Selfish or Selfless?…

If you take care of yourself, are you selfish or selfless? I have heard from a number of clients that caring for themselves is uncomfortable and seems selfish. Is it though?

Burkina Faso tree

Recently my husband and I, plus 3 friends, went to Burkina Faso….a land locked country in West Africa and one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. The environment is harsh, dusty red baked hard sand where little can grow. We happened to visit at the best time of year with temperatures in the mid 30s, however in the next few months the temperatures will soar and then the rains will come….and a lot of rain; bring with it an explosion of malaria.

Our friend who arranged this trip is Steve Hedley, founder of Trinity Charity which provides practical and emotional support for people suffering homelessness in the UK, including housing over 200 people every year. He has been visiting Burkina since 1997; this being his 20th visit and organises these Ambassador Trips so that people can have experiences they would be unlikely to find anywhere else, often resulting in profound effects in their lives.

As well as experiencing an amazing time visiting many schools, orphanages, remote villages plus meeting many wonderfully warm, joyful people, we met up with Dr. Philippe Ouedraogo philippewho founded Trinity’s partner charity: The Association Evangelique d’Appui Development, (AEAD) with his wife Josephine in 1992. AEAD addresses the root causes of poverty by fully involving and empowering the local community through an integrated approach in education, training, socio-economic development and evangelism. Philippe started life as a village boy of very humble beginning; feeling privileged going to school, despite walking 15km barefoot on the hot burning soil. Through hard work, passion and vision he achieved a PhD from Oxford and set up AEAD, improving the living conditions of millions of people.

I only met Philippe a couple of times, yet in those brief moments, he made a significant impression on me. Similar to Nelson Mandela, he is a charismatic visionary leader who listens, cares for others from a place of love, and takes action.

What is this to do with Selfish or Selfless?

As well as the incredible impact he has made, what surprisingly stood out for me was the environment he created. He was always nattily dressed in smart trousers and trendy shirt. I noticed that his staff were dressed similarly. The office and his home were comfortable and there were nice cars parked in the driveway.

Some people may question that the money he spent on himself and his staff be better spent in the charity? Was he selfish or selfless?

For me, he understands the importance of caring for himself, both spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically so that he is much better able to look after others. If he didn’t care for himself, he could easily get overworked, exhausted and ill. What good would that be for the thousands of children and adults who he supports?

As a great leader whose purpose is to improve the living conditions of others, he leads by example. He self-cares, he ensures that his staff are cared for and he takes care of his overseas visitors, providing us with accommodation and food which we are accustomed to. (An additional benefit of this is that many of the Ambassadors then want to return and support the charity even more so – in fact we plan to go back for 2 weeks next year) He is a wise man.

Steve shared with us that some people questioned the benefits of Westerners going over as Ambassadors. Surely the money spent travelling over to Burkina Faso (it’s not cheap) could be better used as a donation instead? And Philippe’s reply was “And then I wouldn’t be able to bless them personally”. What an amazingly giving man.

Selfish or Selfless? What is your opinion?

On flight Advice

On the flight back from Burkina Faso I was reminded of caring for ourselves first before others when the flight attendant went through the normal safety procedures.

Selfish or Selfless?“The passenger should always fit his or her own oxygen mask on before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance.”


I am sure that you don’t question whether this is selfish or selfless. If you are not ok then how can you help another person? You won’t be very effective for them or yourself and could cause more issues in the long-run.

Often I hear of parents running ragged looking after their children, taking them here, there and everywhere, doing all the chores as well as working full-time. Is this selfish or selfless? It so seems selfless and I am sure that the parents believe that by being this way, they are demonstrating how much they care about their loved ones.

But what does this achieve? Tired grouchy parents are not great to be around and this behaviour is not giving children a great role model for being independent and resilience – which they will certainly need in the 21st century life.

I invite you to consider how you care for yourself…

  • When have you given yourself some space to reflect?
  • How are you caring for yourself?
  • What would it be like if you gave yourself permission to be kind to yourself?

So let us learn from Dr. Philippe Ouedraogo. Selfish or selfless? Rather than not look after ourselves and then just functioning, through self-care we can flourish AND enable others to do so as well.

Lindsey Reed is an experienced International Coach, Trainer and now Author who enables people to have a happy life and be their best selves. If you would like to work with Lindsey, contact her either by email or call 01832 280168 for a chat to see if she is the right coach for you. (121 coaching is either face to face / telephone / skype)

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