People who put others first are often revered and are seen as an example of how to live. The fact that they appear to always put others first, is what makes them different to people who appear to always put themselves first.
This could be to do with helping a friend, partner or colleague at a local level. And at a wider scale this could include some kind of charity work. Ultimately, their position is not important, because they are always on the look out to be there for another, regardless of their needs.
The Right Thing
For the person who is happy to put others first and to deny their needs; approval is never going to be far away. Their behaviour is certain to lead to a lot of approval being received from other people.
And this can then lead to one feeling that they are doing the right thing. The amount of approval that one receives may be used as a barometer as to whether they are doing the right thing or not.
One of the challenges of always putting others first is that one’s needs are being ignored and denied. And this means that one constantly has to compromise who they are.
It could simply be a matter of habit and doing things for others may feel like the only way that one is worthy of having their needs met.
Because although it may seem that there are selfless people and selfless acts, this is not the case. The great illusion of selflessness has been created, but part of being human means that we have needs.
So everything that one does has a benefit or a perceived benefit to their existence. On the surface one act may appear as selfish and another as selfless and that is nothing more than a pint of view.
The only way one could be selfless, is if they had no needs and in order for that to be true one would have to have stopped breathing.
For people who act selfless and are always looking to be there for another person, it often comes down to approval. This person has learned that the way to gain approval from others is to do what they say and seldom say no.
It could also be a way for them to feel that they deserve to have their needs met and are worthy. So by being there for others, one may feel that the other person will be indebted to them; which will result in them getting what they want.
However, playing this role is inevitably going to lead to pain. On the surface it may give one a sense of pride and even superiority over people who appear to be selfish. And to the onlooker, one may be described as a good person and model citizen for example.
But within is likely to be a build up of anger, frustration and even resentment. This may be a conscious realisation or it may go on out of one’s awareness. And as soon as it appears, it is soon repressed and covered up.
The reasons for this behaviour and continuing to deny ones needs has to do with the associations that one’s ego mind has formed around needs and wants. Two of the most powerful associations here are guilt and shame.
And it doesn’t have to go as far as asking another person for something, it may only be a matter of thinking about ones needs in order to feel guilty about them. So, if one cannot ask another directly for something, one will have to go about getting their needs met indirectly.
Acting in a way that appears selfless can be a great cover up for people who feel guilty and ashamed for having needs. On one side they will appear as though they don’t have any and on the other side they will gain the approval from many people.
This in turn could then lead to their needs being met; through this indirect way of behaving. But even though one may look happy on the outside, is often far from how one feels on the inside.
To always put the needs of others before ones personal needs shows that one doesn’t value themselves. Feeling guilty and ashamed for having needs shows this. One can feel like a burden and that they don’t deserve to exist.
This is not to say that one’s needs are more important than anyone else’s needs. What it does say is that if one doesn’t feel they deserve to have needs and act on them; it is unlikely any one else will do it for them.
Perception Of Needs
The associations that the ego mind has around needs being a bad thing had to come from somewhere. This may be the only way that one knows and what seems normal.
To be this way will also feel familiar and this is what the ego mind runs on – what is familiar. This is what is classed as safe and if one were to act in another way, fear would likely arise. Fear of rejection or being abandoned may surface as a result of this change.
These associations would likely have been created when one was a child. How ones caregivers responded to these needs would have been a big factor in how one feels about their needs as an adult.
If they were generally responded to and treated with importance: one would be able to develop associations that their needs are important and not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty for having.
On the other hand, if ones caregivers rarely responded to ones needs or one was used to take care of the needs of their caregivers; very different associations would be formed. The consequences could be that one ends up feeling ashamed and guilty for having needs. And if one had to care of their caregivers needs, one may come to conclude that the only way to get their needs met is to please others first.
This second example is unlikely to create a healthy sense of self worth. Other people will be seen as more important. And this sets one up for a life of compromise. As a result of having their needs denied as a child, one may grow up to be completely out of touch with what their needs actually are.
Selfishness and selflessness are often put forward as the only two options; with one being portrayed as negative and the other as positive. But I think these are two sides of the same coin and are no better than each other. On one side you have a description of someone who only thinks about their own needs and has no interest in assisting others. And on the other is a person who denies their needs and is only there for others.
Feeling comfortable with ones needs is important. If one is not comfortable it will only lead to denying their existence or to be so consumed with them, that there is no time to balance ones needs with the needs of others.
These associations need to be changed and as this happens the perspective that one has of their needs will begin to change. Different approaches can be used for this. Reading, therapy and/or friends can assist with this process.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.