July 1st, 2022 | On Being Selfish

on being selfish

The Monster Doesn’t Ever Let Go

This week I had lots to think about. Despite all my efforts to deal with an overwhelming sense of anxiety over the past few months, it is still there, recurring over and over again. 

This Wednesday, I woke up with a twisted stomach and a fast heartbeat, and I asked myself, “Why doesn’t this monster finally leave me alone and let me go?” I went through cognitive therapy, hypnotherapy, SSRIs, meditation, sauna, vacations, socializing, self-care… Nothing works. Just nothing. It’s only getting worse and worse.

Well, they always tell you that if you feel unwell, it means that a combination of neurotransmitters somewhere in your brain is out of balance. So you need to administer cognitive therapy, hypnotherapy, SSRIs, meditation… to bring it back on track. And then it occurred to me: what if everything is actually fine with my brain? What if it is not anxiety but simply, fear? 

The difference between the two is that, unlike anxiety, fear makes perfect sense as it is a response to real, extenuating circumstances in the organism’s environment. 

In other words, fear means that my life objectively sucks.

Why Everything Sucks In My Life

In general, people are poor at finding causal links in their lives, and they tend to build false assumptions on why certain events happen to them. It is just hard to separate emotions from facts and take an objective perspective at your own life. And yet, once you try hard enough, you start seeing patterns.

 And when I look back, I can see one clear pattern: I just can’t fight for myself. I was a good student at school when the rules for scoring points were clear. But then, in adult life, where there are no rules and you need to constantly use your elbows, I completely lost the ability to make progress. 

And it has nothing to do with self-image. I consider myself awesome — and whoever doesn’t notice, must be stupid or blind. Or both. The problem is: I’m too laid back. I’ve been avoiding all forms of competition since early childhood and at all costs.

And now, I’m slowly realizing that a little bit of selfishness and competitiveness is absolutely necessary life. Just the minimal amount… Let me explain.

Always Running Away From Confrontation

My biggest problem in business is not producing products and services, or even finding the right people to work with and leads. It certainly is sales. Why? Because I don’t even try to sell in the first place. 

If not the fact that people working with me constantly cool me down, spank me for being too generous, and instruct me what to say to close deals, I would eagerly give everything away for free. It just feels so uncomfortable asking for anything back from people!

I also avoid all the possible competition from other professionals and startups. I befriended pretty much all the other independent career advisors coming from academia and started recommending them for free on my own website. Recommending others is great, but isn’t this going too far? 

Same with competing with others for the same deal. If I see anyone else interested in the same project, I usually say “whatever” to myself and walk away — assuming that the world is large enough and I will find something else to do.

Even Worse Than That…

And when I think back and look into the course of events in detail, it is even much worse than just business. I remember a situation from the second year of my undergrad studies. It was winter, and it was freezing cold. 

I invited a group of peer students to visit me at my parents’ place in the mountains. The other day, we went hiking overnight with headlights and torches. The snow was so thick that it was taller than us at times. 

In the end, we got stuck at Klimczok, one of the peaks on the way to our final destination. We concluded that it was safer to book beds for the seven of us and stay overnight before getting back to the trail than risk freezing to death in the cold.

We spent the whole evening in the dining room, chatting and playing card games. Then, people started leaving the room and going to sleep one by one. In the end, we were left alone with one of my friends. 

At that point, he suddenly stopped hiding the fact that he really liked me. I had been getting that vibe before but now after a catalyzer called alcohol was in the picture, it finally became clear.

I decided to go back to our shared bedroom to grab some beer, and I found another friend of mine over there. She was sobbing. “Why are you crying?” —  I asked. It turned out that she really liked that guy; she just kept poker face for the whole trip. But she had quite a breakdown right now, expecting the worst.

I sat down and sighed. “I won’t let a lady cry…” — I thought to myself. I quickly rethought the situation and in the end, I came to the same conclusion as always: “whatever.” I grabbed her by hand, led her downstairs, and let her take a seat next to the guy. And then, I left and went to sleep.

I think he was so drunk that he probably didn’t even notice the difference. When I woke up in the morning, I found them sleeping and cuddling on the bed next to me. And they actually glued together ever after. They are married with two kids right now. True story.

The “Whatever” Life

This was just one particular situation but I believe it well represents my whole life. The only two relationships I was in, happened mostly because they kicked off quite quickly after meeting each other and I was not given much time to think. If I had time to think, I would have probably told myself out of it by finding some reason to say “whatever.”

Same with jobs and business deals. If I have enough time to think, I usually find many things that could potentially go wrong with them, and I walk away. I just avoid conflicts and making people feel bad so much that in the end, I always say “whatever” and go in the end.

But, what is the probability that your professional plans won’t collide with anybody else’s plans? What is the probability that the person you like, is not a subject of interest of anyone else? Pretty much zero. Which means that I screw myself over all the time.

Enough Is Enough

To sum up, I came to the point when I had quite enough of myself. I always work the hardest and get the least out of it — on my own wish. In general, I am a good advisor and support to people, and I negotiate very well — for as long it is not negotiating for myself. Literally everyone who sticks to me gets rich over time. Or, gets married. Or both. Everyone except for me. It’s crazy. 

Where can I get if I always end up saying “whatever” to everything? Nowhere. Unfortunately, life requires that minimal level of selfishness that lets you put yourself first sometimes. 

So, I finally decided to do something with it, and get professional training in sales as soon as I come back to the Netherlands. Time to finish with laid-back life.

And, I finally slept well last night. 

Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. Z. (2022, July 1st). On Being Selfish. Retrieved from: https://nataliabielczyk.com/on-being-selfish/

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If you would like to read more about careers (for PhDs and other white-collar professionals) and effective strategies to self-navigate in the job market, please also take a look at the blog of my company, Ontology of Value where I write posts dedicated to these topics.

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