Welcome to the fourth episode of “The Pursuit of Self-Actualization” podcast with your host, Dante Dibastitta. In this episode, we address a common struggle many people face: finding the balance between being selfish and selfless. After receiving feedback from my first episode, I realized that many individuals have difficulty prioritizing their own needs while serving others. They often express concerns about breaking promises to themselves or feeling overwhelmed by their accountability to others. Today, I want to explore how we can harness our selflessness in a way that maximizes our impact on those we aim to serve.
Throughout our lives, we become accustomed to being accountable to external forces. From childhood to adulthood, we are accountable to our parents, teachers, employers, and loved ones. Our daily routines revolve around serving others, often leaving little time and energy for self-care. To address this imbalance, I emphasize the importance of carving out time for personal growth and well-being, especially during the early hours of the day. By dedicating the prime hours of our productivity to ourselves, we can refill our own cups and focus on our own needs.
The saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” resonates with many, but I believe it overlooks a crucial aspect. It’s not just about having something in the cup; it’s about ensuring the best possible content fills it. Whether it’s coffee, tea, water, or any other beverage, the process of preparing and refining that liquid matters. Similarly, we must refine our self-care process, paying attention to our own growth and well-being. By doing so, we become the best version of ourselves and can share that with others.
To further explore the concept of self, let’s delve into a fascinating study conducted by cross-cultural psychologists. They observed brain activity in adolescents from various backgrounds, including American, Italian, and Asian cultures. Surprisingly, when asked about themselves and their families, the same region of the brain lit up for Italian and Asian participants. This suggests that these individuals see themselves and their families as interconnected and inseparable. We can draw inspiration from this research to expand our own self-perception.
If you struggle to keep promises to yourself while excelling at keeping them for others, consider this: by caring deeply for your loved ones, you must also care for yourself. Becoming the best version of yourself enhances your ability to be a better sibling, partner, parent, or friend. Prioritizing self-improvement is not selfish; it is selfless because it enables you to serve others more effectively.
Drawing on my Italian heritage, I want to share an insightful story from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers.” In Pennsylvania, two neighboring villages—one Italian and one German—displayed contrasting rates of heart disease. While diet initially seemed like the likely cause, it turned out that the Italian village’s advantage came from factors beyond nutrition. They had stronger family connections, fewer security concerns, and a vibrant sense of community. This story offers valuable lessons we can apply to our own lives.
We may not all be Italian, but we can adapt these concepts to our unique circumstances. Personally, I focus on self-improvement to honor the sacrifices made by my grandparents, parents, and to create a legacy for my children. Each of us has a different story and role to play, but if we are passionate about serving others, we must be somewhat selfish. By becoming the best version of ourselves, we can provide the most value to those we intend to serve, whether it’s our family, community, or society at large.
Selfishness doesn’t always mean disregarding others. Being selflessly selfish means prioritizing self-care to be of greater service