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Creating Healthy Boundaries vs. Being Selfish: 5 Ways to Know the Difference

Creating Healthy Boundaries vs. Being Selfish: 5 Ways to Know the Difference


Being selfish is one of the things we as addicts and alcoholics are best at. We like to think of ourselves in almost every aspect and justify it in any way we can. It can be positive or negative, and we can even convince ourselves we are being humble or helpful but in many ways are still out for #1. Then again, we also have a pretty tough time creating healthy boundaries with the people we are closest to. We neglect or latch onto others, and it creates unhealthy situations in our lives. I’m no expert, but as a recovering alcoholic/addict I can think of 5 ways to know the difference.

1. Just Saying ‘NO’

This is not always a clear cut as it sounds. If you’d rather not or if you feel overwhelmed, even if you’re not in the mood just say ‘NO’. As part of setting healthy boundaries you don’t always need to justify yourself for everything you cannot do for others, and you don’t need to blame yourself for letting someone else down. Giving yourself permission to just say ‘NO’ is important. On the other side of that, saying ‘NO’ to every opportunity to help out another person is clearly selfish. You can say ‘NO’ to situations, but you can easily be inconsiderate if you over-do it. At the same time there is no reason to be a martyr, so do not wear yourself thin doing for others.

2. You Can Still Say ‘Yes’

If someone is willing to help you, or asks you if you need anything it’s ok to say ‘YES’. If someone asks you if there is anything they can take care of for you it is still within your healthy boundaries to say ‘YES’ to that offer of assistance. However it can again be over-done if you find yourself seeking help from everyone for everything. Not only is this NOT setting healthy boundaries by relying on others, it is selfish to put that expectation on others.

3. Asking for Help

Don’t regret or neglect your instinct to reach out and ask for help. A person whom you trust will be more than willing to help you as long as the action does not require breaching the healthy boundaries you have set. If you find yourself unwilling to help yourself, this is when you cross the line between the healthy relationship and selfishly seeking out others to do for you what you can easily do yourself. Always be willing to accept the help, because having too much pride is also selfish. But to push responsibilities off on others is hazardous to a relationship

4. Being Grateful vs Being Guilty

One of the easiest ways to make someone else’s day is to say ‘Thank You’. No need to apologize for needing a little help. Thank others whenever you can, for being a friend, for taking time for you when you need it, thanking others just for caring is important when you have healthy boundaries set. It shows those who do for you that you appreciate them. When you bring guilt or shame into needing help you are being selfish. Sometimes we need to remember it is not always about us, and by just being grateful we can show others we care, while being guilty just shows that we take that help for granted.

5. Safely Expressing Yourself

When you smother your worries, your feelings, or your concerns and opinions you are more than likely going to sabotage your well-being and healthy boundaries. Failure to communicate and be harmful, so talk to someone you trust. If a situation is hurting you do not tolerate feelings or relationships that are toxic, especially in recovery. However you want to remain aware of others. Self-respect and respecting others go hand in hand. To not respect the wishes and feelings of others is selfish. You should try to understand as best you can what is appropriate to say to others, to show you appreciate that relationship.

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