The Balance between Selfish and Self-Love

There seem to be conflicting advice out there about loving yourself and loving others. Some advice will say that you need to give selflessly to others and never expect anything in return. Other advice will say that you have to focus on your needs and if the person is not meeting them, you should walk away. It can be confusing. There is a big difference between self-love and selfish, and what mainly separates them is the “self”.

Being selfish means that you expect the world to bend to your will. You look at every person in your life as a vehicle to your happiness instead of as someone with their own thoughts and feelings. You are obsessed with your own issues and problems and feel that everyone else in the world was placed here to resolve them for you. Your agenda is the only agenda that matters. I think you get my point.

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”- Oscar Wilde

Self-love is valuing yourself as a human being. It’s about understanding that you have the same rights to happiness as everyone in this world. It’s about not sacrificing your safety, well-being or quality of life for the satisfaction of someone who isn’t willing to do the same for you. Self-love is caring for yourself in the same manner with which you would care for others.

You probably look at the two and think that selfish is bad and self-love is good, but that’s not necessarily true. You will need both at times in your life. There are times when you will have to be selfish. Selfishness can step in to save us when we are being used by other people. It’s the voice that  pulls you out of the fantasy that you are in a rewarding situation. It points out all the issues and reminds you that you have your own issues and problems. Selfishness can be a healthy wake-up call.

Self-love steps in when you are being taken for granted. Self-love shows up when you forget that you can’t give everything to everyone else. Self-love reminds you of all the things you used to love to do and that you need to take time out for yourself. Self-love will draw the bath, light the candles, shut the door and turn on some soft music. Self-love will remind your husband that you need to have a date night. Self-love helps you to recharge your battery after you’ve given all you can give to others.

They are similar, but the approach can be different. The key to tapping into each is balance. Love is easy. You give it to people. You do for people. You share with people. Selfishness and self-love sit perched nearby waiting to see if the love is returned. Men often have a problem with an increasing amount of selfishness while women tend to struggle with not enough self-love. It’s a dance that I believe was designed to teach each how to learn to give in a healthy manner. A woman will give into a man’s selfishness until she begins to feel unappreciated and taken for granted. Her self-love asserts itself and she demands that he is giving to her. The man must combat his own selfishness to focus on giving to her. In giving to her, he recognizes his own self-love. In his selfishness, he is denying that he needs anyone or anything. In his self-love, he is reminded how lucky he is to have someone that caters to his needs and loves him. It balances both out. If they can learn how to do it without an argument, it can make for a great relationship.

Each of us has this equalizer within us. Instead of demonizing them, we should use them as indicators that we need to view our relationships and tune into our feelings about them. The dance can occur in all relationships. It can be difficult to tell when you are being selfish. If you are the one getting your way all the time, there would be little motivation to change the situation. But, this comes at a cost. I don’t know of any unpaid servants that have ever been happy. Keep this in mind. Everyone loves to be rewarded and recognized. If you don’t feel like you want for anything but you know that you could give more, you are the selfish one. The need for self-love can also be difficult to determine. You are so used to giving that you don’t notice when you are depleted. If you can’t remember the last time you did something for yourself or someone did something for you, you need self-love.

In order to continue to give love, you have to be fulfilled. The rule of thumb that works in every relationship is that if both people in the relationship are focused on giving to the other partner and making them happy, then no one can lose. There are times when one partner will give more than the other, but if they are both committed to giving then the balance will shift back. In focusing on giving, each partner will want to preserve and nurture self-love in one another.