Once a week, I take the time to recount the good things in my life.
Every day, I meditate and focus on my own breathing.
I do these things in an effort to be happier. However, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the advice of my Poppy: If you’re unhappy, stop thinking so much about yourself and focus on someone else.
It’s not a bad idea, and I’ve since heard it repeated in various forms by multiple gurus. Taking care of our fellow man is a much happier pursuit than obsessing over ourselves. And yet I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s something I have struggled with of late. Actually, I’m concerned that this isn’t just a short-term issue.
It seems my most sincere self is more than a little selfish.
When I write, I write almost exclusively about myself – my experiences, my perspective, my gratitude and fears. But it is this writing that other people seem to connect the most to, probably because it is what feels most authentic and genuine. I always feel fraudulent when I try to focus on what you need or what you should do.
At all times, one of my eyes is looking out and another is turned inward – a permanent symbol of my tendency to focus on myself.
Not surprisingly, this is often a complaint that’s lobbed against me. When someone is angry at me or wants to hurt me, it’s my self absorption that’s mentioned. I hate that – mostly because I worry that I don’t know how to be less selfish.
I’m having trouble finding ways to be less selfish.
Yes, really. Those aren’t easy words to write, but I do so in hopes that someone out there will understand and have compassionate words of wisdom.
I know I do some things that aren’t selfish. I make an effort to focus on other people’s perspective. I try to put aside my own agenda and listen when someone else is speaking to me. In those ways, I’ve gotten a lot better at looking out rather than in. But still, I’m keenly aware of how that benefits me and I know that isn’t enough.
But, I don’t have an excess of money to share at the moment. I give what I can, when I can, but right now we’re saving up for a move and trying to be vigilant about what we spend. Still, I know we do have more than many and perhaps I could a place where a small donation can make a big difference?
My time, too, is eaten up with working and planning and trying to visit friends and family before we move. All of these activities are for me and mine, and they leave little leftover for volunteering. To be honest, there aren’t even a lot of opportunities for volunteering in the tiny town in which we’re currently living.
To be more honest, I haven’t looked very hard.
I worry that seeking out opportunities to help will only build up my ego. I worry that it will still be about how helping affects me. I worry, too, that in my eagerness to appease my own guilt, I will take something precious from someone else: the power they have to help themselves.
What if my helping does more harm than good?
Ironically, selfish as I may be, my natural tendency is also to fix. I have worked really hard to let go of that need, to learn to trust people to take care of themselves. I don’t want to now, in my desperation to be a “better” person, start barging into people’s lives and offering my help where it’s not wanted.
I could, of course, just wait to be asked – but I’m already doing that. I rarely turn down a request for help, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
I guess what I’m saying is there’s still something missing.
I want to give back, but I’m not sure how.
Do I keep waiting? Do I go looking? Is the fact that I don’t know proof that I’m inherently flawed? (Actually, I don’t believe that last one is true anymore. None of us are inherently flawed.)
But I’m still not sure what I can do to look more out than in this week.
How do you keep your perspective focused more outward than inward?