The majority of the clients walking into my office are selfless individuals. Are you surprised? After all, a selfless person is a happy person. Right? Selfless individuals often tell me, “I do more for others than myself because it makes me feel good”.
Hmm…does it really? It might make you feel good in the moment to be completely selfless, but too much of anything is never good, especially when it comes to chronic selfless behaviour.
“It might make you feel good in the moment to be completely selfless, but too much of anything is never good, especially when it comes to chronic selfless behaviour.“
The only exception to this that I can think of is if you were sent from the heavens as a messenger of God – and if that is you, then rock on and thank you for making this your life’s mission!
These acts of kindness were taught to us early. Remember when you allowed your sister or brother to borrow your shovel whilst playing in the sandbox? You were rewarded with your parents’ praise. “Good boy/girl. That’s called sharing. See how you made your sister/brother happy?” As children, especially between the ages of 0-9 years, we learn primarily from the images that we see around us and the words that we hear. We are not reading words and processing meaning at this tender age. This is why we have picture books. My only memories of ‘reading’ at a young age were through images or hearing the words read out to me and creating my own story.
As young children, we relied on our parents, teachers, and mentors to teach us how to communicate. I want X, so I ask for it. However, for selfless individuals, I question whether or not they were rewarded for stating their needs. Perhaps they were told that their needs don’t matter now – you need to ‘Take care of your siblings’ or ‘Help Mommy’ or ‘Listen, don’t talk’ or ‘That’s stupid, why would you say that?’ and many other messages. As a child, you learned that In order to be loved, good, accepted, and belong, I must be quiet, give and please others. After the age of 9, we then learn through repetition, and consequently hardwire our brains, building new neuronal pathways.
‘Rinse and Repeat’.
Ah… habits, yes, those nasty thought habits turn into behavioural habits. Here we are again with habits!
So now what? Well, it is time to make change happen and regarding your relationship, we do this with baby steps.
For the selfless individual, the only way to get your needs met is by becoming more vulnerable in the moment. For the partner that lives with the selfless person, follow these two steps to become a better communicator and understand their needs.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Fully engage in the conversation.
Here is a quick example. Let’s make Kate the selfless partner and Jim being the one who is more assertive in stating his needs.
Jim: What restaurant do you want to go to tonight?
Kate: Doesn’t matter to me.
Jim: Come on – you choose (open ended question/plea).
Kate: You know me, I will never say no to Italian.
Jim: Yes, lets head down Corydon then…we should be able to find something there. Wait, (good job Jim, you caught yourself there), where did you taste the best Italian food ever? (open-ended question and fully engaging into Kate’s needs).
Done! That was easy. Right? Start doing this more with your partner and see if you can make the selfless person become more vulnerable. Jim validating and agreeing with her needs will then assist Kate in habit creation. Partners need to work together on this. Do the dance. Play with it. Trust me.
“Abstinence combined with loved ones’ support, achieving ultimate health in mind and body, and most importantly self-love, will allow freedom from addiction.”
Habit change most often requires small steps.
There are other habits, such as addiction, that require one big leap of abstinence. Abstinence combined with loved ones’ support, achieving ultimate health in mind and body, and most importantly self-love, will allow freedom from addiction. You just have to find your why. But in finding your why, you need to love and accept yourself for who you are right now.