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How to Take Care of Yourself Without Being Selfish

People are getting on each other’s nerves. Not everyone of course. But this pandemic has put a lot of people too close together and a lot of other people too far apart. And it’s making a lot people on either end…well, cranky. And the crankiness can really get in the way of caring about others, […]

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People are getting on each other’s nerves. Not everyone of course. But this pandemic has put a lot of people too close together and a lot of other people too far apart. And it’s making a lot people on either end…well, cranky.

And the crankiness can really get in the way of caring about others, which then only makes things worse. So how can people take care of themselves without being selfish?

This question reminds me of my trek along The Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, when my companion on the pilgrimage said one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard, which was, “I like how you take care of yourself and the other person too.”

I thanked him and told him what I had learned about narcissism from the masters on this subject. That is, we are all on a continuum. At one extreme would be exclusive tending to the needs and interests of others. At the other extreme, would be exclusive tending only to the needs and interests of oneself. 

Randy, in Scott Turow’s book and movie Presumed Innocentcomes to mind as an example of someone consumed with himself. If I remember correctly, there was a line in the book that went something like: It took everything in him to get through the day just being Randy. So not a whole lot left over for thinking about anyone else.

Most of us are further along than Randy, somewhere in between the two extremes. And depending upon what’s going on internally and externally for us, we can slide back and forth. 

We probably slide around within a range, just as a lot people do with their weight, a few pounds this way and that from one day to the next.

The truth is that there were times on our Camino trek when each of us was entirely self-absorbed with our blisters, our fatigue, thirst, hunger, or whatever it was.

So how did we take care of ourselves without being selfish? 

The short answer is: By staying alert and aware enough to make sure that we had our hands on the dials. That way we could calibrate and recalibrate what and how we were doing—so we never get stuck at either end. I liked how he took care of himself and the other person too.

Warm wishes,

Madelaine

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