The holidays are upon us, a time for focusing on others. As the demands increase do you feel resentful, often followed by a sense of guilt? Perhaps it is time to examine selflessness versus selfishness.

What to Do When Demands of Others Overwhelm You

Selflessness Leads to Selfishness

When I was deployed last year one of the most frequent reasons sailors came to see me was they were burnt out.

Maintaining and flying jets and helicopters took at least twelve hours a day. Then they had other military duties like keeping up with new information in their area of expertise and drilling at their damage control station in case the ship was attacked. Demands from friends and family back home often took several hours a day in emails and Facebooking. Throw in laundry and meals and the time usually added up to at over 20 hours, leaving just a few hours for sleep and personal hygiene. Is it any wonder they were at their rope’s end?

I asked them this question: What are you doing to take care of yourself? Almost always I got a blank stare in response.

While it is laudable that they wanted to help relieve their loved ones’ burdens, how effective could they be when they were exhausted and under pressure for the inevitable subpar work performance resulting from too little rest and exercise? For some reason, they could not see the middle ground between being selfish and selfless.

How to Take Care of Yourself

The reality is you cannot serve other people over the long term if you do not take care of yourself. How do you find balance? The Three Pillars of Fitness ™ can be your guide.

Spiritual Fitness:

  1. Do you have a relationship with a higher power? I am not pushing my faith on you, but much of my strength comes from regularly connecting with G-d.
  2. Are you clear about your values? If so, this should help you prioritize whom and how much you can help. Hopefully, you do not value impoverishing yourself to help others.
  3. What is your mission and purpose in life? Is it sustainable?

Mental Fitness:

  1. What is the quality of your relationships with friends and family? Are they mutually supportive rather than continually one-sided?
  2. In what intellectual pursuits and hobbies are you involved? If the answer is none, how do you rejuvenate yourself?
  3. How do you serve your community? Here is an opportunity to be selfless.

Physical Fitness:

  1. Are you getting enough sleep and exercise and are you eating properly?
  2. Are your finances under control? If not, why are you giving money to someone else?
  3. How do you indulge your senses? Here is another source of rejuvenation.

Self-Care Must Precede Helping Others

If you are committed to helping a friend but by doing so you are endangering your professional standing are you really helping anyone? It is not selfish to say no to a friend in order to sustain good job performance. Neither is it uncaring to insist a friend find an additional source of help so that you can get enough sleep and attend to other personal needs.

Note that service to others is only part of overall fitness. When it consumes you, your life is out of balance and eventually you will lose your ability to be helpful.

Question – How do you strike a balance between being selfless and selfish? Please respond below.


© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some links in the above post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guide Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Never miss the BEST ideas like these for designing your life!

From the wisdom of Scripture, battle-tested military ideas, and profitable business concepts they'll help you and your family become Intentionalists. Plus get a FREE bonus!