Reverse Selfishness

Selfishness: having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of others

If someone called you selfish you would probably be offended, right? I surely would! I pride myself on being empathetic and caring about others. I love to help others figure out their problems, it gives me a rush of accomplishment and a big old pat on the back.

Well this month I had some “Lightbulb Moments” about selfishness and realized that I am Reverse Selfish. Huh?! I wouldn’t say selfless or unselfish because I interpret those words in a positive way. Reverse Selfishness is putting all your time and energy into others and completely neglecting YOU. It means that caring for our own self is misinterpreted as selfishness. The worst part is Reverse Selfishness seems to be a very common trait.

From a visual review session with a mom who was having trouble finding time to meet her basic self care needs, to a truly inspiring one day event with the Women and Girls Foundation last week and most recently yesterday’s comment thread from Propelle’s Rock It Visibility Challenge – Reverse Selfishness is running rampant!

Crossroads Visual Notes - EmilyMarko.com

Yes, apparently we (and that does include myself) think being able to brush our teeth before leaving the house is asking too much. Couldn’t we be putting those two minutes to something more productive?!

This month, I struggled with some serious resentment and anger towards my husband. Long story short…he was in a similar situation that I find myself in quite often and he handled it MUCH differently than I did. It took a few days of struggling with my feelings to realize I was misdirecting them – the arrow actually should have been pointing at me! I was angry and resentful at myself for not putting my passions and needs first and yet my husband had no troubles at all doing this. Could this possibly just be a female trait?

As I created Visual Notes during the Crossroads: Conference for Women last week, I heard one inspiring story after another. Lauren Morelli, a writer for Orange is the New Black, spoke of how she was such a pro at taking care of everyone else in her life that she forgot to take a good look at who she was and what she needed. Somehow she got hung up on the expectations of others. (Shocking, right?!)

Lauren Morelli visual notes - EmilyMarko.com

So how do we stop this Reverse Selfishness? Lauren and several other women at the conference shared some lessons they learned such as:

  • Get to know who you are – take yourself out on a date
  • Build a support system – you need cheerleaders
  • Let go of perfection – its okay to get a B-
  • Move yourself to the top of the list
  • Recognize that Self Love is not Selfishness
  • Invest in yourself
  • Own your story
Crossroads Visual Notes2 - EmilyMarko.com

I also wonder if this Reverse Selfishness somehow stems from core beliefs around our value or worth. An interesting point was brought up at the conference that we spend time, energy and money on taking care of our material possessions and yet rattle off excuses as to why we don’t have enough time or money to take care of ourselves. One of the Rock It members posted a comment stating “if she treated her friends like she treated herself, she wouldn’t have any friends.” Wow – gets you thinking more about where our priorities fall!

Closing Panel visual notes - EmilyMarko.com

The good thing is I am aware (and now you are too) so now I just need to practice taking care of myself and shedding that Reverse Selfishness trait. With traces of spring popping up I think now is as good a time as any!

What about you? How do you avoid reverse selfishness? Do you think this is just a female trait?
Does anything resonate with you from the Crossroads visual notes?

My Significant People

These last weeks of the school year has moved me into a reflective state on my childhood school days. As my daughter and I dig into college planning I find myself trying to remember how I made such big decisions at a young age. How did I end up where I am right now – a Visual Problem Solver?!

I found part of my answer at an event for GPAC, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, where I created visual notes for a roundtable discussion about Arts Education. I found the conversation interesting and important, but what was most serendipitous during that session is my art teacher from elementary school happened to be an attendee. We chatted for a bit about life, art and education before the session began. As the evening went on I had this feeling I couldn’t quite define. I said my good-byes and went home, but I could NOT sleep that night – I just stared at the ceiling trying to figure out that feeling which was bringing me to the brink of tears.

GPAC Arts Education Roundtable - EmilyMarko.com

How could a small interaction with a person I hadn’t seen since elementary school affect me so much? I also wondered how is it that I actually remember this teacher so vividly and not only her, but also a piece of artwork that I created in her class close to 30 years ago.

As I pondered this, I had flashes of more memories from my childhood and into my college years. It wasn’t a bad feeling at all. It was a mixture of gratitude, love and feeling so VERY fortunate – fortunate to have been influenced by some really Significant People.

So how did I get here? With a lot of different experiences – the great and not-so-great ones. Some experiences I fell into, others I was pushed into and there were a few I worked so hard to have. The combination of all of those experiences, plus Awesome Family and some Significant People is what got me to right now.

Many of those Significant People were only a blink in my life. Some were teachers who I really only knew for 180 days or less, but left a lasting impression and truly helped carve out my path.

The Arts have always been prominent in my life in some form. My parents (part of the Awesome Family) raised me with craftiness. Who else had retro lamps made out of deodorant bottles or a one-of-a-kind RV made completely out of spare airplane parts for their Barbies?!

But I also realize now there was a huge influence in the Arts that came from those Significant People. They may not remember me, but I sure do remember them.

So Thank You….

  • Dr. Sarah Tambucci for fostering my creativity and independence in art at the very beginning of my school days.
  • Mr. Bowman for trying your best to teach me how to play the drums. Sorry I just did not have enough rhythm to get the beats down.
  • Mr. Edward Nemec for sharing your love of books, theater & jelly beans.
  • Mr. Robert Rodrigues for assigning visual projects like designing a newspaper so I could learn about history.
  • Mr. Hugh McGinn for teaching the skills of photography and the awesomeness of Hootie and the Blowfish.
  • Mr. Mark Barzan for giving me the opportunity to try out different art forms and the courage to choose art in college.
  • Mrs. Lisa Trainor for the opportunity to help create the school yearbook. Who knew that would be the start of my love for page layout & design.
  • Professor Rick Heisler for growing my photography skills and giving me an opportunity to teach others.
  • Professor Howard Lieberman for teaching me how to draw naked people with a three-foot stick.
  • Professor Lauren Lampe for guiding a lost transfer student through the graphic design journey.
  • Professor George Founds for scaring the bee-gee-bees out of me, but at the same time expanding my vocabulary and truly teaching great graphic design.

Thank You for helping me get to today. I have made my own mistakes, successes and decisions, but I believe the memories, lessons, and inspirations I took from all of you have added shape to who I am as a person and Visual Problem Solver.

So how have the Arts influenced you? Who are your Significant People?