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Is it possible that you’re selfish?

1 Feb 2011

Is it possible that you’re selfish?

What do you use your index fingers for?

Let me count the ways! Holding tools and utensils; try cooking or eating a meal without using your index fingers. Typing – even if you’re a two fingered ‘hunt and peck’ typist, turning pages, dressing, pointing!

Could It Be That You're Selfish?

When it comes down to it, it’s hard to think of things that don’t involve your index fingers.

So imagine if you couldn’t use an index finger

A few years ago I sustained an injury which meant I had my arm in a sling and couldn’t use the index finger of my left hand.

My friends came round with flowers, food and offers of help. I had no choice but to take them. It was difficult for me to accept assistance. I’d always thought of myself as independent, so to find myself in a dependent position felt humiliating.

Do I sound ungrateful?

If I think back even further, I couldn’t even accept a compliment without justifying it and brushing it aside, (“Oh, this old thing? It was really cheap in a sale.”) or feeling obliged to return a compliment. I couldn’t just say ‘thank you’ and then keep my mouth shut. I didn’t realise that my inability to take a compliment was hurting people’s feelings.

Do you love giving but are a poor receiver?

No doubt you’ve heard the expression, ‘giving is better than receiving’.

But being unable to joyously receive is a very selfish way of living.


Ask anyone what they get from giving to others. You’ll usually hear words such as, pleasure, love, enjoyment, satisfaction, happiness. If you’re a giver you’ll be able to identify with those sentiments. But, if you’re one of those people (as I was) who brushes aside compliments and won’t let people give you things or do anything for you, just think about this for a second: How selfish are you when you deprive people of the pleasure, love, enjoyment, satisfaction and happiness of giving to you?

The reasons for being a non-receiver

In my experience, if you’re a giver and ‘non-receiver’ there might be several reasons you’ve adopted a ‘giver only’ way of thinking:

  1. Deep down, you don’t feel worthy of receiving.
  2. Receiving challenges your idea of what it means to be independent.
  3. You worry that receiving something, whether it’s a compliment, a service or a gift, obligates you in some way. For example, “She only complimented me because she wants me to babysit next week.”

There could be other reasons but I’d like to tackle these three.

1. Deep down, you don’t feel worthy of receiving.

This is about your self-worth and your worth as a human being. You might have grown up with the idea that in order to be worthy you have to achieve, contribute, be good etc. Or you might have been told that you were ‘useless, worthless etc.’ In other words, love and receiving were conditional upon your behaviour.

But that’s simply not true. It was a lie.

You don’t have to ‘do’ anything to be worthy of receiving.

Please believe that just the fact you’re alive on this planet makes you worthy of love, care and compassion. If it feels hard to accept this, you could begin to change your thinking around ‘worthiness’.

You can do this by gently playing with the question, “What if I am worthy of receiving good things?” Without judgement, just notice any thoughts that surface in response to asking the question.

Repeat the question from time to time throughout the coming days and weeks and the underlying thoughts and beliefs will surface for you to examine. Get help from a professional if you need to get this sorted. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.

2. Receiving challenges your idea of what it means to be independent.

You may have been encouraged to be independent – to stand on your own two feet, so to speak. And that’s OK. It’s also important to recognise and be compassionate towards those who cannot be independent – perhaps including yourself at times. Even if you’re fiercely independent, you probably wouldn’t hesitate to help someone who needed assistance.

It’s so important to also be compassionate towards yourself, especially when you’re unable to ‘do’ what you’d like to do and accept the help that others can offer.

No one can be completely independent of others because communities depend on the relationships and energetic interactions between people doing specialised jobs. You go to work, in part to earn the money to purchase goods and to buy services you don’t want to do or aren’t capable of yourself. I just want to show that giving and receiving are a natural part of existence. So when you refuse to receive, you prevent this natural flow.

3. You worry that receiving something, whether it’s a compliment or a gift, obligates you in some way.

For example, “She only complimented me because she wants me to babysit next week.”
Of course once you have a belief such as this, you’ll find it will get reinforced. See my article, “Is What You’re Believing Holding You Back?” for details on how you see it when you believe it and not the other way around, and How to Free Your Mind From Negative Beliefs.

‘Forced’ to receive

My injury meant I was incapacitated and ‘forced’ to rely on my good friends and neighbours to provide what I needed to get through a tough few days. One even commented, “It’s about time! At last we get to do something for you.” It was a humbling experience where, for once, I was able to see and hear the joy and satisfaction that other people obtained from giving to me.

I’ve come to the following conclusion;

Giving and Receiving are the same.