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Are We Being Selfish When We Self-Preserve?

BY Julie Gange, MSW, LCSW, M.Ed.

Self-preservation is a very precious word in my vocabulary, and I don’t use it lightly. We all need to experience what it is and how to do it.

Self-preservation is not the act of being selfish at all; in fact, it is all about being selfless with ourselves and others. Taking care of ourselves seems to be one of our most difficult challenges.

We should all learn to like ourselves in a nurturing, protective way. Setting limits and boundaries with kindness is the essence of self-preservation. Learning how to do this takes practice and time. As with all changes, self-preservation is a process.

When we face an illness, acute or chronic, the experience will trigger a variety of emotional responses. Do we continue to please others or do we take care of ourselves? There is a balancing act to self-preservation.

Part of this balance is learning to say no. Sometimes when asked to do something, be part of something, or go somewhere, the natural response for many is to say “yes” or “no” immediately. That’s what I call being “all or nothing.”

For many years, I have tried to be “in the grey.” Not the “blah” color grey, but to remain in the middle of a yes or no. How do we do this?

Giving ourselves time to answer a request is a key to success. Time gives us the opportunity to self-preserve. Once we make our decision, which may not be in the best interest of others, and our answer is no- we must say no.

A “no” can be stated in a respectful, dignified way. Self-preserving in this way empowers us to feel in control of our own lives. We are giving the respect and permission to take care of whom? Ourselves.

Another way to self-preserve is to accept help from others, especially in a time of change. So many of us are adjusting to physiological, medical and emotional issues. During such adjustments, so many think either, “I can do this all on my own” or, “I need everyone to help me.”

Again, I bring myself to the color grey- or staying somewhere in the middle of the continuum. Accepting help is not a sign of defeat or weakness, in fact, it is the opposite. It shows both ourselves and others the extent of our strength and courage.

6 Thoughts on “Are We Being Selfish When We Self-Preserve?”

  1. Hi Julie: Very well-thought-out article. I agree that it’s not weakness to ask for help.
    Thanks for sending it. Luv, Marilyn

  2. Risk is essential to gain. Preservation only maintains a status quo. Although, knowing the genuine generous nature of you, I can relate to what you wrote.

  3. Julie,

    Some very good ideas were expressed in your article and not knowing how I reached this geriatric age, I’m at, stuns me all the time. It seems that just a few years ago, I was playing tennis on a weekly basis, feeling so great, always thanking my Higher Power for helping to keep me well, active & optimistic. Then middle-age to old age hit me like a “ball out of the H-O-T place” & I was and still am amazed in the change that has taken place in just a few years & it’s NOT made me a “happy camper”, but, I’m still a fighter & do realize that ageless proverb, “No Man or Woman is an Island”. First of all, I never expected to live to this age due to my family history. My Father died at 55 years, my Mother died at 56 years & my daughter died at 35 years, Three out of four of my diseases are the same diseases that my Mother, Father & Daughter experienced in their short lifetimes. I, have been told by each of the doctors that treat each of my diseases that they may NOT be inherited; however, I tend to believe that we are what we are due to the previous generations; however, I would never want to change my parents, sibling or children ’cause all of them helped me develop into the woman I am today. I am fortunate that these diseases appeared in my later years, unlike my parents or child who developed her disease in childhood, my Father, in his late 30’s & my Mother in her middle 50’s. These diseases attacked them 50 years ago and more. There has been much accomplished in research the last 50 years but there still is NOT a cure for three of them & the 4th one, I have been fortunate enough to have survived almost 15 years after its onset & I was much older than they were when I was diagnosed with all four maladies. Let’s say, some people are fortunate enough to be diagnosed with a disease in its early stages & with the medicines administered & grants provided for research today, a person may be lucky enough to help to control their own destiny as opposed to the same diseases 50 years ago where there was no other option, but to await, the final outcome of your fate.
    I have learned by accepting that proverb that I ONLY thought about b/4, now with age & some wisdom, realize that the proverb depicts the situation that I’m faced with at this level. I do allow friends & family who offer to bring me some food at a party or a cup of coffee that I might spill if I carry it myself. The hand is NOT as steady as I was b/4 & my balance is NOT as perfect as it was b/4, but I will try to learn to accept the past, present & future as a gift that may be challenging, but to say that this gift is unattainable is like giving up Hope & Dreams that help me to accept the future with whatever “good” there is out there for me. My Family & Friends who Love me & the strangers who give me strength & courage to face a new tomorrow have & will continue to keep me on the straight & narrow path towards Peace, Love & Contentment. THANK YOU ALL FOR HELPLING ME FACE THE FUTURE.AS YOU CONTINUE TO SHOW ME HOW IT’S DONE.

    Love,

    Mom, Sister, Aunt, Great-Aunt, Cousin, & Friend,
    Deanne (Dee)
    Remember my Epitath
    “She tried hard & made good jello miolds”.

  4. This was ‘righ on time’ sage advice! Thank you – I’m printing this and hanging it by my desk!

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