At one point in my past, a person told me with great disdain, “You only want to help other people because it makes you feel good about yourself.”
Think about that for a second.
What, if anything, is so inherently wrong about feeling good about yourself?
Lots of people struggle with negative feelings about themselves, much of the time. Judging oneself harshly is a common issue – finding oneself lacking and being filled with self-loathing. Many people tend to be way crueler in their own self-assessments than they would in assessing anyone else.
Getting outside of yourself by assisting others in need can help you put negative feelings and judgments about yourself in perspective. You see that you can do good works and that you have something valuable to give.
And guess what – it’s actually okay to feel good about yourself when you do this!
There are proven health benefits you’ll get from serving others, as a 2013 study reported in BMC Public Health concluded, including the following:
- Reduced incidence of depression
- Improved sense of overall wellbeing
- Lowered risk of death later in life
Note that these are not direct physical fitness benefits. However, I believe that we tend to separate the mind from the body too much in our culture. Mind and body are inextricably linked, and a healthy, happy mind obviously has an impact on your quality of life and your overall fitness.
Enough about all of this “selfishness” – the personal, individual benefits YOU get from giving. Now, take a moment to think about the people (or animals, or environment) whose lives you’ll touch and help improve from your willingness to donate whatever you have to give – time, money, skills, expertise, labor, whatever – and imagine how much they can potentially benefit from your generosity.
One caveat about giving to others: Make sure you are giving freely with no expectations of a specific outcome or of getting personal recognition or gains. You are giving simply to give, free and clear.
Also, it helps if the way you choose to give resonates with you personally. For example, if you hate working with children, volunteering to work with children probably shouldn’t be you service effort of choice.
Doing something that you actually enjoy or at least don’t mind doing will put you in a more giving frame of mind, and if you come into an activity with positive energy, those around you will more likely than not pick up on it. Ditto for negative energy.
By helping others, by volunteering, by giving back in whatever way works for you, both you and others benefit. Everyone wins, and everyone involved reaps rewards. What could possibly be wrong with that equation?
Volunteer for the health and fitness benefits you will gain. Feel good about yourself when you do.
Go ahead, be selfish.