twenty-seven: selflessness

i feel like this is another hard word; but for some (odd yet entirely welcome) reason, it isn’t hurting me. we’ll see if it stays like that, as i keep writing.

i mainly think of selflessness in opposition to selfishness, i think; placing the needs and desires of others ahead of yourself, serving others. but i think selflessness is also about being without a self…without a core sense of who you are. which is something that i think is likely common among all survivors of trauma. a huge part of my healing has been recovering who i am…who i want to be…who i can be, despite and because of what happened to me.

i think selflessness is seen as a positive, desirable thing (because being selfish is only for arseholes, right?) but i’m not sure it’s all that great, either. who takes care of the person who cares about everyone else? how do you learn to count yourself in? how does it benefit us to sacrifice our own needs for the needs of others? what is the middle ground, between thinking only of ourselves, and thinking only of others? because really, that’s where i want to live. where you and i count similarly, where there’s room for all of us. is there a place like that, though?

the other thing that just occurred to me, and i don’t particularly like this train of thought, is that our families benefited hugely from preaching the virtues of selflessness. i have enormous shame about being selfish, and so does pocketbrit. self-consciousness and shame about the various ways we are being selfish litters our conversations often, and by that i mean nearly every day. it makes me feel icky, the similar ways in which our families kept us small, quiet and perpetually repentant should we ever dare to think of ourselves, or our needs. it’s gross.

and it’s also gross that them fostering this extreme sense of selflessness is what kept us in this mess for so long. we were so good at caring for them, at reading the room and anticipating their needs and keeping the peace, that we had no time left over to ask questions. or assess what we thought, or felt, or wanted. the potential to be taken advantage of was huge. it makes me angry, mostly because i don’t like seeing myself as a puppet, someone easily manipulated, but i was. fuck i totally was. for decades. (also, this word has started to hurt me, if you couldn’t tell)

after a brief break, i had one more thought…which is that i don’t want to chuck out the whole idea of selflessness. because there are many iterations of the word that i like, and are beautiful. selflessness as a continual state of being is not healthy, or good for us, or a balanced way of living life. but giving to others, loving others, without expecting anything in return, are acts of selflessness that feel important. making sacrifices to those we care about is one of the ways in which we show love. so…yeah. that’s all i got.

ps – if you want to do some light reading, google the word selflessness and see what comes up…so much food for thought. way more than what i have time for this saturday night.


Okay this word isn’t the easy kind of word like a colour that pocketcanadian and I were after, but it doesn’t tug at me in quite the same way as the words we have been having.

Selfishness would. That would cause all kinds of terrible feelings, but selflessness doesn’t cause so many.

I think I grew up thinking I had to be selfless. I was the meditator in my family, I had to take care of other people, and in the rare circumstances that I was selfish or needy or angry, things would often turn to shit, and I’d be the one ending up putting all of my stuff aside to fix it, yet again.

Selflessness was always my goal, or, I suppose, to be self reliant. To take care of others, and rely on nobody but myself to take care of myself. But it came with the cost of being so incredibly walled up and losing out on relationships with people because I could never let anybody in.

But somehow this last year (maybe? Maybe two years? I don’t know), I’ve become a bit better with this. Not with everybody, not even with the majority of people, but I think having therapy, and actually through my friendship with pocketcanadian, I’ve begun to learn better that it’s okay to have needs. And that relationships aren’t one sided.

And if I allowed myself to really think about this, I’d be yet again not so okay, because kids are needy, that’s their nature, and yet I grew up far far quicker than I should have had to. I was always, and still struggle so so much with it, putting all my needs aside if somebody else was needing. In fact this causes plenty of arguments between pc and I… My putting all of my stuff aside because I want to be there for her, if I think my stuff doesn’t matter because she’s having a hard time. That to be loved I need to be there for her, and be selfless. It’s sad, to think of a little girl thinking her worth and loveableness are dependent on being as quiet and self reliant as possible. That she’ll only be loved if she doesn’t ask for anything. That she’s entirely alone.

Anyway, like I said, this causes problems between pc and I. But pocketcanadian isn’t my family, she loves me and cares about my hurts and wants a two way relationship, like normal people. And so I’ve become better with it, I think. It still happens often, but I also feel less guilt day to day in asking for her, in being little and needy and taking her time.

I dont actually want to be selfless. I think that’s why this word doesn’t feel quite so bad, beause actually, I don’t feel so guilty as I have my whole life previously for not being selfless. My loving friendship here, as well as t (although of course that’s different because I’m paying her, but also she tells me frequently when I tell her otherwise, that I am deserving of time and attention), is changing this thing about me.

I still try to be selfless sometimes. And more often, in fact pretty much always, I think my stuff is less important than anybody else’s. And yet, somewhere deep down I’ve realised I don’t want to be selfless. And that feels huge. A massive, amazing thing. Something that’s better.

Because I want to have people be there for me. I love it when I am needy and terrible and pocketcanadian is loving and sweet and comforting. And she wouldn’t hang around if it was one way… If the only person needing was her.

I guess what I’m trying (and failing) to say, is that I have no desire to be selfless anymore, (even though i sometimes struggle with feeling like I should) , because I don’t want to miss out on having those needs met, and realising it’s okay to have them in the first place. And I don’t want to miss out on the amazing trusting relationships that come from letting people be there for you, and being there for them too.