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What is Selfish?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

Were you brought up to believe that taking care of yourself is selfish, and that to be a good person you need to be self-sacrificing? Not true!

Loving yourselfOne of the false beliefs that stops many people, especially women, from practicing Inner Bonding and learning to take loving care of themselves is the belief that "taking care of myself is selfish. In order to be a good person, I'm supposed to be self-sacrificing and take care of others instead of myself."

Many of us were raised by a self-centered, narcissistic parent who, instead of supporting us in learning to take care of ourselves and discovering what brings us joy, expected us to give ourselves up and take care of him or her. When we didn't do what they wanted us to do, they called us selfish.


Let's talk about what it means to be selfish:

  • We are selfish when we only consider ourselves and do not consider the effect our behavior has on others.
  • We are selfish when we expect others to give themselves up and do what we want them to do, rather than do what brings them joy or is in their highest good.
  • We are selfish when we keep drawing a conversation back to ourselves rather than listening to and caring about what someone else is saying.
  • We are selfish when we punish others when they think and feel differently than we do.
  • We are selfish when we harm others for our own ends.


Now let's talk about what is not selfish:

  • We are being self-responsible, not selfish, when we do what brings us joy with no intent to harm another, even if another person doesn't like it.
  • We are being self-responsible, not selfish, when we support our own highest good, even when someone wants us to do something other than what we are doing.
  • We are being self-responsible when we are considerate of others' wants and needs without giving ourselves up.
  • We are being self-responsible when we are open to learning about how others feel and what they want, as long as they are also open to learning about how we feel and what we want, and we are both desirous of support out own and each other's highest good.

Many of us were taught that if others are upset with us for our choices, we are somehow responsible for their feelings. We were taught that if we continue to do something that is upsetting to another, we are wrong, bad, and selfish. When parents teach this to their children, it has nothing to do with supporting their children's highest good. It is purely about wanting to control their children into doing what the parents want them to do. When parents do this, they are the ones being selfish, while telling their children that they are the selfish ones when they don't do what the parents want. Very crazymaking!


Taking loving care of ourselves and making ourselves happy is the opposite of selfish!

In order to be devoted to the practice of Inner Bonding, you need to move beyond the false belief that taking loving care of yourself is selfish. You need to recognize that, not only is self-care not selfish, it is the most loving thing you can do for yourself and others. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our loved ones as well as to the world is our own happiness. Our happiness takes the burden off of our spouses, parents, children, and friends, to try to make us happy. People who love us - rather than people who just want to use us - want us to be happy and if we are not taking responsibility for our own happiness, then others might feel responsible for us. I hope you can see that taking loving care of ourselves and making ourselves happy is the opposite of selfish!

Our happiness also contributes much to our planet. Our happiness, peace and joy have a very high frequency, and therefore contribute to raising the overall frequency of our planet. In fact, I believe that our true happiness contributes more to our planet than anything else we can contribute! Imagine what our world would be like if everyone took responsibility for their own happiness and wellbeing! Since harming others never creates happiness and inner peace, our world would become a peaceful place if we each took responsibility for our own happiness and wellbeing, with each of us caring about ourselves and about each other.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.


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Is there something you have always wanted to do but have not yet done? Is there something that would be fun, creative, and fulfilling that you keep putting off doing? Take a moment to look inside and discover what your Inner Child might be passionate about that you are not paying attention to, and then notice what is in the way of taking this loving action. Today, begin to take the loving action.


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