I can't do that, its so selfish!

I can't do that, so-and-so won't be happy, I'm just being selfish

I can't stop doing that, it will mean so-and-so have to [change their behaviour], so that's really selfish

I can't do that, people will think I'm really selfish

Is that what you're saying to yourself when you think about doing something different? 


Change impacts others 

Its pretty much unavoidable that when we change something, it will change things for one or more other people too

And there's often a message we've grown up with, from family, friends, society etc, that doing something which affects other people is selfish


But I think there are (at least) 2 different types of selfishness: truly selfish, and self protection:


Here's what I think truly selfish behaviour looks like

  • Always putting yourself first without considering others
  • Always expecting others to do things for you
  • Always wanting your own way no matter what that means for others
  • Always valuing your own opinion above anyone else's
  • Manipulating others for your own gain


Here's what self protection might look like when we start creating change

  • Setting boundaries
  • Asking for help or support
  • Giving back some responsibility which was never really ours
  • Doing something just for yourself, to "refill" or recharge


Mel's story
For example my client, let's call her Mel, was overwhelmed at work because she had always been perceived as the person who "got stuff done", so she was often the first person to be asked when something new or urgent came up.

Mel knew this could not continue or she would burnout, so she decided to make some changes.

She was aware that starting to say "no" would initially surprise and potentially annoy people who were not used to it, because it would be a change for them, and in general people resist change…

She started by getting clear on what her boundaries should be, such as protecting her evenings and weekends as her time and not work time, and what her responsibilities within her role actually were (they had never been explicitly defined before)

She then shared these with her manager, and, working with her team created a whole set of roles and responsibilities to use as guidance.

The next time someone asked her to do something which was her responsibility, but which would mean her working evenings to get it all done, she worked with others involved to set the priorities on the work and realistic time frames for completing (or rejecting) them all.

The next time she was asked to do something that was not her responsibility, she supported the requester with finding the right person for the task.


Alternative impacts

Did these changes impact on others: yes, some tasks that were really "nice-to-have" not "required" no longer got done, so some people were disappointed - but they never lost out on what was "required".

Some people got more work to do, but that was within their responsibility, and her actions effectively gave others "permission" to discuss priorities and nice-to-haves too!

Were Mel's actions to create change truly selfish, or did were they self protection that ultimately may help others too?


What about you?

Do you recognise any of Mel's challenge, maybe at work but maybe in other areas of your life too?


If you want to make some changes, but are stopped by either your inner voice, or other people's actual voices, telling you you're selfish, then try:

  • comparing your changes to the 2 lists above and see whether you really are being truly selfish, or whether you're just making others uncomfortable because they'll have change too?


And if you've tried to make changes but they've never stuck, or you want to but worry they won't stick...


Why not join my FREE masterclass on Tuesday 6th June 8pm (UK time), its on Mastering Change - and the surprisingly effective (and easy) way to make it stick!

Click on the link to register and get your zoom link, I'd love to see you there!