Dr. Robert Kornfeld
Have you ever been accused of being “selfish”? For many of us, this connotes a boorish kind of thoughtlessness. Being called selfish is not something we want to hear. It can make us feel accused of not caring about someone else’s feelings which can make us feel totally misunderstood. Throughout life, we are forced to make decisions all the time, often when other people are in opposition to something we chose to do or with a stance we decide to take. If we do not have a strong sense of ego, we are often inclined to back off of what we want, desire or believe in to make sure we are not considered selfish or thoughtless. I think the driving force, in most cases, for backing off is a desire to be “accepted or acceptable”.
In my own case, this is something I used to do all the time. The thought of being considered selfish was unmanageable to me. In reality, it was my low self-esteem and feeling that I wasn’t “lovable” that lay in my sub-conscious, forcing me to put other people’s feelings, needs and desires before mine in an attempt to be loved and accepted. Worse yet, standing firm on a decision and being labeled a narcissist can be more upsetting when you know that you are not a narcissist. But remember, it is often the narcissist that accuses others of being just that. They want to bind their own anxiety and control your actions and beliefs by “judging” you harshly and labeling you selfish or narcissistic in an attempt to get what they want.
It’s always important to examine your own motivations as well as the motivations of those around you so you can separate the feelings and desires that are authentic to you as opposed to your desire to please others to gain acceptance. Sadly, it is sometimes extremely hard to separate the two. Is being an advocate for your own beliefs and desires a selfish or narcissistic act? Or can it just be that you hold in high regard your own self-interests (of course only when you are not causing harm to others)? Let’s look at this issue.
Merriam-Webster defines selfish as concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. Clearly, by definition, selfishness is a state of mind where you do not, cannot and will not regard the opinions and needs of others as valid in your decision making. This is the epitome of narcissism. The only driving force is your own needs and desires. One could only see this as a personality disorder that makes it nearly impossible to have successful relationships built on trust, love, transparency, compromise and open communication. However, Merriam-Webster defines self-interest as a concern for one’s own advantage and well-being. Are these one and the same?
It’s a given that everyone has an opinion because everyone has a belief system that they have developed over time. Every feeling, every belief, every action must be owned by each and every one of us. So, if you disappoint someone (i.e. they openly disapprove of what you are doing), is it your fault that they are upset? My opinion is that it is their choice to be upset and disappointed. It is not your responsibility to “please” anyone or bind their anxiety about your decision. If you are committed to your choice, then understand that is NOT a selfish or narcissistic one if you feel it will serve you best and not harm anyone.
Needless to say, it is never a comfortable feeling when someone is openly disappointed with us (be it a parent, sibling, spouse, friend, etc.). The bigger issue is, if we back off and we suffer or we resent that person controlling our decision, then it is not in our own best interest and can lead to passive aggression and self-loathing.
So many of us want to change our circumstances, our life experience, but feel handcuffed by other’s expectations. We are so wound up in the psychology that we often trade away our own desires in an attempt to have peace, acceptance and love. Unfortunately, if getting all that is conditional on cooperating with someone other than yourself, then in truth you never really have any of that anyway, do you?
Anyone who thinks you are selfish or narcissistic is making a choice to feel that way. You are not causing them to feel that way. That is their feeling, their opinion. You can certainly honor it by telling them that you understand how they feel and you are sorry they feel that way. But then, if you really want to improve your own life experience, you need to follow your own heart and follow through without allowing yourself to be controlled or manipulated. The choice is clear. Live for others and never feel whole. Or live for yourself while you honor other’s opinions and you will have a much higher likelihood of finding contentment, happiness and wholeness.
Dr. Robert Kornfeld is a life coach and holistic podiatrist based in NYC and Long Island. He is the Founder of Change Your Story Coaching (www.changeyourstorycoaching.com) and assists people on their journey to making their dream life happen. Sign up for his email list and get all of his timely and informative articles in your inbox. Are you ready to change your story? Change your life? Contact him today. For coaching, he can be contacted at email@example.com. He also practices functional medicine for chronic foot and ankle pain at The Chronic Foot Pain Center in NYC and Port Washington, L.I. (www.drrobertkornfeld.com). For foot and ankle medical problems, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.