take good care of myself because if I don’t, the real Carla won’t be as vibrant as she’s meant to be in this world! In gaining peace and fulfillment for myself, I find I naturally want to help others find that for themselves. I’m no saint, but I have grown. And I wouldn’t be becoming all these things now if I hadn’t self-helped myself.
I know one things for sure: if I hadn’t learned how to help myself, I would not be writing on this blog! So I think my answer to the question is pretty clear! But what do you think? I’d love to know.