by: Kimberly Bowman

The definition of selfish is: “concerned chiefly or only with oneself, without regard for the well-being of others.” Think about the last time you heard someone identified as selfish. Was the description accurate? Often times when we use this label we are actually talking about someone (usually a woman; the words we use to describe this same trait in men generally have a different flavor.) who is protective of their energy, time and sanity or they simply have a good handle on their capabilities.

Our limits are something that through the experiences of life we hopefully come to understand and learn to stay within. In doing this we protect ourselves from sure destruction. This phenomenon is called self-preservation. For many women this is difficult. There are many metaphors – if you only make withdrawals and not enough deposits, eventually the bank will be empty, learn to exercise your “no” muscle, a tree with enough chops at its trunk will someday fall, etc. etc.

When we try to please everyone one of two things will happen. You will either try to do it all, inevitably fail all the while punishing those you are trying to please for their lack of comprehension that you are there to make their lives more wonderful, or you will try to do it all, inevitably fail and end up in the fetal position in the back of your minivan amongst the groceries and the mulch. Both scenarios end with everyone neither helped nor pleased.

The metaphor about exercising your no muscle is a favorite. Like everyone else, we were probably quite adept at using this word when we were toddlers but along the way seemed to get the impression that we should instead be saying oh, of course, yes, absolutely, sure, I can be there, do that. Saying no is not about selfishness or being a charity miser. It is not about lack of manners or laziness. It is about guarding your soul. It is about knowing who you have time for. Since they are the one in the mirror and those most precious to you, that knowledge is golden.