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The Virtue Of Being Selfish


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I've had, for the past few years, a very nasty case of Self-Defeating Personality Disorder. That is, I am not a masochist - I do not enjoy the pain I go through. But I go through it anyway, and seek it out, for reasons that I can't understand. Part of that is constantly giving to others whom I know will not thank me or even notice, and feeling bad about that, and constantly denying myself anything enjoyable or helpful.

 

My parents, especially my mother, have taken this to their advantage. My mom, in her desperate quest to eventually never leave the bed or couch again, asks me at least five to ten "favors" a day. Most of them involve her trying to avoid moving. I've done everything from turning her ceiling fans, lamps, and TVs on (because it's not like she's going to get up and do it herself) to running her lunch up to her job and buying the groceries for her (sometimes on no paycheck).

 

I don't mind doing favors. I believe in cooperation and the balance of effort. But the fact of the matter is my mother considers herself a sort of martyr every time I ask her for anything in return. "Are you getting some ice water? Could you get me some, too?" This will be met with rolled eyes, a sigh of suffering, perhaps a groan and a few words about me being spoiled and bratty. The way things are now I have not seen my mother clean or cook anything in months, perhaps over a year. I do the vast majority of all the housework now. A couple weeks ago when we had company over, I did all the serving and preparation. This might as well be my house, for all the care I take of it, and I don't even like the place. It is just assumed by everyone that I will always do all the chores and work, and they can just sit on their asses and expect it to be done. But the fact of the matter is, I am not a parent or caretaker of this family. Sure, I believe in sharing chores, but not having one child do all the housework to the point of soreness and sweat so the older adults can enjoy a round of staring at the idiot tube. I'm tired of babysitting.

 

Two days ago my mother laid down on her bed and realized she forgot to turn her ceiling fan on. She was obviously not up to doing it herself, and I was just pretending to be busy doing something myself, so she asked me to do it. I realized it was just turning on a frickin' fan, and yet, I said, "No." She asked again. "No." I simply wouldn't do it. I had done enough already.

 

Yesterday I went shopping and only bought stuff for myself. Usually I always buy something for everybody, since they all hate grocery shopping, but I realized that that simply was not my problem. Or at the very least I had enough problems from them and I didn't need to take on this one any more. Right now there is that same huge accumulated pile of trash and clutter sitting downstairs that they always leave out and assume I will pick up but I have absolutely no plans to clean it up after them. If they leave their junk lying around they can wallow in it.

 

As a Lutheran I was taught the value of living your life for somebody else (namely, BibleGod). Giving and sacrifice, even misery, were virtues. But now my new spirituality doesn't accept that anymore. The world may not be all about me, but it isn't all about everyone else, either. Cooperation means everyone and not just one person getting all the work done while the others take it easy. Spiritually, I feel that it is healthier for me to say "No" when I do not feel like doing the task. Work can be a very good spiritual tool, but ultimately I need time for myself as well. I am not the only person on earth, but I am also not nobody.

 

Wish me luck combating this ingrained behavior.

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Sage, in the interests of helping those around you to understand how you feel, and for your own benefit, I do believe it would be proper to state how you feel and why to those around you - your mother predominantly it seems. You need to be firm but not angry about explaining your feeelings and expressing how you feel. Keeping it to yourself or simply not doing it will not get your feelings across. Communication about such matters can easliy resolve them before they become damaging.

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Good luck, Sage.

 

I don't know who said it, but it's good to remember: "We teach people how to treat us."

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I realized it was just turning on a frickin' fan, and yet, I said, "No." She asked again. "No." I simply wouldn't do it.

"No" is a magic word. No is a word of boundaries. Sometimes there is nothing better than a good, solid, simple NO.

 

Wish me luck combating this ingrained behavior.

Good luck Sage. You might also read what Jun wrote above. Your mother may not know that she is pushing your limits. If you express your feelings to her about the thing maybe she'll understand.

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Wish me luck combating this ingrained behavior.

 

 

Good luck, Sage. Next time you feel the urge to do everything for other people, just remember that the more you help them the less they will help themselves and by that token you are doing worse to them than if you were to do nothing for them.

 

Boiled down to the most parsimonious way "The greatest harm can result from the best intentions".

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Sage,

 

You're doing the absolutely right thing. You have to take a stand, be more assertive, and not commit to every little request they give you. That's the only way you can get them to realize their error.

 

I wish you all luck, and I'm glad that you are waking up and do this. Good for you. :wave:

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Good luck from me too.

 

I had the same problem once and to some degree I still have. For me it was mostly of not harming anyone else. I simply did not wanted to. Especialy in my second longterm relationship. Thus I got the wrong impression of that if I haden't done all they wanted me to do they could not go on with what they were doing and would get angry about that (this includs Homework and doing all the Housework in the Flat vor all 4 to 5 people living in this community). I have ADS (or ADHS) and I do stick with things even if they are bad for me and I get nothing done. Put that things together and mix in the death of a beloved Father a few years ago and you get something that can easily kill you or brings you to drinking and being utterly depressed. I was just that close for a dependency and even closer to jumping. Luckily some of my friends got me out and teached me to say "No!" and I do thank them everytime I think of that situation.

 

I try to talk about that problems as open and as often to anyone with whom I must work or who is importent to me, for that they can understand and help me or at least don't get hurt by me.

 

I don't want anyone to learn to say "No!" the way I had to.

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Sage- I don't know the details of your situation, but I've seen your posts around. I agree with your OP here, and all the supporting posts so far... but I think that the ultimate solution to your problem (and others that you've mentioned) is to move out. Being assertive and sticking up for yourself is great- but all that becomes MUCH easier when you're no longer dependent.

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I don't think this is a selfishness problem, but a dignity problem. Somewhere along the line, your mother has lost her dignity and the fight to have any for herself. The filth and lack of any real motivation is only an outward sign of what lies inside of her. It sounds like she's just given up on life and has extended her hopelessness to your other family members. The problem is, you haven't bought into it and it seems it's turned into a parasitic relationship of them feeding off of your dignity. Perhaps, they are even punishing you for daring to have any.

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  • 1 month later...

Sage,

Haven't been reading the boards all that much lately, but I'm sorry to hear about your situation. Well, by using the word "NO", you've taken a step in the right direction. I'll have to second Iskerbibel's advice when it comes to rectifying this situation. I believe that the old adage goes, "People will take advantage of you only as long as you allow them". From reading your posts, you definitely do need some time only for "Sage Nabooru".

 

I'll keep you in my thoughts. Please take care and keep us updated.

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Good luck in your quest.

 

Really, it's not being selfish that is the virtue, it's knowing your self worth. I'll do a favor for friends and family, and complete strangers, but if it is something that would lead me to being taken advantage of, or something I really do not want to do, then I wont.

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The Virtue of Selfishness is a good book by Ayn Rand. It's a short collection of non-fiction essays on the subject.

 

I say that because, I empathize with you so damn much Sage. I felt horrible reading this. You're not a damn slave to anyone, and you should say more then just "No" you should demand they give you something of worth in return for the BS they put you through or do what Iskerbibel suggested and try to move out.

 

Asimov said it as greatly as he always does, if your worried about hurting them, your hurting even more by feeding their self-destructive impusles. You can evade reality, but you can't evade the consequences of evading reality. If they want the fan on, let them turn it on themselves. Reality does not perform according to their whims and you need show them that. If you want something, you get it your it for yourself and you earn it for yourself. That's why selfishness is such a virtue. But that's rational selfishness.

 

 

I could go on and on about it, but that's why I recommended the book. I can't think of a better tool for you right now. I want to see you get out of this safely and I hope and hope and hope that you realize your life is for you and not your flithy parastic parents.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sage -

 

I sympathise with your situation. I see years of myself and my own relationship with my own mother in your post.

 

I recommend reading "Breaking Free from the Victim Trap" by Diane Zimberhoff. It helped a LOT to see the patterns in life and how my mother (and others) managed to manipulate me. This mindset you grew up with is a common, underlaying culture trait in our society (heavy influence from religion, which is mentioned in the book) and most of us constantly run around playing these mental games with each other. So you are NOT alone.

 

My strongest advice about this is that your biggest challenge will be not being blinded by the illusion. Your mother WILL see you as turning selfish, spoiled, and bratty, and she WILL blame all of it on you. She's going to keep pushing you. Likely, you'll start sitting back and wondering "Is it really my fault? Am I really being a bitch about this? Am I really selfish? What's the middle ground here?"

 

You will also trip and give in to demands and kick yourself later for it. Remember to be forgiving of yourself. It's hard to break out of long deep set patterns, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. You've already made a HUGE step in breaking the pattern.

 

I will warn you, this might make relationships rocky, or break them, or change them. Having gone through this myself, that was what scared me most, but I discovered it was totally survivable and turned out not as bad as I thought. You don't owe anybody anything, especially not relationships. If they want to relate to you, they need to adapt or leave. If they change, it will work out. You CAN give up and let go and let things take it's course and come out for the strongest.

 

I wish you good luck in this. It's not easy, but from what I see of you around the forum, you're a strong and resourceful woman, so I don't worry too much about you and you shouldn't either. :)

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Sage- I don't know the details of your situation, but I've seen your posts around. I agree with your OP here, and all the supporting posts so far... but I think that the ultimate solution to your problem (and others that you've mentioned) is to move out. Being assertive and sticking up for yourself is great- but all that becomes MUCH easier when you're no longer dependent.

 

I couldn't agree more! Get your own place as soon as possible.

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Sage,

 

I agree with the other posters who suggest you move out. Probably this would be the best bet, if you have the means. If you don't, make plans for the time when you will.

 

It seems like a very small thing, being asked to simply turn the fan on. But we know it is not. It is damaging to you to have to live with what you describe every day.

 

There is an old book that I go back to every now and then. The title is: "When I Say No, I feel Guilty" by Manuel J. Smith, PhD, published in 1975. In it is listed A Bill of Assertive Rights:

 

I: You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II: You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

III: You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people's problems.

IV: You have the right to change your mind.

V: You have the right to make mistakes--and be responsible for them.

VI: You have the right to say "I don't know."

VII: You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

VIII: You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

IX: You have the right to say"I don't understand."

X: You have the right to say "I don't care."

 

I particularly like nos. I - III. Anyway, I came out of an abusive marriage and this is something that helped me. Good luck.

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Sage, Your mother has taken parental privalege way to far. Twisted and abused it in such a way, it actually abuses herself. If she is too lazy to get up and turn on a ceiling fan, who is being truly harmed by that level of laziness? She is. Is "lazy" ethically better than "selfish"? From a physiological point of view....it's actually worse. The human body is a use it or lose it machine. If you mom cannot be bothered to use it, she is harming herself. She really is. I bet she feels like crap a lot....and she's tired all the time too. Instead of constantly "resting", she needs to get up and go take a walk.

 

You've been an enabler. You recognize it's time to stop. Don't just see it as getting on with your own life, but insisting that your parents have to continue living theirs. You can't live it for them.

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I: You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II: You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

III: You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people's problems.

IV: You have the right to change your mind.

V: You have the right to make mistakes--and be responsible for them.

VI: You have the right to say "I don't know."

VII: You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

VIII: You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

IX: You have the right to say"I don't understand."

X: You have the right to say "I don't care."

Not to start a fight (since I don't want you to assume I'm saying you're abusing these "rights") but there is a fine line between assertive and douche bag. These same items can be used to run roughshod over someone else and not bat an eye (the word "responsibility" can mean lots of things and lots of "assertive" people usually screw you over and pull the old "that's your problem" out of their ass to side-step their responsibility of course).

 

mwc

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Not to start a fight (since I don't want you to assume I'm saying you're abusing these "rights") but there is a fine line between assertive and douche bag. These same items can be used to run roughshod over someone else and not bat an eye (the word "responsibility" can mean lots of things and lots of "assertive" people usually screw you over and pull the old "that's your problem" out of their ass to side-step their responsibility of course).

 

mwc

 

mwc: Not to stray too far afield, but my post seems to have touched a nerve. You will get no fight from me, as I understand you are not personally calling me a douche bag. I have no quarrel with you and my post was not directed toward you, it was meant for Sage in her particular situation. It may be helpful to her or not. She can take it or leave it as being worthless. All I am saying is it was helpful to me. Obviously I don't know you or anyone else here personally, just saying what helped me.

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WHAT? Y0u W0n'T TurN ON A FaN fOr ur motHer. You're a horiblw purson1!!!!!one!

 

/sarcasm

 

Seriously, sounds like the situation at your place is pretty cracked. Good luck training them not to walk over you!

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When one is fighting for one's identity then 'nice' is sometimes a luxury one doesn't have. Problem is, when one has won the battle, the dark side is both strong and seductive...

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