Friday, February 12, 2010

Positively Selfish

The word "selfish" has appeared in my life a lot over the course of the past week. First, it popped up at my Weight Watchers meeting. The focus was on taking time for yourself and how hard that is for so many people. The second time it was related to suicide.

Sadly, I've experienced the loss of someone I knew due to suicide quite a few times. Each time it has happened, I've heard the word "selfish" come up. I know that anger is part of the grieving process, and that's about the time that it comes up. Loved ones say thing like "how could they do this to me?", or "how could they do something so selfish?". I remember when someone very close to me lost a loved one to suicide and a member of his family said "How could he do this to us?" to which my friend replied, "How could he do this to us? What must he have been going through to do that to himself? This has nothing to do with us!" That has always stuck with me and I think it's very true.

We are taught as children not to be selfish, but it isn't our nature. We are born selfish individuals. We cry until our needs our met, and then our parents spend the rest of our lives teaching us that our needs will not always be met immediately. As we age, we learn that being selfish is bad and that we must think of others. As parents we learn to put our children before everything else in our lives and we often forget ourselves in the process. We are allowed to give in to our selfish natures as infants only. After that selfishness is beat out of us by the bully of life.

But I'm writing this because I want to tell you to be positively selfish! That's right, think about yourself and only yourself! There is a way to be positive while being selfish and a negative way to be selfish. I'm advocating the positive method. My last serious relationship was sparked by my need to be loved by another adult and I gave everything I had to him and to my children. I did everything I could to make sure those three people were as happy as possible at all times. In that process I lost everything about myself that made me who I am. It has taken me a long time, but I've regained what I lost and more.

When my Weight Watchers leader asked if we had trouble taking time for ourselves, I said NO! I don't have any trouble taking time for myself. If I want to do something, I find a way to do it. But I do it all in the positive. My children have everything they could ever need and tons of love and attention. But if they have a mother who doesn't put herself as number one on her own list then their lives are lacking. I gained over sixty pounds putting them first, I quit a college degree because I put them first. I forgot everything I loved in life aside from them because I had been trained to put others first. Well that is over and has been for some time. I don't think anyone who knows me or my children would suspect that I'm so selfish. But I am positively selfish!

So when I hear someone use the word selfish in regards to someone committing suicide I get really angry. I want to look at them and say you are damn right they were being selfish! I've never been close to suicide, but having been around enough of the aftermath I think I finally understand. People who make this choice are so often people who you think are happy and loving life. In the most recent experience I've heard so many stories and witnessed myself the apparent happiness of the young man who took his own life. When I asked some of his friends if they saw any signs, they said they knew he struggled with things like we all do, but they all thought he was so happy. Clearly that wasn't the case. So I imagine that when someone decides that they are going to take their own life, it is the one time in their life aside from infancy where there are truly thinking of no one but themselves. They likely think of very little other than how they are going to accomplish the task that they have decided on.

When I think of that feeling, I think of my own selfishness. I think what if they had been selfish earlier? What if before it got to this point they decided to think of no one but themselves? What if they thought of no one else and sought help? What if they didn't care how it hurt someone else to hear what they had to say? What if they didn't care if it inconvenienced someone because they just needed to get away for a while? What if they didn't care what anyone else thought about the person they really wanted to be? What if they thought of no one else and did what they needed to do for them?

What if we spent a little less time teaching our children to think of others and made sure they thought about themselves sometimes too?

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