The Scam of Unselfishness

July 9, 2010 by  
Filed under featured, personal development, relationships

You’re not going to like this post very much.

You see, I’m here today to tell you that you’ve been hoodwinked. If you’re a woman, you were probably taught to be nice, to always think of others, to give unselfishly of yourself, and to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. And if you’re a man, we’ve all heard the saying that ‘nice guys finish last’. You’ve seen in your own life where you’ve been ‘too nice’, you’ve given and given and given, and you put others’ wants and needs before your own.

How is that working out for you??

I’m gonna guess probably not that well. These lessons are great ways to teach children how to interact with the world. Children by nature are very self-centered and pleasure-driven, so I can see where it is not safe or practical to raise a child that only knows how to satisfy his or her needs, without consideration of others or taking into account the consequences of their actions. But you’re not a child anymore.

You’re an adult with needs and desires of your own, and you’re probably tired of getting your feelings trampled, of others being inconsiderate toward you, of people ‘taking your kindness for weakness’. There are a few tactics you can use to get around this.

Stop Being So Nice

One thing that people don’t know about me, is that I’m not ‘nice’. Don’t get me wrong – I’m cordial, I’m respectful, and sometimes I’m considerate and sweet… but I am not nice just for the sake of being nice. With me, you have to earn the right for me to be nice to you. My definition of ‘nice’ is to go out of my way, to act how I normally wouldn’t act, to put another’s need(s) before mine, for the comfort of others. Now why would I do that to everyone? Every person you meet isn’t worthy of your niceness. Cultivate the habit of niceness only for those who deserve it from you.

I am nice to those who I’m close to, or who show that they are genuinely nice to me, without agenda or ulterior motive. And that’s the thing, I find that alot, if not most people, are not nice just because. I am not advocating that you change your personality, that you become a bitch on wheels or a jerk. What I’m saying is that you have to develop a barrier between other people and yourself, and being nice gets in the way of erecting that barrier. Its really a shame that we have to do so, but every person is not your true friend and every person doesn’t have your best interest at heart. In fact, most people put themselves first and have their own best interests at heart.

Put Yourself First

I’m not sure why putting yourself first is considered a bad thing. The way people react when you say that you put yourself first, reminds me of those safety cards on airplanes. They always have an illustration of a person putting on their own breathing mask and then assisting others. I always find it a little funny because if you fall out and can’t breathe, then you can’t possibly help someone else.

But that is what some people do. They give their time, emotions, financial assistance, and support until they’re drained, and then become frustrated and disillusioned when they have nothing left to give and the people in their lives don’t reciprocate. Honestly (and this may hurt your feelings a little bit), they have no reason to.

Let’s use a well as an example. Women usually go to a well with an empty bucket and dip out the water that they need. You never see or hear of someone going to a well with a bucket full of water and pouring it into the well. How often does someone stop and think about how much water is in a well? When the well is dry (my grandma used to say, ‘you never miss your water till your well runs dry‘… think about that for a second). And then when a well does run dry, what do people do? (I’m not a country girl so I kinda don’t know… just gonna guess here) They either find another source of water and dig a well there, or wait until the well fills back up from either rain or ground water.

You can get people to stop treating you like a bottomless well by doing two things: capping your metaphorical well of resources by either saying no to people or being unavailable. If you’re always open and available to the people in your life, you’ll drain yourself with no means of replenishing yourself. You’ll have to regenerate those resources over time, and then people will just come back, like a well that now has water.

Learn To Be Unavailable

I have a friend who is addicted to her smart phone. Its annoying sometimes because when we’re out, she’s texting or responding to emails, and frequently telling others about where she is or what she’s doing. Well how can she fully enjoy where she is and what she’s doing, if she’s not fully present in the moment?! I digress… but I often ask her why she just doesn’t answer at those times so she can fully enjoy herself. I’ve seen instances where, if she doesn’t answer immediately, people start blowing up her phone like “why aren’t you answering me?!” When you’re always available – whether it be a shoulder to cry on, financially or to communicate – people start devaluing your time. Its probably not even conscious, like not missing your water till your well is dry. If something is always there then you really don’t think about it as rare.

So sometimes take time out for yourself by being unavailable. Whatever problems or issues people need your help with will be right there when you resurface. And it’ll be even better if the person sees you’re unavailable and either figures out the solution on their own or asks someone who they don’t normally ask for help. You can use that time to work on those goals you feel like you don’t have time to work on and to refill your well of resources. Now if the person is still there, waiting for your help, sometimes you should say no so that they don’t take advantage of you and take you for granted.

Again, I don’t feel that you should change who you are at all. Just understand that its normal for a person to put themselves first – its self-preservation. Now its not right for other people to take you for granted and you have to put your foot down to prevent it from continuing. The very same people who taught you to be selfless are themselves very selfish – and will guilt you into letting them get what they want if you let them. Think about it like this too — people only call you selfish when you won’t give them something that they want, whether its time, attention, money or advice.

The best way to honor, serve and treat others well is to ensure that you’re happy, have enough resources to treat yourself well, and that you’re prosperous and reaching your own goals. When your well is full, its much easier to give from that overflow to others.


Enjoyed this post? Fill in the form below to subscribe, or click here to subscribe to my RSS feed.

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Comments

19 Responses to “The Scam of Unselfishness”
  1. The CCB says:

    I agree with you on your views of niceness and learning to seperate those worthy of it and not to a point. I believe that the niceness that you show to others is a consideration for all God’s people to be treated the same and in accordance to the way He sees fit but also in accordance to their purpose or motives and their place in your life. Either way this was a great article.

  2. Sherry says:

    Wow what happened to “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 KJV)

    • Anilia says:

      CCB and Sherry, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Let me address both of your comments in this reply. I have a few points:

      1) you have never seen me quote from the Bible for a reason (if you notice, I did not cite scripture with the quote above, and maybe I should’ve referenced The Golden Rule instead). I generally do not feel that Motivated Sista is the place to discuss religion. We’re all here to keep each other motivated to reach our goals, and I’d like to keep this a religion-free site. We’re all entitled to our own beliefs so I don’t want to preach to either the choir or someone who has different beliefs than I do.

      2) addressing CCB’s comment “all God’s people to be treated the same and in accordance to the way He sees fit but also in accordance to their purpose or motives and their place in your life” – how is that different than what I’ve written? I advised that we be nice and selfLESS to those who earn that treatment in our lives, because we’re often advised to be nice to everybody even when someone does not have our best interests in mind. We’re also nice because we don’t want to be perceived as mean, which has nothing to do with what God says or how we treat others; that’s a personal perception issue. That may be the Christian thing to do, turn the other cheek and what have you, but again I say I don’t discuss religion….

      Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t mean that you allow others to take advantage of you, be selfish in their dealings toward you, not honor your boundaries or recognize that you’re not an endless source of various types of support for them. It can be easy to let others take too much for us, and from what I’ve observed, it happens more to women who are ‘too’ nice or don’t want to be perceived as mean.

      3) my mom loves me more than life itself. When she used to beat my butt, she was not being nice. When she told me about myself, when I was being a funky and flippant teen, she was not nice. And when she is being selfish, she is not nice. These actions in no way diminish her love for me nor mine for her. Loving someone and being nice to them aren’t mutually exclusive activities.

      Also, how many people are really nice people, without ulterior motive? And how many people have advised both of you to be nice, and they were not nice themselves??

  3. Tiffany says:

    Ni: this was right on time for and something going on in my life. i think the true issue here is that sometimes, being “nice” is a disguise for being a people-pleaser, which is bending our own will to someone else’s for approval. seeking approval is not selfless – what one would call “being nice.” seeking approval is very SELFISH and insecurity-based. Instead, we have to put ourselves first – value ourselves. I heard a preacher say that, when we pray, we should ask God to bless us FIRST. if we are not blessed, how can we be a blessing to anyone else? thank you for this post. i certainly needed it.

    • Anilia says:

      hey Tiff, thanks for your comment!

      seeking approval is not selfless – what one would call “being nice.” seeking approval is very SELFISH and insecurity-based.

      hear hear! Its like you don’t want other people to think you aren’t nice, so you bend like a pretzel. Well, whats wrong with not being nice?? Its not like you won’t have friends or anything…

  4. >>You’re not going to like this post very much.

    Oh, I disagree. I like it very much.

    I think we (women) try to be polite and show others respect, but being that society can be rather rude and obnoxious – courteous people are viewed as punks, weak, and easy push-overs.

    Even when you try to tell people in a pleasant manner what’s up, they want to go off the deep end and act like you’re the one offending them. Weird, no?

    The hardest thing in the world is to be polite when nearly everyone is not. After a while you understand that people enjoy baiting us so we can “act out” and prove a couple of stereotypes.

    It’s a balancing act: keeping a velvet glove over an iron fist. And “No” is the most powerful word in our arsenal.

    • Anilia says:

      thanks Betty =)

      “It’s a balancing act: keeping a velvet glove over an iron fist. And “No” is the most powerful word in our arsenal.”

      its tough sometimes. I think alot of us women have the problems that we have because we either don’t know to have iron under that glove, or don’t practive the balancing act enough.

  5. LT Garcia says:

    I love this post and totally agree with it. I would even take it a step further and say that there is a weird dynamic that occurs with people who pride themselves on just how over-the-top nice they are all the time to everyone that is really downright passive aggressive. These people are really not being nice for altruistic reasons, though usually they have convinced themselves that they are. They are being nice because they expect everyone to admire them for how nice they are and to get something in return for their niceness. When no one admires them or gives anything back to them, they become bitter, resentful little people who wallow in their victimhood. Basically the whole niceness thing ends up being a ball and chain for them and everyone around them. True compassion, forgiveness and giving comes from the heart and is given toward the truly deserving. I try to be cordial to all unless they give me a reason not to be, but that is different than being gratuitously ‘nice’. If someone proves they have integrity to me, I will go out of my way for them if I feel they would do the same for me. That’s not selfish, it’s how to fill your life with decent people and become a decent person yourself. And ‘niceness’ has nothing to do with it. Putting everyone else before yourself and expecting a positive outcome is just plain stupid. Pick those worthy of your efforts carefully, it’s fine to be polite to others, but never be afraid to not answer the phone, not agree to rescue the person in a bind due to their own stupidity, or remember that the word ‘No’ in and of itself is a complete sentence.

    • Anilia says:

      thanks for your comment LT!

      I would even take it a step further and say that there is a weird dynamic that occurs with people who pride themselves on just how over-the-top nice they are all the time to everyone that is really downright passive aggressive.

      yeah that is weird… and I hate to be around that type of person. You don’t know if they’re being nice because they genuinely like you, if they have an ulterior motive, or what the deal is. But its not a good feeling and I wish people would just be themselves and trust that they’ll be admired for who they are, not what they do.

      If someone proves they have integrity to me, I will go out of my way for them if I feel they would do the same for me. That’s not selfish, it’s how to fill your life with decent people and become a decent person yourself.

      I feel exactly as you do. The problem with being nice to randoms is that those randoms try to stick around! lol

      remember that the word ‘No’ in and of itself is a complete sentence.

      it took me a while to learn this lesson, but I’m so glad I did!

  6. CW says:

    @Sherry & ALL

    “Sherry says:
    July 10, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Wow what happened to “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 KJV)”

    Well…If the Admin Prosechild pleases, let’s quote the Bible:

    Probing Question(s)

    -Who exactly are we supposed to be “unselfish” towards?

    -Who exactly did God command us give to & help?

    Proverbs 20:4

    4The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

    Think about it: This does not apply to the truly needy i.e. elderly, infirm, people who’ve lost their homes a fire, etc…The people who holler most about you “giving” are those who want something for nothing…Nowhere does it say we must help THESE types!

    Proverbs 26:13 (King James Version)

    13The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.

    Meaning this is why he cannot do for his/herself, but is soliciting YOU…

    II Thess 3: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12

    6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

    7For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

    8Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

    9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

    10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

    11For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

    12Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

    Stop trying to get something for nothing Clem…

    Ecclesiastes 10:18

    18By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

    The natural consequences endured for not handling your business…

    Isaiah 56:11

    11Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.

    Even if you oblige some with a step-up, TRUST ME they will demand more!

    2 Cor 9:7

    7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

    Proverbs 24:29-31

    29Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

    30I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;

    31And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

    Proverbs 6:6-9

    6Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

    7Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

    8Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

    9How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

    A responsible adult does not constantly need someone watching over their shoulder…They do what is supposed to be done.

    We need to separate GIVING from feeding a LEECH…You wanna do charity Sister? Goto the soup kitchens, habitat for humanity, hospitals, animal shelters, children’s organization and like to contribute…But do not be bamboozled into supporting those who need to get up, get out and get something!

    Black women do not be fooled! It is not God’s desire for us to be taken advantage by those who are capable of doing and/or reciprocating. This goes for folk who WON’T get up and do for themselves…

    Going about “giving” in the wrong way is not “giving” , but ENABLING!

    • Anilia says:

      thanks for your input CW. I’m not knowledgable about scripture so I appreciate you having my back 😉

      “Going about “giving” in the wrong way is not “giving” , but ENABLING!”

      Exactly! Enabling you to have less in your own life and for others to take advantage of your kindess…

  7. Anne says:

    I love this post!!!! And you are so right about the following:
    “people only call you selfish when you won’t give them something that they want, ”
    I have proven this to be true too often and I am now learning who I should be “nice” too and the list has greatly diminished!

  8. Nita says:

    Thank you for this.. Cause I’m trying to keep my ME time to just include me and not feel guilty about not including anyone else.

    • Anilia says:

      you’re welcome Sis. Think about it like this: after you’ve had your ME time, you can give to your family and friends and be 100% present, not thinking about how tired you are or how much you’ve overextended yourself. You HAVE to give to yourself, in order to give to others…

  9. Tammy Chandler says:

    This is by far one of THE BEST posts I have read by any author on self improvement, and I agree with everything that you said…..including your response about religion. Its not safe to assume we all share the same religious beliefs. Keep ’em coming!

  10. drock says:

    thank you! i give and give qand give to my in-laws and i feel like i get trampled on all the time! on the 4th i wanted to run away and cry because they are so mean to me! i try to be so nice and give them presents and my time and my kind words, and it always always backfires. its like the harder i try and the more of myself i give the more i get disapointed. thank you for this article. you are my new inspiration!!!

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] others’ needs first, which often ends up with us not getting what we need or want.  Anila at The Motivated Sista strikes down this idea and reminds us all that “nice” not only doesn’t pay, but […]



Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

CommentLuv badge