3 Surprising Ways Being “Selfish” Makes Your Relationships Happier
From Peggy Sealfon, personal development coach and author of Escape From Anxiety:
I have a client who, on one hand, says she’s always considerate and helpful to her husband, making valiant efforts to please him. But then, in the next breath, she complains that he treats her like a doormat.
She continues doing what she thinks she SHOULD as a “good wife,” but to what end?
She’s lost herself in some distorted belief. And I have to wonder … did her husband ever actually ask any of this of her, or did she just do it (and then resent it)?
Being a little selfish is exactly what this woman needs. And being a little selfish is likely something YOU need to do more of, as well.
Why? Because in relationships, you simply can’t give to others what isn’t flowing through you.
Generosity is an admirable trait in a partner, but not if you’re compromising your authentic self, your own stores of energy, your own fulfillment and happiness. And more so, if your actions become a barter system of, “I do all these things for you — fulfill all of your needs — so that you’ll then give me love,” your relationship is headed for failure.
We’re each in charge of our own happiness. In a relationship, if we’re clueless about what feeds our personal contentment, we can never expect to find it through our partner.
We must fill ourselves up first … and doing so takes flexing our muscles of “selfishness.”
Another one of my clients, learned it the hard way. After 15 years of trying to make her husband happy — always being the giver, always being the peacemaker — she, ultimately, recognized that her husband wasn’t a happy person. There was absolutely nothing she could do to change him; she could only change herself and uncover what makes her happy by putting herself first.
Being self-seeking is not being greedy, egotistical or negative, as society may have us believe. It’s a necessary part of our humanness and essential for developing a strong sense of self. Shakespeare had it right: “To thine own self be true.”
Flexing your selfish muscle takes practice but can contribute to healthier relationships, in these 3 extraordinary ways:
1. You’re more confident in your relationship with … yourself
This confidence then manifests in your outer being (in your posture, clothes, hairstyle, etc.) yet, it’s the inner presence that drives the outer shine. Partners want to please their significant other and desire to make them happy. You make this easier for your partner when you feel self-assured and express your specific wants positively. Besides, let’s face it, a confident person is usually feistier, more interesting and therefore … highly attractive.
2. Everything you do becomes heart-centered
When you choose to do what’s in your heart, there’s an expanded purpose that feeds your soul … and it feels ecstatically GOOD! You become passionate about your choices, which may even include seemingly mundane activities. Personally, I like doing laundry — for me it’s cleansing and there’s pleasure in pulling fresh-smelling, warm towels from the dryer. When you approach tasks unconditionally, without expecting anything in return, you’re more connected to your heart center. You “feel” aligned with your purpose, which brings you a more peaceful and harmonic sense of self and those who surround you.
3. Those who love you finally get to see the genuine YOU
As in the example of my client, she is living her life for her husband, without truly knowing herself. When you open the door to make “selfish” choices, you open infinite possibilities to tap into a more expansive part of yourself. Suddenly, your intuition becomes more finely honed and you feel guided by an inner source that leads you to a new dimension in your relationships. The process definitely takes a little faith, vulnerability and a lot of surrendering to your natural instincts. In this way, your bond with your partner has a real chance to flourish by reaching into a deeper more genuine level of connection.
I know it’s difficult to consciously make this change. Too often we get stuck in patterns of behavior that become pure habit. As a result, we tend to forget what we like or what gives us gratification. So try these steps to start your journey toward healthy selfishness:
- For the next three days, spend 5 minutes writing down the things you enjoy. Be silly. Be serious. Perhaps, it’s the simple things like taking a warm bubble bath, having a massage, reading, playing a sport, dancing, taking a yoga class, biking, gardening, playing with your dog, lunching with friends, or just doing nothing at all. What ever it is, make note of it.
- Use your list to choose (at least) one thing to do every week that feeds your inner child, that vibrant essence of you. Try this over the next month! You may invite your partner to do this with you, but if he’s not interested, just do it anyway. It may take a half hour or half a day. Your choice. You deserve pleasurable experiences and giving yourself permission to do them is empowering — you’re worth the time invested in your joy.
- Check your ego at every step. Why are you choosing to do what you’re doing? Without being judgmental in any way, be aware, mindful and take a few moments to evaluate how you feel afterwards. Consider sharing your feelings with your partner.
Everyone’s needs and desires are unique. Experiment for yourself and trust in your own powers of observation and self development. For Rebecca, she eventually learned to exercise better choices for herself and, as a result, her marriage has become more balanced and exciting. The only doormat in her life now is the one outside her front entrance.
Originally published at www.self.com.
Thank you for reading.