How to Develop a Comfortable Approach to Being Appropriately Selfish

You have spent much of your life taking care of others. So when do you get around to taking care of yourself?

Maybe you are the

  • “Giving Tree” parent who burns out looking after the family day in and day out and your health goes to hell in a hand basket.
  • Manager who has difficulty saying “no” to a highly demanding boss. As a result you do the job of several people.
  • Leader who has difficulty delegating and does the work that reports should be doing themselves

So, at the end of your rope, you want things to change.

However, you also believe “servant leadership”.

Where do you find balance between self and other care? Here are some scripts you might find helpful.

“ I am not a doormat”

People pleasers are often exploited.

If you fall into that category, have you ever stopped to think that you may be reinforcing this behavior? What about saying, “I am not a doormat” and then shut the door to unreasonable requests? You might be surprised to see that your levels of resentment, anger, and frustration with the “users” in life goes way down. That’s because you finally took care of yourself.

The next message is for those who have become overly dependent on your help.

 “You need to take care of yourself”

While it is a good thing to take care of others, that caring should not be at the expense of your own health and relationships. The boundary you set here does not have to be all or nothing. Maybe a reduction of care for the other by 20% would be in order. A person I know, who feels that her role in life is to fix everyone who comes to her with a broken situation, now asks herself, “Do I want a friend or a caseload?”

Now, try this next boundary-setting script.

 Which part of no don’t you understand?”

The world is full of users who spit us out if we set boundaries with them by refusing to be available 24/7.

A good solid no, delivered firmly and repeatedly, comes as a shock to them. When we decline their requests they may squawk and wine and declare us public enemy #1. However, it is important for us to stand our ground.

If it requires saying no to your boss you might want to do it carefully. See my article “How to Succeed in Saying No To Your Boss”

Take the above steps and you will have found a comfortable way of being selfish.


What is your story about setting limits with others?

About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to Develop a Comfortable Approach to Being Appropriately Selfish

  1. Too true Cedric. I have to work hard at saying no. Had a control freak client once who wanted to force me to run a new programme in a particular way. Eventually when I felt his way would mean it failed I had to threaten to walk away from the job if he insisted I do it his way. He backed off, my way worked, and our relationship thereafter was transformed because he now trusted my judgement. I think trust has a big part to play in this.

    • cedricj says:

      I love the responses you give to my postings Michael. What I’m saying in theory you give real life illustrations. There is always a challenge with customer service. On the one hand we want to go to the ends of the earth for our clients. But then there are few occasions when their demands stretch the definition of customer service. When the customer says “jump” we often say “how high?” In those instances we may find ourselves in co-dependent relationships. The “mature” consultant, on the other hand, sets limits like you did. In the end, getting a person/organization to do what they need to do for themselves is the most prudent action.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s