Living For Others Without Thinking About Yourself

Living For Others Without Thinking About Yourself
Álvaro Cabezuelo

Written and verified by the psychologist Álvaro Cabezuelo.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

If we wanted to count all the thoughts that go through our heads over the course of one day, it would be complicated. We average around 70,000 thoughts each day, and the majority would go to our needs.

Our own happiness, our own pleasure, our own problems, in short, we will think more about ourselves than about anything else.

Maybe an important portion of our thoughts is directed towards our loved ones. Partner, family, children, friends. Pending plans with them, conflicts, and reflections particular to each person.

And, of course, there will still be a “small portion” left for thinking about useless, mundane things like, “She is having such a bad hair day” or “This blessed TV show is making me nervous, turn it off right now.” Daily things…

Woman in City

When we dedicate more time to others than to ourselves

It has been proven that the time that our mind dedicates to the rest of the world sometimes ends up being too great in relation to the time we dedicate to ourselves.

Let us say that sometimes, our brain, our mind, or our will itself are caught off guard, with no space, since it’s already being occupied by things that have nothing to do with us and that may even be out of our control.

“Could what I said be taken the wrong way?” “It is my fault, I should have acted differently,” or the best one: “Am I selfish, since the one time he asks me for help…”

All kinds of negative thoughts that make us feel bad or at least not good enough for the other person. Thoughts not dedicated to ourselves, in our defense, but to others.

Our ability to confuse our thoughts with reality, and to live as if everything our mind tells us is true is amazing.

Educational messages from our childhood

The fact of the matter is that through our lives, we are constantly exposed to educational messages along the lines of “you have to share” or “do good to others” or “do everything possible so that others will be happy”…

We are fed with these messages throughout our childhood. It seems that from a young age, we these types of messages form our sense of values that we take with us later on in life. But really, they have several limitations for adults:

In the first place, they are orders. They are not suggestions. As such, it is as if they were forcing us to be a certain way.

But we are not children anymore. We can change, reflex on these orders. Argue over them. Who decides if we are doing “good” or not, if not us? Who decides if we should share our resources or not, if not us?

In the second places, they divide behaviors into strict dichotomies. That is to say, “you have to share” (because if not, you will not be good). “Do good to others” (or you also will not be good, you will be bad) and “Do everything possible so that others will be happy” (or you will be selfish).

They leave no space for being “a little selfish .” All or none. Good or bad. Maybe the question should be, “Is there no gray area?”

And finally, subjectivity. Nobody has ever written what exactly it means to be “good,” “selfish,” or “altruistic.”

Sad Plant Child

Where is this written rule of what is considered selfish? How many times do we have to look out for ourselves and not for others? Is it bad to be selfish?

Think about yourself, be your priority

The Romans used the word selfish to express the “practice of me.” At the end of the day, each of us has his own version of these terms, and we all try to see ourselves in such a way that we are the good ones.

We rationalize, we argue, or we even assume the role of the bad ones, and we punish ourselves, hoping to obtain forgiveness for some great evil that we have committed. And this is logical. At the end of the day, we are the protagonists of our own story.

From time to time, we find ourselves trapped against our will in a logic that does nothing but hurt us. And we find ourselves giving away time, resources, and strength to people who seem to have no other goal in life than to crush us.

And we cannot stop. We are afraid of the negative consequences. We are terrified to stray from the path that they are supposed to have marked for us.

Reflecting on these messages with calm and serenity can be the exercise that best eases our human condition.

That small time frame after reflecting when it occurs to us, “Eh, maybe it is not so bad. Maybe I need the time for myself. Maybe I do not want to share with anybody right now. Maybe I need to be selfish.”

Maybe being selfish is justified. Maybe being selfish just means loving ourselves a little.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.