You Know You Want It
Go on, admit it: that last piece of pizza sitting on the cardboard, still kind of hot and bubbly and cheesy, looks darn good. Mmmmm. If you were alone right now, it would be so gone. You may even be full, but you would still eat it. And yet, you don’t. You fold your napkin, sit back, and maybe feel a little superior to whoever eats it.
What is going on here?
I’m not talking to you — the health or weight conscious people reading this. You’re just trying to cut calories, or eat mindfully, which is healthy. Nor am I talking to you — the pizza hogs who have no idea what language I’m speaking right now because you have zero problem scarfing down the last piece of anything. You’re the ones who lean over and say, “Hey, if you’re not gonna finish that, can I have it?” You go take a nice long carb nap on the couch.
No, I’m talking to YOU: the one who probably has all kinds of little acts of martyrdom peppered throughout your day in the hope of being a good person. You want to be nice. You want to make others happy. And you really, especially, don’t want to be selfish.
What could possibly be wrong with this picture? Here’s what: in your quest to remain unselfish, did it ever occur to you that you encourage other people to take advantage of you? Is that bringing out the best in them? “Wait,” you may say. “It just so happens that I am surrounded by selfish goons who never care if I get enough pizza, or whether I get to choose the restaurant. They never make me a birthday cake, or watch the show I like with me.” Maybe so. But how would you even know? And how will they know, if you act like you don’t care? If you try not to care. But I see you. You’re eyes are all over that piece of pizza. You care, you big liar.
Take The Risk
If you aren’t sitting up and grabbing that pizza, it’s actually you who is depriving yourself of it. Ditto the movie, the restaurant, the birthday cake and a multitude of other things.
Let me be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with being generous and kind and self sacrificing. It’s a beautiful thing that makes the world go round. Putting others first as a way of life is noble and good. It’s only a problem when you know darn well it’s not fair and you do it anyway. It’s when you sacrifice yourself to enable selfishness that it’s a problem. It’s when you quietly resent someone for not being kind or fair to you, that you may need to reconsider.
In these cases, you might want to take steps to learn to value yourself more. This is a learnable skill. It may at least give others a chance to show they value you. But if you don’t give them the opportunity, you’ll never know. And you’ll deprive them of a chance to feel generous, loving, caring, or just less selfish. You will set the stage for a much healthier relationship that grows better over time.
What if it doesn’t work?
Of course feels risky. You might find out they don’t care what you want. (This is good to know about someone you spend time with.) What if they judge you or criticize you or have a tantrum because they want the last piece? Good question! Now we’re really coming down to it. Do you decide how to treat yourself based on what you think is right, or based on what will keep others happy? Is your value always up for a vote? Can someone treating you badly make you join them in treating you badly?
What if you decide to stand firm, and be kind to yourself, no matter what anyone thinks? (Again, I’m only talking to the pizza chickens out there. You pizza hogs can clearly fend for yourself). At the very least, you are finally in an equal relationship, if just for one meal. At the most, you may be surprised to learn that you can be loved and be treated fairly at the same time.
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Springfield, Illinois. She helps couples build great relationships and repair broken ones. She breaks out in a cold sweat when the number of pizza slices starts to dwindle and the competition heats up.