I-I, Me-Me, Mine: The Case for Being Selfish

” I Me Mine” by The Beatles was written by George Harrison.  It was said that he wrote the song as a commentary on the selfishness of bandmates John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  They were in the middle of recording songs for the Let It Be documentary film.  George felt they had better things to do than learn the arrangement for this song, and appeared indifferent to recording it that struck him as “sheer egotism”.  I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise when the band broke up soon afterward!! 

The Dark Horse may have been onto something there, having to deal with such big egos so full of themselves they couldn’t support their bandmate and just record his song.  Or maybe John and Paul were onto something…hmmm…maybe they were trying to take care of themselves, something called self-preservation

Self-preservation:  In its most simplistic definition, it refers to a set of behaviors by which individuals attempt to preserve their own existence.  Freud had something to say about this, and of course, one of those behaviors had to do with sex; but more specifically for the preservation of the species.  Good ole Sigmund!! 

For the purposes of this blog, and in the interest of not boring you more about Freud, I will focus more globally on helping you preserve your existence if that is ok with you!

When John Lennon became involved with Yoko Ono, everyone blamed her for the eventual break-up of The Beatles.  While there may be some truth to that, we could also look at it as John looking out for himself; doing something solely for his happiness and not what his bandmates or the public wanted him to do.  The Fab Four were constantly under the public microscope for years; crazed fans watched their every move. Everything they did was chronicled, scrutinized, and worshipped.  The changes in their musical expression in the latter part of The Beatles’ existence reflected their attempt to take control of their lives and careers. Do you blame them?  Do you still blame Yoko?  Ok, yeah maybe Yoko had some negative influence there, but maybe John, Paul, George, and Ringo were just behaving to preserve their existence.  

People who put others first, selfless people, are seen as model human beings; really setting an example for how we should live.  This comes in many forms like helping a friend in need, your partner, or a colleague at work.  It could come in a more formal setting like volunteer work for different organizations or charities.  These people genuinely feel happy helping others; they are happy when those they help are happy.   

Interestingly enough the most common factor that contributes to this altruistic behavior is not for happiness, but for approval.  This is a learned behavior; one way to gain approval from others is to do what they want and never say no.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?? How many of you have a difficult time saying NO to someone??  

One of the major challenges is trying not to ignore or deny one’s own needs while tending to other people’s needs. What happens to a person if they don’t pay attention to their own needs?  They experience emotional distress, they avoid dealing with their own responsibilities, and they become mentally and physically exhausted.  Anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, and self-medication (with alcohol, drugs, food, etc), are some of the issues they start to experience.  You still like being there for others huh??  Of course you do, there is nothing wrong with it…except when it is at your own expense.

JUST SAY NO!!

 Saying NO sometimes can really help reset your priorities.  Although it may be difficult to do, taking a pause from “always being there” can help you focus on taking care of your own needs before committing to something or someone else.  Also, it may help you see your value to that person you are always helping.  Have you been feeling a little resentful to that person?  Are you starting to think you are being taken advantage of?  Saying NO can put a stop to that too…they won’t automatically think you will take care of something for them, and find a way to do it themselves.  That, believe it or not, is helping them too! Think about it, if you are always coming to a person’s aid and doing things for them, how will they ever learn to take care of things themselves? You may think you are a helper, but you are actually an Enabler.

PUT THE MASK ON YOURSELF FIRST!!

So most of you have traveled on an airplane, right?  If you are afraid of flying, well that’s not where I am going with this, we can deal with that another time.  So for those who have traveled by plane, (even the ones who have already taken Xanax to get through the flight experience) you know when the flight attendant explains the safety information and talks about what to do when there is a sudden loss of cabin pressure and the masks drop from above?  When you have a child or someone you are caring for with you, who are you supposed to put the mask on first?  Answer: The other person…BUZZZZ WRONG!! Guess again…it has to go on YOU first.  You need to make sure you are capable of caring for that other person.  You cannot do that if you are unconscious!!!  PUT THE MASK ON YOURSELF FIRST! (And for the people who took the Xanax, well, either you’re out cold already or you’re so chill you can totally wait for that mask!  

Self-care for Self-preservation

If you truly want to be selfless you need to make sure you have no needs, and that only happens after you stop breathing!  For the rest of you, you need to make sure to at least check in with yourself and take care of your needs so that the action of helping others does not cause emotional distress and mental and physical exhaustion.  If you cannot ensure that, you should NOT be helping others.  (Now I know there are some technicalities here, like being a parent or the sole caretaker of a family member, but even in these situations, you can take measures to minimize the impact giving your time will have on your self-preservation)

Some things you should address to improve yourself before (or while) being there for others:

  1. Sleep:  a good night’s sleep recharges your batteries; when you are sleep deprived you are more vulnerable to anxiety/depressive symptoms, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues, weight issues (paired with poor eating habits), alcohol and substance abuse, low energy, and distractability.
  2. Exercise:  A complete exercise program consisting of cardio and strength training at least 3x/week for an hour each time will provide energy, stress management, mental clarity and of course physical health.
  3. Diet:  A proper diet that is low in carbs, higher in protein and healthy fats, lots of vegetables, fresh fruit. Stay away from the junk food and all the processed food!!
  4. Stress management:  People have different ways they manage their stress that is healthy; whether it is exercise, yoga, meditation, drawing/painting, singing, etc….whatever works do it!!
  5. Relationships:  This refers to people who are positive influences on you, who supports you unconditionally; it can be a significant other/spouse, but it can also be close friends, or colleagues, or ME, a therapist!  

If you have any tips, techniques, or other ways you practice self-preservation, please feel free to comment below.  

So by all means continue being the caring person you are, just make sure you put the mask on yourself first… it’s ok to be a little selfish!

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