Between Selfish and Selfless Lies the Happiness Sweet Spot

Women tend to struggle with self-promotion because it’s not easy to find the sweet spot between selfish and selfless.

self-promotion and selflessness

Lately, I have been hearing more women say they feel a lot of pressure to promote themselves:

  • Many women need to advocate for themseves so that their hard work and time investments are recognized. Sadly too many still have bosses that like to take credit for their work.
  • Even though young mothers recognize their peers selectively post images to show off happy times, they still find themselves feeling down after some time on social media.
  • Entrepreneurs are told to monitor or polishing up their “personal brand.”

At the same time, women have always felt pressure to be selfless. Women are more likely than men to provide elder care and child care and spend time on housework. Mothers often say they would do anything for their families.

So, for many, self-promotion can be tricky because high-achieving caring women don’t want to appear being selfish.

The More Important Reason to find that Sweet Spot

More importantly, however, these twin pressures can lead women to lose their “selves,” not having an identity or role that isn’t tied to someone else. Many smart and caring women don’t have time for personal interests. Many women don’t have hobbies or interests outside of career or family.

This loss of “self” becomes a source of dissatisfaction and loneliness.

Beyond self-promotion, finding the sweet spot between selfish and selfless is key to practicing happiness. Happiness is neither a mood nor an outcome. It is a skill we need to build and practice.

Ways to Find the Sweet Spot between Selfish and Selfless

Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Self-assessment: Rather than spending time promoting qualities that you think other people want to see in you, look for the things, big and small, that you truly enjoy and are proud of. Then, find ways to apply your talents to doing what gives you pleasure.
  • Self-guidance: Find your own moral and social compass. Sometimes, when we’re busy, we get swayed by the crowd. But crowd-sourced parenting or career advice usually doesn’t work. Find time to center yourself so you know what is right for you.
  • Self-care: It is not selfish to take care of yourself. You already know the oxygen mask goes on before helping others in airplane emergencies. We are better caregivers when we are rested and energized. But there are other good reasons for self-care: Taking breaks and slowing the pace interrupts the escalation of stress and any feelings of dissatisfaction. Getting more sleep helps to enhance your cognitive abilities and can make you more productive.
  • Self-limits: Know and honor the limits to your control. Even when you do your best, you can’t do everything. Women often feel guilty that they can’t do more than what is possible. This is wasted energy, yet we do it all the time. You can’t force people to do things they don’t want to. You can’t change the hearts and minds of people who disagree with you. And you can’t fix everything.
  • Self-defense: Some people are not worth helping or trying to please. You know who they are, and you are probably hoping to distance yourself from them. Unfortunately, there are some in your life, you cannot ignore. Awful bosses who make unreasonable demands, and “taker” family members who deplete you of your energy. You can’t escape them, but you can try to minimize their impact on you and maximize time with others who appreciate and nourish you.

Your Turn

Looking at yourself is not always easy. We all have the tendency to look at distorted mirrors. It helps someone you trust look with you–to help you see yourself with their clearer eyes. If you’d like to do that with someone with no vested interest except to help you, I would love to be your coach.

What do Stacy’s clients say?

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An older version of this article was first published in April 2017.