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Why self-full is preferable to selfless.

I’ve started reading the newly published Mindful Menopause book by my dear friend Sophie Fletcher, and I was reflecting on her notion of being self full instead of selfless.

The concept of selflessness starts early on for women as girls rather than boys are often expected to help out with household chores that can carry on into adulthood. Studies show that women are more likely to do extra tasks such as care for an elderly relative or deal with children and family issues. All of this is unpaid work that can often be expected as a selfless act. Now I appreciate that for some women this does give a sense of meaning and makes them feel good -it ‘fills them up’. But if women are programmed from an early age to be selfless at what point do they ask - what is actually in it for me? Is this filling me up?

The term selfless means to be concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own. It is perceived as being unselfish and a positive trait. As someone who dedicates much of their work and research to understand self, I find this problematic. Why is it seen as positive to prioritise other people above yourself? Surely we should always be looking for balance.

People who give freely, lovingly and confidently to others and do it well, do not lose their own sense of self. They may choose altruism but not at the expense of their own well-being. They understand the need for balance and are self aware enough to know when to take care of their own needs. The sense of self is not at risk and they do not lose themselves in the act of caring or helping someone else. These people are truly inspirational. That is why I love Sophie’s term self-full. It captures something much more positive and realistic.

Sophie says that menopause is a good time of life to start shifting priorities and menopause can be a positive and empowering time to do this.

I absolutely agree with her sentiments. Let’s stop seeing menopause as a negative time within the lifespan and another excuse to write off women, and instead, see it as a self affirming time which can be full of confidence.

The question is - why wait until menopause?


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