Selfish

Dolly: Nigel? Nigel where are you I need your help.

Nigel: Heavens alive, I’m right here. Don’t have a fit. What do you need, little girl?

D: Someone told me, “You are the most selfish person I know.” I don’t think of myself as particularly selfish. I don’t understand. It bothered me. Why?

N: Ah, there is a certain amount of discomfort that comes with the dissonance between how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Did this person give examples?

D: No, but our relationship was the one during which I tried the hardest not to be selfish. This meant doing a lot of things I would rather not have done. I thought that was the way to create something lasting.

N: What did that get you? I presume, not the intended outcome…

D: I’ve been taught that I’m not supposed to think about it that way — in terms of what I can get, so I didn’t think about it. In retrospect, acting the way I did locked me into an uncomfortable set of expectations that I would continue to do all the things I didn’t really want to do or explain myself about what has changed. Either continue or get into fights.

N: The special becomes standard. The standard is expected. Any deviation will be a problem because humans are loss adverse. 

D: I don’t understand. I should give as little of myself as possible?

N: Don’t be absurd. Give yourself in a way that you can sustain — in a way that is honest. Do what it pleases you to do. There is a common misunderstanding, that “doing as you want” is necessarily in opposition to the desires of everyone around you. But I am sure you can think of examples where others delight in the things you choose to do.

D: Sure. Baking. Playing the piano. Reading interesting things so I can tell them interesting things. Having fabulous hair… Oh, only joking.

N: Right, steady on there. You’ve spent nearly your whole life alone. You know what you like. You know who you are. Don’t try to impress anyone. Don’t apologize or try to make yourself anything else to please someone because you know that whatever mask you wear cannot last forever. Then you won’t like the accusations of lying, but you’ll richly deserve them.

D: No. I’ve always had you. With you, I am never alone. You don’t let me get away with a damn thing, Nigel. But on issue of impressing people — I once took a bunch of hard classes I wasn’t qualified for to impress a boy. I didn’t regret it. It was like being refined by fire and I would  never have found that motivation in myself.

N: Did doing that keep you from doing things you would rather have been doing?

D: No? I took them in addition to all the classes I wanted to take, and then forced myself to be twice as efficient so I could still do all of the frivolous things I loved. It was beautiful.

N: Here again, a misunderstanding. This is inspiration, not forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do in order to impress. Had this boy been interested in World of Warcraft, would you have played to please him?

D: No way. Do you even need to ask.

N: There. Then all along, what you said you did to impress him — those were things that you wanted to do. You weren’t trying to impress him. He helped you fly.

D: I see. That’s interesting. But doesn’t this way of thinking seem closed off? What about trying new things? Especially new things that I never had any interest in before? But now, perhaps I know someone who is very enthusiastic about something. Is it bad to let that enthusiasm affect me, and to try the things they love?

N: You don’t need me, you’ve answered the question yourself. If their enthusiasm awakens something in you, makes you curious, then that is again you wanting to try something. Remember to be driven by you, though. Don’t do it to please them, because they keep pestering you, or any of that.

D: It sounds like you think I should be waiting to win the lottery. Just wait for someone who wants exactly what I happen to be. And in turn, who is exactly as I want already.

N: Not precisely, but you’re getting closer. You’re an optimizer. It’s not fair for you to pretend to work for a paycheck with anyone. Your fickle heart will run to the person who fits, who understands better, no matter how many rules and obligations you’ve used to tie yourself down. I’ve taught you better than that. You know how to be alone. Be alone. Wait to win the lottery… and even when you think you’ve won, accept that that person may not feel the same about you.

D: How depressing. At least I’ll always have you.

N: Yes, darling, forever and always.

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