Since I can remember I moved between not caring what others thought (which led to a lot of quiet, alone times and very few, close friends) to actions resulting from worrying about others do think. As I became older the idea that my actions always had to result in making others happy drove my decision-making more than wanting to make myself happy. And the idea that I’m happy because everyone else is happy is what I truly believe… well until now… when I realised that this idea could not be further from the truth.
Maybe it comes from the idea that if I always seem happy there will be less conflict around me (this behaviour can be pinpointed to when I was a child and thinking if I was always happy, maybe my parents would fight less). As an adult this habit didn’t go away but it did seem self-absorbed and arrogant – thinking I need to sacrifice my happiness in order for someone else to be happy.
The biggest problem is that it all catches up with you…the brick wall arrives and one can no longer run around it and ignore it. It has to be climbed over. The idea that one’s own happiness is less important than those around you or that if people around you are happy you will be too; has so many flaws…and it took a lot of MBTI personality tests and readings and in-depth conversations to understand the problems created by what I believed were selfless actions. The first problem that is created is quite arrogant if thought through properly (even though this is not the intention). Questions like, “How powerful do I think I am that I can control another person’s happiness?” or “How much more intelligent do I think I am to make decisions for others?” And when thought about this way, one realises that the selfless actions are actually quite selfish. No one person is so important that they can know what decisions would make others happy – think of when you were a child and your parents made decisions on your behalf or when your friends or partner makes decisions without your input or without providing you with the full story – how often were you misunderstood or the decisions made on your behalf incorrect?
Always ask, “How important do you think you are that you believe you need to sacrifice your happiness for others?” Happiness only arrives with the ability to accept who you are; when you stop putting on a facade because you worry about those around you. In a paradoxical manner, for your intentions to be selfless, you may need your actions to reflect selfishly. And because we’re human and we have an innate fear of being disliked – this is a hard pill to swallow. So we prefer the opposite: Sometimes our actions are selfless and our intentions selfish – and we are liked more by others but liked less by ourselves.
This quote always weighs on my mind, maybe because it’s so true: “You’re afraid to tell people how you feel because it will destroy them, so you bury it deep inside yourself where it destroys you.” – We must never forget that destroying ourselves obviously leads to destruction whereas allowing people to make their own decisions may not necessarily lead to any destruction; that in the first instance no choice was given but in the second there is a choice. And what could be more selfless than that?