You Don’t Have to “Change the World”

Wednesday, Oct. 12th 2011 6:58 PM

Despite the negative way in which most people use it, “selfish” is not a bad word. To be self-centered and to put your own feelings and needs ahead of others doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re honest (even if most of us don’t like to admit it).

A few months ago, I clipped an article about folk singer/songwriter, Todd Snider. I had never heard his music, but as I read, I found myself liking him. His perspective isn’t what you’d expect from a performer in such a touchy-feely genre of music, but it’s very “Frank Love.” Here’s my favorite part:

I don’t think there are important statements, and I feel sorry for people who do. Most singers are ashamed of how narcissistic and attention-seeking we are, and so they try to make it all sound or seem like some bigger, more important concern. Which it isn’t. You’re doing this for the world? I call [expletive]. Just yesterday, behind the theater in Iowa, some folk singer cornered me about how so few people these days are trying to change the world with music and how people like me and him have to work and fight to get our social commentary heard for the better of the world. I said, “We do? Why? I’m here for the cheering. If somebody learns from what I do, or changes, that would be their own fault.”

This quote is so beautifully honest that I still smile when I read it. It gets to the heart of my first step to being a Powerful Person in a Partnership: “To thine own self be true.”

Doing things for others really does sound great, and to be perfectly honest, it feels great, but only when we get satisfaction from those things as well. Sure, that satisfaction might be derived solely from gaining another person’s gratitude and respect or from the good feeling that you get when you help. But no matter how you cut it, you get something out of everything you choose to do. While many of us have a hard time being honest with ourselves about our selfishness and want to believe that we do the things we do simply to help others or to save the world, Snider is masterfully upfront about his motivation. He’s there for the cheering, and if his song changes people’s hearts or even the world, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

This principle can easily be applied to relationships. A happy relationship is one that ensues when two people enjoy doing their own thing and happen to enjoy doing it together. What could be more pleasant than to be who you are and do what makes you happy, while also having the love, support and companionship of someone you enjoy. The beauty is also in knowing that this person doesn’t have to be there – that he/she chooses each day to remain in a relationship with you for his/her own selfish reasons. Talk about bliss.

Embracing your selfishness doesn’t mean that you don’t care about other people. Of course, your partner’s feelings and wishes matter, just not as much as yours. And sometimes you may have to strike a balance between doing what you want and keeping your partner happy. But you’re still getting something out of it – like proving that you’re willing to compromise so this person will want to stay with you. So, if you go to a movie you really don’t want to see, or visit her parents for Christmas when you want to go skiing instead, or even move to another state for his job, you’re still being selfish in some way. And that’s not a bad thing.

Get rid of your justifications. You don’t need them. It’s OK to be motivated to do your job because you get personal satisfaction from it, or because you need the money – without being so concerned with how much your work is benefitting or changing others. And it’s certainly OK to be with a romantic partner simply because you enjoy your interaction with that person. When you stop being satisfied with your job or with your mate, it’s also OK to leave. No justifications are needed there either.

Come to terms with your own selfishness. Relax and do what it takes to make you happy; otherwise, you won’t make anyone else happy in the long term. And don’t worry – everyone is doing it (even if they’re not talking about it).

Keep Rising,

Frank Love
www.franklove.com

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Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

8 Comments on “You Don’t Have to “Change the World””

  1. Kali Says:

    Another great blog! A teacher once shared(paraphrasing)that she teaches because she loves it. The fact that the students benefit is the icing.

  2. Massander Says:

    I appreciate that you have challenged me to go to a deeper level of acceptance around the idea of “selfishness”. This has helped me let go of some shit and has also given me another way to think about my interactions with people whether socially or in business.

  3. Razi Says:

    Now you are talking, I agree with this one. The slogan of changing the world is just projection and nothing more

  4. Linda Says:

    Oh, Frank, I am thrilled, couldn’t agree more …you have just given people permission to be happy, be in their joy…..the highest frequency in the Universe is joy!!!! When we are in our joy it sends that energy out to others which gives them permission to be in their joy….and so it goes!!! If everyone on the planet was in their joy…..just imagine what could be accomplished, one joyful soul at a time and we change the world!!! Well done, my friend!!!

  5. THOMAS AW Says:

    Sure, just know how to NOT to react to outside stimuli, with the slightest whisper.

    Be yourself with compassion thoughts.

  6. Rollercoasterider Says:

    I agree with what you are saying. But I explain selfishness and self-centered a bit differently.

    Self-Centered is to be centered (and thus grounded) in Self. When you are centered in Self you look out toward the world–and since my eyes are stuck to my body that’s also a pretty literal perspective. From my visual perspective things do revolve around me. By facing the world I’m being attentive to the world–it’s not navel-gazing.

    Self-ish, on the other hand is more like a doppelganger of Self. If we say something is purplish we are often saying that it is either a little bit purple or imitating purple, but not all purple or the real thing. Selfish is when a persons behaviours are done at the expense of others.

    Now those are just how I defined it in order to separate two different behaviors, one positive and one negative.

    I run a forum that is a support group. Years ago before starting my own forum I was posting on another forum and someone told me I was selfish (his meaning was negative) and narcissistic because I said part of why I posted advice was because helping others helped me feel good too. I was pretty shocked, but he had a personal vendetta, so I didn’t take his words too seriously.

    The people on my forum are great, and they love me. And that feels so good. I run the forum because I want to help, but without their accolades I would not know I was helping and I would not feel so satisfied myself. I do it for them, I do it for myself, I do it to promote my career… it’s all good.

  7. Haki Says:

    Though I understand what you are saying, I have to respectfully disagree. Rollercoasterider who commented above said it best, “Selfish is when a person’s behaviors are done at the expense of others” I think selfish has a very negative connotation and has no real place in a relationship. I think people want to maintain their individuality when they come together and that’s fine but a marriage, or even a boyfriend/girlfriend union ( no diss to my LGBT folks out their) I’m trying to say all romantic unions involves some letting go of things that are “selfishly you” for the sake of the relationship. And you may say that is selfish because ultimately you are benefiting yourself by letting them go but I think its more then that. Your selfish theory as described above, reduces all unions to a somewhat parasitic relationship, each side doing what they want solely for their own benefit without any real care about the other person and when they are no longer useful they can move on and replace that person with another. Call me a hopeful romantic but no matter how much I can’t stand her when we are angry with each other (like right now) I don’t think anyone could ever replace my wife and that’s what makes me believe that I’m with her for more than just selfish reasons….. Have you ever seen a spouse at a funeral, looking like a part of them was just amputated? Or have you ever felt that moment in a fight with a romantic partner when you think this is it, we may break up over this and you feel the loss come over you. If you are truly in love with that person, you don’t think about loosing the big screen TV that you got together, you feel something very spiritual, like a part of you is about to leave your body…. I heard someone say once that “if you spend every waking moment taking care of me and I spend every waking moment taking care of you, then we will be taken care of.” I like to think in those terms about my relationship not in terms of “selfishness.” I think what you fail to realize is that some of us are truly not built that way, like the guy from the article that told the singer he needed to get the music out there “for the better of the world,” some people are really in it for that and not for anything else.

  8. Khari Says:

    Yesterday, a past blog of yours was flashing through my mind like lightning clearing away a bunch of shit. I believe it was titled “You Don’t Have To Save The World”. I’ve generally been a bit too busy to have enough space for clarity and a chance to process many things that I may find quite profound. Lately, however, I’ve been taking enough time to enjoy nature and the many things that it may have to communicate to me. All of a sudden, your blog title was like PLADOW!!! in my mind and its meaning transformed me. I just want to say thanks! Keep doing what you are doing. People watch, listen and read even when you don’t know they are. I’m sure that when they are ready, your messages will have such an affect on many others.

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