The Foundation to Selflessness

Selflessness is not about you, it’s about those around you. It’s the opposite of selfishness.

You think less about yourself and more about others. You’re generous, kind, you show love and are compassionate. You have a deep concern for the well-being of others.

The pursuit to selflessness needs to have a foundation

It starts with being selfish.

To genuinely be selfless, you must first be selfish, from an emotional, spiritual and physical standpoint.

It wasn’t until I was being selfish and intentional about my self growth that I was truly able to be selfless. Prior, I was selfless, but that doesn’t mean I was happy or fulfilled or doing it wholeheartedly and genuinely.

There are two types of selfishness that are part of this process

One is the self-centered, “me-me”, egotistic selfishness and the other is the self growth aspect. The latter is the selfishness in which we have arrived by overcoming the former.

This experience starts out as a torrent river and goes through various transitions that ultimately ends up in a calming pool. A pool that represents selflessness.

It consists of calming the self-centered stories we tell ourselves. It’s processing the head chatter to create emotional space to grow.

It’s at that moment when you have freed your mind; when you have arrived to a calming state with clarity that you can begin to act selflessly in the most genuine way.

Between the raging river of self-centeredness and the calm pool of selflessness lies selfishness towards self growth.

Meaning, you are selfish in that you take care of yourself first to give your best self to others, to make a difference in your life and the lives around you. To be part of something much larger than yourself.

This selfishness is making time throughout your day for the things that provide you with clarity and make you feel good. Things like meditating, reflecting, writing, reading, painting, music, spiritual sessions.

It’s identifying what you value most, the people that you cherish. It’s having the courage to say no to things that fall outside of your values. It’s finding your truth by being honest and vulnerable.

All of these things are selfish behaviors

Being selfless, without first establishing a foundation of selfishness (and then balancing the two), will find yourself running on empty, or inauthentically giving yourself to others.

The struggle with this is the selfish aspect, we immediately think of possessions, materialism, power, money, egotism. Selfishness for self growth is not those things, selfishness towards bettering yourself guides you on a path to selflessness.

To care for others you must care for yourself first

To love others you must love yourself first. To give to others wholeheartedly you must give to yourself wholeheartedly first. To serve others well you must serve yourself well first.

This is what gets overlooked; the foundation.

The foundation is being selfish about your own well-being; emotionally, spiritually and physically so that you can give your best selves to others.

The pursuit of selflessness starts with being selfish. Tweet this

Do you believe in order to genuinely live selflessly, you must take care of yourself first?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Let’s chat in the comments below or shoot me an email here.

Editor’s note: This post was inspired by a blog post by Joshua Becker in which he discusses that selflessness is often overlooked because of selfishness. I agree with it all, I think the biggest indifference I have is in a matter of definitions for selfishness.

I thoroughly enjoy Joshua’s blog Becoming Minimalist. Check out the post here.

In addition, The One You Feed podcast, episode 30, with Lama Kathy Wesley, led me to a reflection session. This was such a wonderful episode, probably one of my favorites. But, again, I couldn’t help but feel indifferent with how we get to a state of selflessness.

Photo credit: tommyscaepes

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About Eric Ungs

Eric Ungs writes about a journey of intentional self growth, nudging you to let go; to give yourself permission to be vulnerable and honest with yourself so you can give your best self to others. Author of 10 Incredible Ways to Live a Fulfilling and Joyful Life ebook.

1 Comment

  1. Serena

    Wholeheartedly agree. Told someone to “be selfish in your pursuit to be selfless” and he won an award for using the quote in his speech. At the time, I received no credit and was almost jealous. However, after time, I realized that by coming to terms with it & by being happy for him, I was fulfilling “the prophesy”. Your article took the words out of my mouth. I’m allowed to be selfish now and work on myself if it means I get to help others in the future.

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