I asked my manager and my editor to answer the question, "What is being kind to yourself -- and how is that different from selfishness?" Here are their answers, along with my own. Tell me, which viewpoint do you most relate to?
Bobbie: To many, being kind to oneself implies taking care of one's physical being, such as eating healthy fruits and leafy greens, getting plenty of exercise, getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. To others it seems important to find mental balance, like being one in a peaceful and quiet, blissful joy and clear their minds of judgment and expectation.
It seems apparent to me that being kind to oneself certainly has selfishness involved. The idea of being kind to yourself, or others is surely seeking some sort of payoff! For instance, when we exercise we cannot discount the fact that we are trying to hold on to our attractiveness, and we desperately want to look splendid in our clothing. This shows how we want approval not only from ourselves but also everyone who observes us.
My conclusion is every action has a selfish motive. We find comfort in justifying selfish acts all in the name of taking care of ourselves. The truth lies in the fact that all choices we make usually have our own personal gain in mind. So, by all means... be your own best friend. You are the one who will be there for you in the long haul.
Tomoko: Kindness to myself is about acknowledging my limitations. For example, I have a great need for 8 hours of sleep. I am also quite a private person, and I like a lot of quiet and personal space, etc. When I respect those needs in myself, I am better able to respect others' needs for the same.
If I have not been kind to myself in making sure I get enough sleep, I don't want to be nice to others because I feel that I'm having a rough go at it so others should suck it up too. Also, when I don't get enough sleep I become a huge grump! So being kind to myself involves me being aware of what recharges me and what drains me.
Whereas, selfishness to me is when you want or demand more than you need in any given area to the hurt of someone else.
Gabriella: I don't think in all my upbringing that I was ever taught how to be kind to oneself. However it was clearly explained what selfishness is. I was taught that for women, being selfish was a bad way to behave, as women do everything in the household and they are mothers, too. So that was the picture I grew up with.
It was only around the age of 40 that I came to understand that if I don't take care of me, then I can't give to others. Having said that, if you are a parent, it's very difficult to raise a child without being selfless because the child should always come first.
However, both scenario 1 and 2 are things that I am learning today.
For me, with scenario 1, I never thought that there was an underlying selfishness to kindness. And with scenario 2, this is something I must learn to do due to my career.
I need to fill my vessel with whatever my body and my spirit needs so that I can help others and be a force for kindness.