Can the pursuit of balance become selfish?

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

I've been pursuing balance for some time. For me, that has meant creating boundaries in both my personal and professional life.  One thing I hear a lot from clients, is their guilt and worry that creating a balanced life for themselves is somehow selfish.

It got me thinking, can the pursuit of balance ever be selfish? It made me realise that yes, occasionally we can tip over towards selfishness.  But, I think it is important to remember that I believe this only happens when we have lost sight of what we are striving for and how far we may have already come. Perhaps we have become a little single minded on the boundaries we have put in place to protect and nurture ourselves. Sometimes we might forget to continue to re-evaluate our needs as we evolve and change. As balance becomes more entrenched in our day to day lives we need to give ourselves permission to be flexible.

Once you have begun making progress, you will probably find that you can start relaxing some of those boundaries as you are learning to find balance more easily.  This can feel scary, as those boundaries or rules are what have got you to this point of development.  You will come to a place to understand that being flexible with one area doesn’t need to mean that everything else suffers.  You can hold onto all you have learnt while continuing along your journey with more flexibility.

During this lockdown I have been quite strict with my time and when coming to write this post I realised I had allowed myself to become a little selfish. We've all been spending more time on phone calls and zooms than ever before and I know I am not the only one that found this to be pretty draining.  It becomes hard to have an "excuse" to say no to something, as people expect us to be available, and willing! I'd say this is particularly true for the majority of my close friends who do not have dependants, for quite a significant number, furlough has meant we have even more time at our disposal.

Firstly, be honest with yourself and others about how you want to spend your time.  We don’t need an excuse to look after ourselves. We don’t have to defend our reasons. We do need to be aware though that our decisions might be judged.  This is why I believe it is so important to be honest.  Be bold, be brave and be vulnerable in your pursuit of balance.  It’s important to remember that a judgement can only hurt us if we let it, we hold all the power.  You can choose who’s opinion you value and you can choose how you will react to it.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and consider, is being so strict with my boundaries bringing true balance into my life?  I had noticed at some point during lockdown that I had forgotten why I was seeking balance.  I had forgotten why I had set a certain hour as the time after which I wanted to focus on myself and relaxing for the evening.  It’s at this point you need to go back and check in with what your goal is and whether your actions are moving you closer to or further away from it. With a helping hand from my closest friends I was able to see that too often than not, I was inadvertently, demanding things on my own terms.  Through understanding this, I can set myself a new goal to be present and flexible in my friendships and find ways to do this while respecting my need for balance.

I’ve realised that the pursuit of balance can become a little selfish.

Is this just part of the learning process? A lot of us aren't good at balancing our lives, hence why I am focusing on helping people find balance! I think it is unrealistic to expect to get it perfect when you first start trying to lead a more balanced life. You wouldn't start a new habit such as running and expect to have nailed it on day one. The same can be said for balance.

Along the road to finding true balance you might find you take a little detour through a period of selfishness. It's at this point that I would ask my clients a couple of questions.

What would the benefit be to them of having more balance?

What did they originally wish to balance in their lives?

Who else will benefit from them having more balance?

For me, I wanted to have more balance to ensure that work didn't take over my life and that I could spend time with my friends and family. When you look back at why you started, it can be a lot easier to figure out the least selfish and most balanced option in a situation.

As the saying goes, you can't fill from an empty cup.

Sometimes you need to put yourself first. Sometimes you'll need to put others first.

It's all in the balance.

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