(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.
Tell me why, why is it considered so bad in our culture, to be “concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure”.
Open yourself to a paradigm shift here. I mean, who else is going to be concerned with my personal pleasure and profit? Isn’t that my job? And why is it assumed that if I am chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure, that I “lack consideration for others”? Can’t I experience both at the same time? Why is it assumed that one cancels out the other?
This post isn’t really about the word selfish, although it does speak to it. This post is about another word. An archetype. Mother.
Some time ago on Facebook, I asked people to post what they believed was a “good mother”. I had an express purpose in mind. Today I begin to tackle that. Today, I begin to put into words what has been churning around inside me for some months now.
On a scary day in August, 1987, I checked out of an in-house treatment facility after 21 days. Part of my aftercare treatment was to be in a group with other individuals who also had also been in some kind of treatment. The man who facilitated our group said something all those years ago that I have never forgotten. His exact words were, “Another person’s reaction to my behavior says a whole lot more about them and their history than it does about me and mine.” Wise and helpful words for a severe co-dependent.
So, when I began to receive posts about the archetype of Mother, it was a great mirror into the personal wounds of many people, though I doubt they saw it as such. Without knowing, or perhaps they did know, they told of their own experiences; what they got from their mothers, what they didn’t get and wished they had, what they strove to give their own children, how they saw themselves as mothers, and as adult children.
I am a daughter of an un-mothered mother. As a result, I doubt I was a very good mother to my own daughter in her young years. How could I be? Knowing what I didn’t get from my own mother, and having a strong desire to give what I didn’t get, does not make me a good mother. Did you get that? Read it again.
Knowing what I didn’t get from my own mother, and having a strong desire to give what I didn’t get, does not make me a good mother. So then, what does make a good mother? And does everyone even need to know, especially if they are not mothers and never plan to be? I answer with a resounding YES! Here is why:
Ideally, our parents (if they got what they needed from their parents) equip us with the skills to become good parents to ourselves. So that one day, finally, we have our own internal guide to self-direction and nurture as we make decisions in our daily lives. To what end? That we might live with authenticity, integrity, and joy. Although that last one tends to elude many (now we are back to that dirty little word).
If, as most people I know, you did not have those ideal parents, then you did not develop that internal guide to self-direction and nurture. Add to that a cultural and societal message that says to be chiefly concerned with your own personal profit or pleasure means you lack consideration for others. Slap on a few layers of Hallmark cards with sappy, unrealistic sayings about mothers who never think of themselves, only others. Hold this up as an ideal and tell me you have a strong, healthy and balanced internal mother. Not possible. Not unless you are willing to:
1. Look in the mirror (literally and figuratively).
2. See all of you.
3. Own it.
4. Take action, meaning to begin the work of developing the internal mother.
Now some of you may have a visceral, somatic reaction to the word “mother”. If your mother wound is so great that an internal “mother” is offensive, then use another word. But what I am speaking of is the part of us that is life giving; the source of nurture and nourishment. The part of us that breathes life into our creative endeavors. The part of us that nudges us when we need to slow down, rest, eat, spend time with friends. That wise part of us that will lay us down with sickness if we do not heed that nudge to slow down and give self-care.
I can speak all day long about what a good mother does and think that I am doing that for my children, because I know how important those things are. But the knowing doesn’t make me a good mother. The only way to live it is to learn to mother myself. Remember the oxygen mask example on an airplane? We are always instructed to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first, be it a child or another person in need. But MOST women I know who believe they are “good” mothers, have no experience or practice around mothering themselves. Why? Because their own mothers had no experience of it either. Many women I know who are mothers of grown daughters don’t/won’t understand why their own daughters don’t see their own value, or take good care of themselves. How could mothers who have no knowledge or experience of it teach their children? That’s just it. They couldn’t and didn’t. It is now our job to teach ourselves. In that way we become “good mothers”. We must develop our own internal mother so that we may lovingly mother with patience and acceptance and often a tough love. We mother our own projects we are birthing. We mother our lives, our creative endeavors, our relationships. It has to come from within.
So to come full circle; it is my job to be concerned first with my own personal profit or pleasure. You may think those words sound ugly. Well, isn’t that what putting the oxygen mask on first is doing? I profit (I live) from giving myself air to breathe first. That gives me pleasure. The oxygen feels good. Life feels good. I breathe the air and I am alive, and it feels good! And then? Then and only then can I give and do for others.
So create your lists and descriptions of what you believe a “good mother” is and does. But then use that list to examine the development of your own internal mother. What kind of internal voices do you most often hear within you? What internal dialogue would you like to hear? Begin there, and place that life giving oxygen mask over your own face first. In this way not only do you create a life of authenticity, integrity, and joy, but you model it for those around you. What greater gift is there than that?