Several events in my life have left me with the question of how to balance selflessness and self worth. Where does being kind, of service, selfless, cross over into letting people walk all over me and loss of my self worth?
Recently a young woman in my yoga class decided to stop participating in the class. Which would have been fine if she left the room. Instead she moved her mat to the side, sat down, and focused on her phone. Twice I asked her not to be a distraction to other students and to kindly move outside the yoga room. But in the back of my mind I was wondering if I should just let her be. After her loud, disruptive, departure I still questioned how I could have been more generous toward her.
A client had expectations of me far above and beyond the terms of our agreement. And these expectations were expected to go unpaid. Upon clarifying my boundaries, said client was unswayed of their expectations. Feeling the need to protect my self worth, I severed the relationship, but still wondered if I could have been more selfless. Did my standing up for myself inflict a level of pain on that client?
I’m reminded of that first encounter with the doorman in my building. I should have shut him down rather than laugh it off in the spirit of kindness.
Why did he feel entitled to be unprofessional and inappropriate while I did not feel entitled to ask him, no tell him, to never speak to me in that manner?
Two years later, why did I think I should be kind and allow said doorman to hug me when in truth I had long ago altered my routine to avoid him? Why did I, and as it turns out other women in the complex, allow him to make me feel uncomfortable and unsafe in my own home, out of kindness?
Most of us have been taught to be kind. From our parents to religion, Yoga, and mindfulness, kindness and selflessness have been ingrained in us. I don’t like to tell people no, I don’t like to be confrontational; but being empowered sometimes requires these skills.
The harm we inflict on ourselves can so easily outweigh the kindness we offer others. Where is the line where selflessness crosses over into loss of self worth? Where is the line where our own empowerment diminishes that of another?