Are you two-faced with others?
Many of us maintain a double-standard with others.
We think mothers should sacrifice for their children
Consider a mother who neglects to take care of herself and her own needs in order to serve her children and family. She thinks she is being "a good mother."
Yet, if you asked her, "Imagine that your mother was sacrificing her happiness and not taking care of herself because she felt your needs should come before her needs. Would you want your mother to do this? Would you want her to sacrifice her life for you?
Whenever I ask this question, the answer is always "no." We don't want others to sacrifice for us.
We think we should sacrifice for our wife or husband
Or consider a husband who is unhappy in his marriage. He's done his best to make the marriage work, without success. But he thinks, "I cannot abandon my wife. She needs me."
Yet, if you asked him, "Imagine that your wife was sacrificing her happiness and taking care of herself because she felt that your needs were more important than hers. Would you want that? Would you want her to sacrifice her life for you?"
Whenever I ask this question of a husband or wife, the answer is always "no."
The toxicity of our double standard
We have a double standard, one in which we expect ourselves to sacrifice for others, but would not want others to sacrifice for us.
This pattern creates a deep toxicity between people. Here in China, with parents often sacrificing for their children, the children feel guilty if they are not wanting to sacrifice back for their parents.
The whole philosophy of altruism (in the sense that self-sacrifice is good) is bankrupt.
The "benefits" of self-sacrifice
But why do we do this? We do it to "look good" and to avoid the fear that others may blame us (or be disappointed in us) if we're not "a good mother," not "a good husband or wife," not a "loyal citizen," not a "generous person," not a "good child," not "a good Christian," not a "responsible person," not a "team member," and so on.
To cash in on looking good and to avoid the risk of looking bad, we sacrifice our life, again and again. We end up creating for ourselves the #1 regret from the book "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying," which is, "I wish I had chosen the courage to live a life true to myself, rather than the life others expected of me."
The new truth
The new truth is that the best relationships between you and others is where your selfishness (both short-term and long-term) and their selfishness (short-term and long-term) are synergistic. And, if, given your best efforts, you are unable to create this, you choose courage to go your separate ways or to create and maintain boundaries with that person so that you're taking care of yourself and not sacrificing yourself for them.
We care for others and others care for us
Yes, we care for others. Yes, one of the great pleasures in life is to contribute to others. Yet, in doing this, we cannot neglect our #1 responsibility in life, which is to take care of ourselves. That is why God/nature put you in your body and mind, not in someone else's.
Yes, others care for you. And they can take pleasure in making a difference in your life. Yet, you have the ultimate responsibility to assess what is good for you or not, and to take care of yourself.
Notice if you are sacrificing yourself for another. Notice if you feel any resentment towards another. Notice if you see yourself as a victim of anyone else. Notice if you're not making requests when you need to make requests. Notice if you're not saying "no" when you need to say "no." Notice when you're not setting or maintaining boundaries when it would be better if you did. Notice when you're in other people's business, instead of staying in your own. Ask yourself what courage you might need to choose in any given circumstance in order to fulfill your #1 responsibility, which is to take care of yourself.