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What About Me?
by Serge Kahili King

"What about me?" is a common cry among people who feel that they have given too much of themselves to others and have neglected their own heppiness or development. Sadly enough, this cry, however heartfelt it may be, is based upon some serious misconceptions about the relationship between Self and Other.

Let's begin with the fact that a large number of people in many different cultures have been brought up to believe that the welfare of other people is far more important than their own. The usual result of this is that such people spend a large portion of their lives - and some spend all of it - suppressing their own emotional needs and desires while trying their best to ensure that the needs and desires of others are fully satisfied. The inevitable result of this is a great deal of psychological, emotional, and even physical pain.

One reason for this is that suppressing one's fundamental emotional needs and desires always leads to psychological, emotional, and physical disharmony of some kind or another, depending on the degree of suppression. This is because emotions are forms of energetic movement whose nature is to be expressed in thoughts, feelings, and actions. Suppressing this movement causes tension, and unrelieved tension causes disharmony. The fundamental emotional needs and desires - to feel connected and to feel effective - are energetically creative when they have an outlet, and energetically destructive when they do not.

A second reason for the pain is that one can never fully satisfy the needs and desires of others, no matter how hard one tries, because needs and desires are subjective, not objective. This means that no matter how much you do for other people, or how well you do it, they always have the option to decide that what you've done is not enough. This increases your feelings of disconnection and ineffectiveness and increases the pain or discomfort of your own suppression.

A third reason is simply that the whole concept of putting the welfare of others above one's own is based on an assumption that there has to be a choice between you and them, between total selfishness and total selflessness. I wonder who made up that stupid rule. I say "stupid" because either way the result is disharmony.

Total selfishness leads to feelings of isolation and despair, and total selflessness leads to feelings of isolation and despair. It's a lose-lose proposition. Even when the choices are less than total, for some people these pathways have a tendency to produce increasing cold-heartedness and inhumane behavior on one end, and increasing resentment and violent behavior on the other.

Remove that one assumption and it's amazing how things can change. It's entirely possible to take care of yourself and take care of others if you want to. You can be happy and share happiness, be rich and share the wealth, empower yourself and empower others. Amazingly, you can even discover - if you remove the above assumption - that sharing happiness increases yours, sharing wealth increases yours, and empowering others empowers you.

There is another side to the problem, however, and that is when the need for connection and effectiveness so great that one is always looking for signs that others don't care enough. It could be a friend who doesn't write or call often enough or when you want them to; people who don't appreciate what you do for them in the way you want to be appreciated; strangers who don't pay attention to you when you want to be noticed; and many other forms of behavior that seem to demonstrate that other people don't care enough about you no matter what you do. Some people with this problem get depressed, and some get angry enough to make themselves sick.

The real problem here is that a person with this kind of need doesn't care enough about himself or herself. This lack of self appreciation can become so great the responsibility for appreciation is thrust onto others, usually with strict rules about how they should behave so that the lack of appreciation can be monitored and quantified, thus justifying the rules. Besides the physical, emotional, and mental stress this can cause, the demand that other people behave correctly has the effect of making them want to avoid you, rather than get closer. Trying to solve the "What about me?" crisis by this method is like trying to attract flies with vinegar instead of honey. The solution, when you are ready to take responsibility for your own experience of course, is to start practicing unconditional love for yourself as far as you are able. That means starting with 10% if you can and increasing from there, with no need to ever reach a hundred. And reducing your rules for others by 10% as well.

There are still choices to make, of course. You'll have to decide when and where and how you will express your own needs and desires, and you may have to decide when and where and how to help others fulfill theirs. Finding a harmonious flow between taking responsibility for your needs and desires while NOT taking responsibility for the needs and desires of others and still being willing to help them, may prove to be a challenge. But a challenge is not a duty, being good to yourself does not require guilt, and doing good for others without expectations on either side can become a source of joy.

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