Selfishness v. Self-love: Exploring the thin line

In order to celebrate the end of Ramadan, I had the chance to spend an incredible few days with two of my dearest friends in Bombay.

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After recovering from a plate of raan biryani one night, we talked about an alleged Sikh practice, in which a mother of three sons would give her third son to serve the religion. Regardless if this ancient practice is true, the question we tried to explore was this: what if the sacrificial mother becomes so depressed that she is no longer able to properly raise her other sons and daughters? Is not the world actually worse off because of this sacrifice that she made? Where is the line between sacrifice and self love/preservation?

To this point of sacrifice, when Jacqueline came to visit our Amal Fellows last year, she shared stories of her journey that illustrated how “nothing in life happens without a cost.” Last week, however, Bavidra and Saher hosted her and the Acumen Fellows for breakfast, and we talked about how “the great spiritual leaders speak about loving oneself to love others well.” Again, confronting this tension between sacrifice and self-care.

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According to a doctor I had the privilege of meeting in Bombay, in order to better invest in our family/friends/community — and in order to make a deeper impact through our work — we have to learn how to redefine selfishness. As she put it:

“Putting the gas mask on first might seem like it’s selfish, but you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.”

Although I still deeply believe that there are costs required to live a life of purpose, I’m starting to realize a few things:

  • That perhaps loving and taking care for ourself should not be one of the things we sacrifice, if we’re planning to sustain the long and bitter but beautiful struggle for a new world.
  • That although we might not yet know where’s the line between loving yourself and being selfish, it’s profoundly important to start exploring this question further.
  • And that perhaps exploring these questions through the love and support of friends like Bavidra and Saher and communities like Acumen might be a part of what that self love looks like.
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“it is common to take a dog for a walk, it is less common to take a dream for a walk” || @amalacademy + @theunderstory cofounder | nature novel in progress

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