Selfish: Meeting your needs at the expense of another’s ability to meet their needs.
Selfless: Meeting another’s needs at the expense of your own needs
and then there is Self Accepting.
Self acceptance means different things to different people but it’s primarily seen as awareness and acceptance of your strengths, weaknesses and behaviours. Dr Glasser never really addressed self-acceptance. If he had it would probably have gone something like this: Accepting your needs and the behaviours you choose to meet those needs, as being the best you can do with the information and abilities you have.
Jeff Developed a Slightly Different use of the Term – Self Accepting
This was to support clients who were having difficulty understanding where the boundaries between selfishness and selflessness might be. Often they were choosing selflessness and did not want to change their behaviour for fear they would become selfish. Jeff introduced the concept of self-accepting as a way of operating that is neither selfish or selfless, and is sustainable.
I’ve taken the work Jeff did on this straight from our Choice Practice Institute site because it explains the concept better than I could.
Over to Jeff…
A Selfish person cares too much about their own needs and not enough about the needs of the other, this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care at all, just that they put their needs first at the expense of the other. They expect others will cooperate in meeting their needs and demand that they do so. As they demand more and more they tend to value what they get, less and less. They may become resentful and angry when they believe their needs are not being met, and usually become even more demanding. They often end up with selfless people in their lives, because they wont accept those who insist on their needs being met too!
A Selfless person cares too much for the needs of the other and not enough about their own needs, this doesn’t mean they don’t care about their own needs at all, just that they prioritise the needs of the other above their own on most occasions. They hope that others will meet their needs and wait for them to do so. They wait…. and they wait,…. then become unhappy and maybe resentful or angry when their needs are not met over time. If they resort to doing something selfish to try to meet their needs, they will usually feel guilty and often try to make up for their selfish behaviour. They often end up with selfish people in their lives , because by giving too much, others begin to accept that they don’t have needs of their own and give up trying to be fair to them.
The Self Accepting person cares equally about their own needs and the needs of the other. They accept responsibility for meeting their own needs and leave the responsibility for others needs with them. They know that if they are unhappy, it is their job to identify which needs are not being met and make changes to better meet them.
They also know if others are unhappy it is up to those others to take responsibility for meeting their own needs and change what they are doing. They co-operate with the other in creating an environment where both parties needs can be met fairly, but not at the expense of their own needs or the needs of the other.
Self accepting people will usually have other self accepting people in their lives, because they always insist on fairness in meeting their own needs and the needs of others, those who continue to be selfish or selfless will find that behaviour is not working with a self accepting person. (ref: Jeff Steedman)
But What about the Kids?
Parents can find navigating this course especially difficult. They may be able to apply the concept to their friends and adult family members but see themselves responsible for meeting the needs of their children.
Obviously when children are very young this is true, especially in terms of physical needs. As children grow however, using this concept is an excellent way of making sure everyone in a family is able to meet their needs effectively. Being a selfless parent is not going to produce a child that is resilient and capable of meeting their own needs as an adult.
This is a big topic, far bigger than I could ever hope to cover in a blog post. We are in the process of creating a new course called Be Your Best Self With Choice Theory. I have already started an email list of interested people who will have an opportunity to input ideas about what is covered in the course and receive pre-launch information. If you would like to be part of that group leave your details here.
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