My internal voices (including The Critic) have been putting their opinions in for my consideration regarding my pilgrimage in Europe this summer; I’ve been hearing “You’re so selfish” most recently as an argument for cancelling the whole idea.
I know from years of practicing Inner Tribe ™ work (a psycho-shamanic healing technique I developed in 2007, based in a mother’s love, and which I introduce to the general public in my book I Am Her Daughter) that we are made of many tribe members, parts of self that are vocal in our daily lives; sub-personalities are a reality for all of us, a necessity in a world that does not approve of us holistically and wholly. These parts of self function as an inner government, reminding us what we must do to fit in or please others or gain approval or be loved. It goes back to our childhoods, of course.
I know that these parts need acknowledgment; when they feel heard, they will feather back into the crowd inside and quiet down, usually.
However, if you are getting ready to do something REALLY CRAZY, like walking-1300-miles-alone-in-countries-you’ve-never-set-foot-in-nor-learned-to-speak-the-native-languages-at-age-50-after-23-years-of-raising-your-children, the parts get VERY LOUD in an attempt to keep you safe. “This is highly irregular.” “You’re too old/out of shape/scared/weak.” “You’re nuts.” And the worst: “You are being selfish.”
Nobody appreciates being called selfish, especially someone who has devoted her life to being of service. I don’t like the word, myself. It carries sinister meaning for a girl who grew up in the south. But, in the spirit of curiosity and willingness to learn, I looked it up. I was unhappy with what I found:
Selfish (according to the Miriam Webster Dictionary) – arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others <a selfish act>. The word is said to have originated from the Presbyterians in 1630.
I like my definition of selfish better: Self-ish – Having regard for oneself. Aware of the need to take care of oneself. Ability to say no when the fuel gauge of self is on empty.
We are acculturated as women to be of service. As I wrote in my 2012 blog post, Self Reference and Self-Reverence, “We have internalized this message to give so deeply that we will even give more of ourselves as a way to make ourselves feel better.”
I’ve been fulfilling what I think I should be doing, like a dutiful daughter of the culture. My years as public servant include public school teacher, trainer for the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the state of Arizona, family services project manager for non-profits in NC, private practice since 2001, and the underpinning service of being mom to my glorious children. I’m plumb tuckered out.
Is a tree selfish for putting its roots deeper into the ground in order to tap into water? Is a baby selfish for asking to be picked up when it is scared of a barking dog? Is a woman selfish when she leaves her regular life for two months to let go of her old ideas of herself as public servant? She needs to learn who she is again, so in my definition, she is being selfish in that she has regard for her life, has an eye to her own preservation and integrity. She is interested in meeting life as her deeper self, and there she can fill her cup so that she is available to fill others’.
Hear a little more about my pilgrimage here.