One of the chief complaints I hear from men about women in their lives is how self-centered they can be. While over-indulgence in satisfying ones own wants and emotions and self-absorption are flaws that both men and women can have, women have more of a tendency toward solipsism than men. Solipsism, or “egoistic self-absorption,” is a major part of the female psyche. As women we tend to focus on how the world affects us, rather than how we affect the world. We tend to place a lot of our focus on our own emotions, thoughts, and feelings, and don’t acknowledge the feelings and struggles of others.
For example, I have a friend who has what most people would say is a great boyfriend. He spends all day at a difficult job, just about bankrolls her life (she has a part-time job), is constantly finding fun activities for them to do on weekends, and listens to her constant complaining about how “hard” work is and how “tired” she is all the time. Yet, when she’s with me, she complains about how “lazy” he is when he comes home from work. When I told her he was probably exhausted from working all day and commuting an hour both ways, she looked at me like I had two heads. She hadn’t even considered he might be tired–I know.
That might seem like an exaggeration of a story, but that kind of thinking is incredibly common, and also easy to fall into for women if we aren’t careful. Our society supports this kind of self-absorption, especially since the rise of social media (a beast I’ll discuss another day). Modern women are taught to think mainly about themselves from elementary school through college, stuffed with ideas about “girl power” and being an “independent woman,” trained from early on to think solely about themselves and what they want. To consider what a man wants, a boyfriend or spouse, is considered weak or backward, and women caring about men (and even just about family or other people in our communities) is rapidly disappearing from this world.
But, it was not always like this. Women in the past curbed their tendency toward solipsism, and the unselfish, caring nature of women was something to celebrate before the dawn of the purple-haired trolls you see lumbering on the streets these days. While solipsism may be in our nature, we have another characteristic in us that serves to combat it–our maternal instinct. While this in excess can too be dangerous, finding a balance in caring for others (especially our loved ones and those close to us in our community) can help us to step outside of ourselves and our needs.
To be a feminine woman is to be a nurturer. Feminism and modern society have taught women to suppress this instinct, but the more you allow yourself to be nurturing, the easier it will be to call on this part of your feminine nature. It doesn’t take a huge effort to start appealing to your instinct to nurture. Even small acts can get things started.
Try being more domestic–cleaning your living space, doing your (and your family’s/boyfriend’s/husband’s laundry), cooking a meal for those you love, finding an activity to do with your family, boyfriend, or spouse that centers around something they love rather than something you love, packing your boyfriend’s/husband’s lunch, writing your boyfriend/husband a love note, etc. Do something small to brighten your family or significant other’s day.
Work on being a happier person. Smile more and try to think about how to make others’ days better rather than your own. Be an easier person to be around. Pay more attention to your loved ones’ moods and emotions. Does your mother seem worried about something? Does your boyfriend seem stressed? Has your husband been grumpy lately? Rather than snapping at them because they’re “ruining” your own mood, try to make them feel better by being kind and understanding. Be a soft place in a hard world for the ones you love.
Find a volunteer group or volunteer at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, community center, etc. Spend a morning, afternoon, or entire day doing something for others and forgetting your wants and comfort. The more you push yourself to be more selfless and focus on others who have harder lives than you, the easier it will be, and taking a bigger jump by making a big effort can help you grow–as long as you focus on what others are getting out of it rather than on looking good by doing charity.
Finally, thank the people around you more. I’ll be you don’t notice just how much your boyfriend, husband, or family do for you, especially the small gestures. Thank your boyfriend for taking you on a date or for bringing you food. Thank your husband for working so hard every day (even if you work yourself, everyone deserves acknowledgement for putting in work to make a family. Thank your parents for providing for you or for loving you when you’re difficult. When you start saying thank you more and more, you’ll start seeing just how much the people around you do, how hard they work, and just how much you missed by focusing only on you.