I exposed myself to many self-help and spiritual books in the last 32 years of my life. (that's how much help I needed!! Yep, and still do!). I have understood and misunderstood them, and that helped and harmed me in different ways.
Words like Selfless love, humility, altruism have always appealed to me. I thought that living in a world where everyone thinks of others would certainly be heavenly. I still believe that a household, community or society where everyone thinks of how they can make life easier for others, is a desirable place to live. That's why, since my teenage years, I worked hard trying to make my heart capable of 'selfless love'. I never succeeded! What I did succeed at doing was, believing that I have selfless love by doing and giving to others despite my personal needs and, building a bank or resentful feeling in the basement of my soul when the 'generosity' wasn't reciprocated. It goes without saying that this didn't work for me or my loved ones. Somehow, somewhere, someone would ended up suffering!
Selfless love had somehow been understood by my psyche as: if you suffer but others are happy, that's a good thing, you're being a good and worthy human being. Selfless love means: get joy out of giving to others no matter the cost to you. Selfless love includes everyone but you. So I kept trying and kept failing because, resentment kept springing to the surface. I kept feeling disappointed and lost when I noticed that others didn't necessarily do the same for me. I felt I was being taken for granted or that they were taking advantage of me (bless them, they hadn't asked for anything...). My inner Saint kept on failing while my inner Chimp would regularly get the upper hand.
I am sure there are those whose inner Saint has succeeded and the question of self, selfless or anything in that category, doesn't even cross their mind. Their wise understanding flows through their heart and out into the world, just like that, for reasons beyond my understanding. Thank goodness for that! But for others, like me, I think we should start with love for others AND self. Loving, while, we ourselves are in the equation, not out of it. I think that's probably the first step. Perhaps, after that, the next step is 'I' vanish from the equation and what remains is everyone else. But, I think,
jumping from lack of self-love to selfless love is like trying to run a marathon before learning to walk. I think it's worth starting right at the beginning: equal love for all (we included). Trying to make life easy, pleasurable for yourself and others equally and, seeing where that leads. Since, I have gone back to basics, I find it's easier to relate with the care I feel others deserve. Sometimes, it may not be possible. Sometimes, we may be forced to give when we don't have it in us. Sometimes, there is no choice but when there is, when there a choice: we include all. We can feel and see that we are indeed equal in the eyes of Life (if it had any!). I think when Christ said: Love thy neighbour as thyself, he assumed we love ourselves. What I often see and feel, is that most don't. Most look at the neighbour, admire him, think he has what they don't. They envy him because he's so capable and able to have a greener grass, while at the same time loathe their own weaknesses, doubt their own abilities and hate their insecurities. I'd say:
Love thyself as thy neighbour and love thy neighbour as thyself.
P.S. 2 videos below on the ability to say no and the ability to say yes to the demands of others.
Your thoughts are appreciated.