MW Blog

Is the Foundation to Helping Others Actually Selfishness?

Matt shares an insightful blog about his experiences with suicide bereavement, support from LSBS and the power in putting yourself first:

Not the name for a blog you might expect.. But if you are ‘giver’ and a ‘doer’ like me, then I want to discuss something that has saved me, and turned my life around.

My name is Matt and I am a life coach and fitness professional, who struggles with life, and fitness.

I spend my time looking after others, I love it! But I struggle when trying to let others look after me. I keep things in, not to conform to any traditional ideas on masculinity, but because I know eventually I will work it out. The thing I have realised about this method is, 9 times out of 10 you will be fine and work it out without bothering anyone else.

What about that 1 time? Or the 20th when you crash and burn, brain fog and fatigue set in. Suddenly all the things you loved seem insignificant, the shine they carried in your persona, you core has dulled. The colours you saw the world with suddenly muted.

When your sureties become ‘what if’s’ , your yes’s maybe’s and moments fleeting. What do you do?

Be selfish.. I did and it began to change my life.

I remember it well because the day everything came to a head, I was sat on my sofa. In fact I had been sat there for hours. I had planned to do lots of things that day, but spent more time on the sofa trying to decide which was a priority and giving myself a headache (we have all done that right?)) I had cancelled my work for the day, I was tired and fed up.

I suddenly heard my phone go, I had a text message. That’s right, no whatsapp or messenger, a TEXT. I don’t know about you but in the world we are in now I see these and presume it’s a sales call or text from Dominos tempted you to the depths of carbs hell.

It was from my GP surgery.. informing me of a new referral service for support for mental health.

Now having never been clinically diagnosed with anything mental health related (doesn’t mean there isn’t anything there!) my initial reaction may well have been ‘I’m ok thanks’. On another day that is. This time was different. Doing the same things again and again and expecting a different result was daft. I had to take action.

So I sent my auto reply and wondered what would come next. Interestingly I had been advised by my friend and coach at the time that it could be quite powerful to look back into some parts of my past, ones I thought had truly been boxed and shelved.

You see my Dad passed away in 2000. He had moved away from myself mum and sister a year before, and at the age of 37 he had taken his own life. Now this is 21 years ago, I thought that I had processed everything I needed to.

This is where my referral to the Leeds Suicide Bereavement Service (LSBS) came in. To explore not only my Dad, my feelings towards everything that happened but also how it had lead to who and where I am today.

Before the first call? I was nervous as hell.. but the human body is very clever. With nerves comes a challenge, they are a fantastic way to tell if you have something life changing coming up. I’m open about the events that have happened, so what would I have to say or talk about?

Well Sophie helped with this, you see speaking to someone that had experienced something of the same nature was incredible and soon led me to realise a few things.

My relationship with my mum changed in my teen years, became abrasive and toxic over the years after my dad’s death to a point where we don’t talk now.

With my dad absent from the age of 14, I have realised that I became more and more independent, unable to ask for his advice on matters especially when me and my mum were at a disagreement. Even though my mum gave me a little brother with my step dad it wasn’t the same. I grew apart from my family, wanting to play on the Xbox or do things that I wanted to do. I would stay up late and then roll into college, but I would keep it a secret. In work life I have jumped across from job to job, usually inspired to start my own business every few years with a lust for making it alone.

My family didn’t get me, why I shied away from security and constantly pointed myself towards the things that made me feel good. In fact I was often called selfish.

When we think about selfishness and the term itself, It’s that one that your parents usually described you as if you returned from the kitchen with a drink and didn’t ask anybody else. How about when you decide to go to your room and play your favourite game and chat with friends rather than sit with everyone and watch Emmerdale..

You see these are very small and common occurrences and I’m sure there are many more that you can think of.

The Oxford definition of the Adjective Selfish is:

A person, action or motive lacking consideration for other people, concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

In our world today, that has negative connotations. Think of the last time you described someone as selfish, it’s a bad thing right? Every time my mum or anyone else said it, I felt a resistance, it hurt but I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. The question is how do you translate that in your family home, a home built on traditions, expectations taken from the generation before and parental upbringing.

It’s a cycle. One that wont change even if it needs to. Unless you make it.

I believe by reframing we can transform this negativity into something powerful and life changing.

A great way to reframe is to look objectively, take yourself away from the emotion and look in a logical way.

So you have turned down watching TV with the family to be in your room talking to friends. That was your choice.

It’s not beyond belief that to some that would be a selfish move, as the only one that benefits is you, right?

Who’s opinion is that? Not yours but someone else’s. You want to be there!

The nature of another’s opinions is that they are not your problem, you have no responsibility to take that on board.

You have made a decision to prioritise one activity that will be of benefit to you, it will make your day or life better.

It sounds completely rational when you put it like that. But in others minds, with half the story that’s selfish, a clear disparity in the use of the word and one that can create serious levels of emotion.

You see, I have come to realise that life is a series of moments.

Moments To come à Present Moment à Moments Passed

To make the most of the Present moment is to be the strongest and the best version of yourself.

So if that means doing what you want when you want then do it! That means you are truly being you!

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t still give… it just means that you will naturally give to others, show that love and compassion when it is at its purest and most powerful.

This is the foundation of how I try to live now. I remind myself of this when I feel ‘the fog’

The irony in this is that you can see it, understand it and still struggle to work with it. Its ingrained within our society to prioritise looking after and treating others well.

But less so ourselves..

If you are still reading now, thank you! This has been a fun and challenging experience for me to put down something I could talk for hours on, and something that I will be working on myself for the rest of my life.

My mum is an absolute giver, she does everything for everyone. She is a nurse, she raised me and my sister as a single mum, put herself through University too, all while living with Kidney Failure, what a legend.

But one thing I know that she falls short on is looking after herself as much as she should. This burnout and mental torment has I believe lead to a breakdown in our relationship, because she wasn’t allowed to be the real her, the mum I had prior to my dad passing.

My Dad, also did everything for everyone, but fatally kept a lot to himself and had struggles no one knew about until it was too late.

I thought for a long time that I was to suffer the same fate. Then realised that my genetics only forms my physicality, not my being.

My decisions now decide what my present moment and my future moments look like.

So..

‘Is the foundation to helping others actually found in selfishness?’

Once we understand that:

  • Selfishness isn’t all we have been led to believe
  • Selflessness without prioritising you isn’t good for everyone

We then see that to truly be able to put others first, you have to put yourself first sometimes.