Thomas G. Plante Ph.D., ABPP

Do the Right Thing

Balancing Compassion for Self and Others

How do you balance caring for others with caring for yourself?

Posted May 22, 2013

Yet, on the other hand, we also live in a world that constantly tells us that we need to do more for ourselves, carve out more “me time” and so forth. We are often told in the press and elsewhere that we should do more to make ourselves happy and satisfied. Plus our world is a competitive and even Darwinian place in that if you don't grab all that you can for yourself you'll suffer and be left out. Do you remember the famous line from the 1980's movie, Wall Street?  "Greed is good!" It became the mantra for many and still is for lots of so-called "successful" role models.

But too much attention and focus on ourselves makes us selfish, uncaring, and narcissistic...and, in a word, a jerk!  

Of course, one needs to triage and make priorities. Additionally, you have to take care of yourself at least in minimal and appropriate ways in order to be able to be helpful to others. Plus, you have to have a good understanding of your values and be a good time manager to boot. You have to reflect on what kind of person you want to be out there. But this is never easy and I wonder how you find a way to best balance these often conflciting goals

At the end of the day, I do believe that people, including young people, very much want to be compassionate to both self and others. If given a chance, good role models, and some opportunities to do so while reflecting on their experience they really do want to do the right thing and be people of compassion. I see this among my college students here at Santa Clara University and have faith that they'll find a balance to make the world better while helping themselves too.