“First have the strength to meet self; then have the strength to let go of self.”
In our culture we have defined addictions as those uncontrollable habits which are bad for our physical and/or mental health. You know things like alcoholism, nicotine, heroin and other drugs, internet porn, etc. The question remains: does this compulsion benefit me or those I love? And more importantly do I control it or does it control me?
One unhealthy addiction I have studied for years is the apparent need, especially among women, to compulsively help others to the detriment of their own physical or mental health. This I call selflessness.
Unfortunately I find our culture tends to glorify anyone with a gigantic case of over giving. In the long run selflessness can be one of the WORST addictions, because it reflects a case of terrible self-esteem and can lead to personal injury, unconscious revenge against those who don’t appreciate the sacrifices involved and, my own personal favorite, illusions of martyrdom.
Of course I understand where it all began. Most of us have a gigantic inter-generational complex based on a compulsion to be ever more Christ-like. This may manifest as an insatiable compulsion to be helpful to everyone around us, while carefully denying our own needs.
I can remember walking into rooms full of elderly women in my past and noticing how everyone immediately stood up and tried to help me with whatever I was carrying. I laughingly called this a “helping frenzy.” There are times when this circumstance stands in stark contrast to members of our younger generations who may seem totally unaware of the needs of those around them.
Let’s all find a happy medium. The trick is to first find ways to acknowledge yourself as worthy of love, concern, attention and appreciation just as you are, without filling other peoples’ needs or providing any services. What would it feel like to be loved just for being you? What if you didn’t have to do anything to be found absolutely loveable? Only after you have found the strength to love yourself exactly as you are, will you be ready to let go of your ego and give generously to others. Only when your needs for love, appreciation and attention are filled by your own attitudes towards yourself, will you be ready to give generously to others in your day to day life.
This is healthy giving from a full heart, not desperate helping and giving in hopes of feeling adequate eventually if you keep giving away what you do not have inside. Start from a place of giving lovingly and generously to yourself, and then you will have so much more to offer others.