Am I Being Selfish?

advice/correction lens shift respectfulparenting Aug 07, 2022

The opposite of selfless is not selfish- its deselfing. That is, to completely and entirely abolish your own needs, wants and desires in fear of disapproval and rejection from others.

Harriet Learner describes the concept of deselfing in her book, The Anger Dance and I think its absolutely genius because whenever I'm teaching adults about boundaries, I inevitably get the question, "But am I not being selfish?"

This is such a curious question. That when someone is encouraged to validate their own needs and wants, they immediately ask if they're being selfish. What if I said yes? Yes, you are being self-ish... as in, you're caring about the self and that's ok. You can be selfish and selfless at the same time. All I'm asking is, don't DEself yourself.

Whaaa... we can be BOTH at the same time?

Not only can we be both at the same time, we HAVE to be both at the same time. Or else we become Sadia. Let's meet her.

Sadia is 34 years old and she has a problem.

"I feel like I have no time for myself. I can't do any of the stuff you suggest because I can't leave my kids and go anywhere. I can't ask my husband because he says he can't watch the kids. I don't want to ask my mom because she's old and I can't burden her. I wanted to start a part time job so I can have some income for myself as well as something else to do... I used to be such a great programmer back in university.. I'm sure I could get a job at an IT company but my husband won't approve. Even my mother in law would be mad. She's healthy and can watch the kids but I can't ask her.. she and I don't get along."

Let's say Sadia spends another decade and a half with this same story. She's now 50. She has spent 25 years of her life serving her children, husband, inlaws as well as fulfilling the needs of her parents. During these 25 years, she never took any time for herself. She felt she didn't want to be 'selfish' or she was 'scared' of going against her husband's wishes as well as her mother-in-laws' wishes.

What kind of person do you think she is at age 50? She's spent a lifetime being "selfless"... should we assume that she has infinite supply of this so called "selflessness"? Should she be grateful she has food, clothing, a husband who didn't beat her up, a mother-in-law who didn't throw her out of the house and also, Allah gave her healthy children to raise. After all, she has nothing to complain about.. yes? She'll probably keep giving from her infinite reserves of patience and 'selflessness' even once her kids get married and have spouses.

Now answer the following questions....

Do you think this kind of “selflessness” aka de-selfing is sustainable? (Yaani kia so he sb hamesha karaain he?)

If you think it IS sustainable... what price do you think she will be paying for it in terms of her physical and mental health? (Remember that Allah does not ask us to destroy ourselves- He has entrusted our hearts and bodies to us as amanah)

What will be her expectations from her own daughter-in-laws one day?

From her kids?

What do you think is the state of her spiritual well being when, for 25 years, she didn't even have time to shower or eat or meet any of her emotional needs?

If you don’t think Sadia is living a spiritually and physically healthy life- what suggestions would you give her?