It has been a heroine’s journey, traveling from being a ’good girl’ to soul selfishness.
I did not know that I was a ‘good girl’ focused on fulfilling others’ needs and desires, nor did I know I was moving towards soul selfishness. It was a gradual journey, recognizing how I felt, what I desired and needed, what my talents were, and the ability to sometimes say ‘yes’ to myself and ‘no’ to others.
With my Mom looking to me to be the good mother she never had, I was trained at an early age to take care of her and to be a ‘good girl.’ Decades of dealing with her emotional illness and neediness, taking care of four children who required my attention and direction, and prioritizing others’ expectations and desires, had taken its toll.
Into my mid-thirties, my life was primarily about giving to my relationships. I was happy giving, although I will admit that sometimes I felt both taken for granted and emotionally and physically exhausted. Yet most of the time I felt productive, useful, needed and important. I did not recognize that this role ‘saved’ me from thinking about myself as an individual. Giving to others ‘rescued’ me from the risks involved in focusing on, developing, and expressing myself.
Being a ‘good girl’ creates an energetic imbalance where there is not much receiving or replenishment. Religious leaders may teach that it is better to give than to receive, yet I believe that although we feel pleasure in giving, we also need to be given to. We need to be seen and nurtured, to develop our talents and abilities, and our intellectual, spiritual, creative and sexual selves. That requires our attention, just as essential as the attention we give to others for their growth and development.
The ‘good girl’ role is culturally based. Women are conditioned to be caretakers for their children, men, aging parents and communities. Commonly, we need to be taught and urged to ask for support, time and attention for ourselves. But how can we even consider what we want when our minds are focused primarily on the wellbeing of others? It is a slow and gradual process to learn to freely direct some of our energy to ourselves. It is up to each of us to make the decision of how to apportion the attention we give. Frequently, those to whom we have given most do not support our shift in directing our energy away from them.
Soul selfish is different from ego selfish. It includes being:
- mindful of our impact on others.
- responsible to honor the commitments we have made, while including ourselves in the equation.
- learning to ask for help, support, feedback and nourishment.
It is not healthy for anyone to be primarily on the exhale. We need to open space to inhale to create a healthy, life-sustaining balance.
When grounded in our souls we feel connected to others with the ability to have reciprocal relationships, asking to receive as we give.