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.