Written by Telana Simpson

“I’m so tired – I never seem to have time for myself…”

“Where is your time going then?”

“I spend a lot of time helping other people. They keep asking me to help them or to do things for them, or do what they want to do, and I find it difficult to say ‘No’ ”

“What about saying ‘No’ is so difficult for you?”

“I’m concerned about what they will think about me if I say ‘No’ or ask to do something I need to do.”

“And what do you believe they will think about you if you say ‘No’ or ask for what you need?”

“They’ll think I’m selfish and don’t care about them…”


Often a fear of appearing selfish to others causes us to give so much of ourselves that we end up not being in a position to give any more, having depleted all our energy, time and resources. This can often result in us resenting the very people who we care about, and snapping at them under the stress we feel of our every growing “To do” lists.

And it often comes down to the way we perceive one word: selfish.

Selfish vs. Self-full

Being selfish can be changed to being self-fullI’ve thought a lot about this word and with exploring some interesting and useful perspectives, I find myself stepping into a mentoring role to share a different perspective on this one word. And this perspective tends to flip things upside down and inside out for some people.

Selfish. A quality that is traditionally seen to be negative. If you are seen as selfish it means you don’t care about others, you are egotistical, arrogant and think the world revolves around you.

Yet we’re often aware (even if it is on an unconscious level) that if we focus solely on others and neglect ourselves we end up no good to anyone, and especially to ourselves.

And this is so engrained in our society, that when we fly to a destination, the airlines actually need to remind us that in a case of emergency, we need to focus on putting on our own mask first, before we help the people next to us.

What if we added a dash to the word and read it as self-ish? Self ish. That is, being focused on our self so that we can become full of self, as in self-full (rather than selfish)?

Overflowing Cup

If we use the analogy of ourselves as a cup, and the energy, love and attention we have for ourselves and others as water, then when our cup is empty and others are asking for some of our water, we are not able to help and feel resentful. Or we tend to give expecting and needing the other person to give back, rather than being able to give freely with no other intention other than to just give for the joy of giving and helping another.

What if we focused on ourselves, and we are self – ish, so that we can do what we need to do in order that our cup gets full, and then eventually over flows. We are then able to share our over-flow with others freely, without resentment or a need for them to give in return. In other words, we are able to give with no expectations.

Self – ish

What if we gave ourselves permission to be self-ish so that we can become self-full and from that space offer our help to others?

Would it be easier to say ‘No’ respectfully to others when we need to? So that we can say ‘Yes’ when we are able to without resentment and stress?

I think the key is to remember that this quality lies on a continuum. When we think of selfish being a black or white quality, we tend to see every ‘No’ as being the black side of selfish.

A far more useful approach is to think of it as a continuum with many shades of grey between the extreme black of narcissism, arrogance and being egotistical, and the extreme white of being a doormat, opening us to be used and abused.

Having the flexibility and permission to say ‘No’ when needed gives us far more choice in how to respond, and hence changes our experience of relating to others.

So I challenge you use the dash to become self-ish, to see the continuum of greys on this quality, and become an overflowing cup.

The world needs more people who are strong and centred within their selves, self-ish individuals who are self-full, who are then capable of giving to others in a way that helps them full themselves too.

To you being self-ish,

About the Author:

Telana Confidence Trainer | Inner Coaching | imageTelana is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach and Blogger who specializes in communicating and relating.  She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions.  She offers coaching and training programmes to help individuals develop their ability to express themselves and their potentials and improve their relationships, and is a host of an online TV show.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net