About a year ago, I volunteered as a chaperone at a church retreat that my younger daughter attended. I vividly recall a discussion that the organizers facilitated, which started with this question being posed to the kids: “Who are the people with whom you are in relationships?”
As answers were thrown out, another retreat volunteer recorded them on a giant-sized sticky pad sheet that she had taped to the wall. The list was long. All the usual suspects were on it – parents, siblings, friends, God, cousins, teachers, coaches, classmates, teammates, grand-parents, etc.
I noticed right away that there was one response missing. I waited, hopeful that one of the retreat counselors would call out the significant omission.
I thought, “Unreal.” It was literally un-REAL.
The completed list was the perfect segue into an in-depth discussion about the meaning and importance of key life relationships, and how the way in which we treat others impacts the way we interact with our Source. While I could absolutely see how talking about human relationships and their relevance to spirituality was a productive topic with tremendous value, I couldn’t help thinking that the conversation was missing a key component.
It never dawned on a single soul in that room that one answer to that first question could have been (in fact, should have been), “me.”
A REAL Relationship with Self
The relationship you have with your SELF is the most REAL and important relationship you will ever have in your life. Circumstances will constantly shift and evolve throughout your journey, and people will walk onto and off of your path over the course of time, but you will always be experiencing life with you.
If you don’t know or don’t feel comfortable with you, then it is going to be fairly challenging to get to know and feel comfortable with other people. If you don’t develop a healthy and loving relationship with yourself, logic would indicate that you will have a pretty challenging time cultivating and maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with anyone else (including God, if he happens to be on your list).
Healthy Selfishness is REAL
Forming a positive and close relationship with yourself is crucial to creating a REAL life, and it is accomplished in the same way you build a good relationship with others. It takes focus, care, and time. It takes REAL work.
If you want to get to know yourself in a REAL way, you must direct a decent dose of your creative energy and attention towards yourself. In other words, you need to get REAL comfortable being selfish.
Perfecting the art of selfishness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the world.
Yup, you read that right.
Practicing healthy selfishness is a positive thing. It is something to be encouraged and applauded.
REAL Reveal: The journey to REAL happiness and REAL peace is riddled with counterintuitive concepts and paradoxes like this. Just as the flow of smooth water will wear away a hard and jagged rock, and just as a show of vulnerability is a powerful demonstration of strength, so it is that being selfish is an act of generosity.
I would be willing to bet that a lot of people will get their panties in a twist when they catch wind that I am promoting selfishness. I envision minds blowing and heads popping off of necks everywhere. Getting REAL about life tends to have that effect.
The REAL Deal on Selfishness
Selfishness is not all about spa treatments and Bon Bons.
The art of being selfish is not entirely about self-indulgence and pleasure (although we should unapologetically integrate a bit of both into our lives). Selfishness doesn’t always feel comfortable. It isn’t always fun.
Being REALly selfish involves giving yourself the kind of total and complete attention that leads to the illumination of the good stuff, but it also means shedding light on the perceived “bad and ugly” stuff.
It sounds enticing to shine a radiant spotlight on yourself and make you the center of your world, right up until that first moment when your blemishes and imperfections are revealed by that often unforgiving view.
We all know that when we stream light into a dark room, shadows inevitably form. As uncomfortable as it can be, it is important to look at, sit with, and learn to love and appreciate the stuff lurking in those shadows. Full-fledged awareness and self-love require the recognition and acknowledgement of all aspects of yourself.
Selfishness is not the absence of REAL service.
Promoting selfishness is not about wanting to cultivate a population of spoiled brats, and it is in no way meant to minimize the importance of loving and serving others.
People should absolutely help and uplift one another. Paying it forward and showing love to fellow human beings enables us to magnify, cultivate, and channel our collective energy and power in amazing ways.
You can’t, however, share what you do not have. You can’t offer to someone else what you don’t know how to offer to yourself. You must start with fanning your own energy flame before you can stoke someone else’s fire.
Selfishness can have a REAL paradoxical ripple effect.
It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of us who don’t understand how to connect with and care for ourselves in REAL ways. Either we weren’t taught how, or we don’t possess the awareness that we should, or we don’t have the sense of worthiness to motivate us.
People can’t be expected to teach, foster, and promote something that they themselves weren’t educated on, have no awareness of, or lack the self-esteem needed to inspire action around. How can we expect people to lift others up when they themselves are still lying in the dirt?
The REAL solutions for the conundrums we face are the ones we find when we scratch beneath the surface and challenge our age-old, black-and-white thought patterns. Paradoxical and innovative approaches are a must, and we need not look any further than our own hearts and intuition to uncover them.
Perhaps we can better spread charity and generosity in our world by cultivating those very elements within ourselves. Healthy selfishness could be the radical, gray-zone answer we are searching for.
Make the World REAL from the Inside Out
Invest the time to enhance your relationship with yourself, and give yourself the gifts of adventure and peace. Make it your intention to love yourself in more REAL ways, and take yourself into new and exciting territory.
Try new things and discover hidden passions and interests. Create time to take stock of what is good and going well in your life, and pause to recognize how far you have come.
Learn from the lessons that lie in your shadows, and use that wisdom to transform your experience.
Give yourself the time and space to fall in love with all parts of the person in the mirror, maybe for the first time. Fall in love with life as the REAL love and respect you begin to show yourself spills over into your relationships with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and the universe.
Allow yourself the chance to tap into the REAL and true love that has filled you up since birth. Once you recognize and learn to channel that love towards yourself, you will not be able to hold back from sharing it in REAL ways.
A happy human makes a happy world.
And that, my friends, is the REAL tea.