A few years ago my Mom and I had a yelling match over the phone. Well, truth be told, I did all the yelling. In a conversation with one of my daughters, my Mom mentioned her thoughts that I was selfish.
This disturbed my daughter and she confided this to me, which upset me quite a lot. I called my Mom and let her have it. First, don’t have these conversations with my children, and Second, if you have a problem with me, bring it to me.
Since that very one-sided phone call, my Mom and I have patched things up. And I have realized a few things since then that are humbling.
Everyone is on the Self-Spectrum!
What is the Self-Spectrum? It’s a way of saying that we are all on our very own plane of existence, that just happens to cross with other people’s planes of existence.
This plane is our reality, and one that we only see through our own eyes. Even when we understand someone else’s point of view, it has to be synthesized through our own filters.
It is true that some people are more selfish than others, and it’s also true that we all have selfish tendencies that present from time to time. I am not immune to this.
From Selfish to Self-Absorbed
Maybe my Mom was right in some respects. And certainly she is entitled to her opinion, her point of view. But since the Big Yell, I have tried to let her know, from my own point of view why my behavior might have seemed the way it did to her.
Just recently, my husband and I were watching the movie Radioactive about Madame Marie Curie and her amazing scientific accomplishments. In one scene she confesses to being selfish in the pursuit of her work, and her husband Pierre consoles her by saying that No, she was simply self-absorbed.
I took great comfort in that scene as it seemed to make more sense to me, considering this issue with my Mom. While many definitions can make self-absorption the same as selfish, the way “self-absorbed” was portrayed in this scene was a move up the Self-Spectrum. It is the pursuit of a personal quest that can dominate all the energy and attention that perhaps other people are hoping to get a part of. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I can definitely admit to being self-absorbed while I am more reticent to accept the selfish label, the one that says I have little to no regard for others. I felt very lost for the first four decades of my life, and in an internal and cosmic struggle and search for meaning. I was trying so hard to be the “good girl” I was supposed to be, and follow ALL the rules, and it was a slow dying inside.
From Self-Absorbed to Self-Honoring
In the last few years, however, I have moved up the spectrum a little bit more as I have found my purpose, my own voice, and an outlet for expression in the service of others. Honestly, I have always wanted to help others, and be less self-focused, but I simply didn’t quite know how. I had been consumed by the search.
Now, I am in a place where I honor myself. It is often a place of paradox where giving isn’t better than receiving but simply just as important, where living from my own center and not someone else’s idea of my center benefits those around me, where honesty and vulnerability are strengths and not weaknesses.
It is on this side of the Self-Spectrum where we exercise more awareness of our own plane of existence and how it interacts with the planes of others. It is from here that we recognize the ineffable connection with everyone else. This is where Self-Care is the most holistic and honors both Self and the Whole.