Redefining Selfish and Learning How to be Selflessly Selfish

selfish selflessness

In today’s episode, Paul and Coach Micheala want to talk about you.


  • Not your kids.
  • Not your dog.
  • Not your job.
  • Not the bills, laundry, or kid’s sporting events tonight.
  • Not your husband or wife.


And caring for you.

For the next 30 minutes, they want you to wholeheartedly embrace and step into being selfish.

How does that make you feel?

  • Bad?
  • Wrong?
  • Uneasy?
  • Guilty?

If the thought of prioritizing you evokes any degree of anxiety or negativity, know that you’re not alone.

In today’s episode, Paul and Coach Micheala will lead you through a powerful discussion intended to help you understand how your relationship with being selfish isn’t serving you, why you need to transform this relationship, and what it means to be selflessly selfish.

Key Highlights

  • Learn why you’ve been conditioned to beleive being selfish is “wrong” or “bad.”
  • Discover why this thinking is counterproductive and actually takes you away from doing what you want to do
  • Learn what it means to be selfishly selfless and how this mindset can help you feel, look, and be your best, and do the same for those around you that you care about most

Episode Resources

Read our “Maintain Your Weight Loss After A Diet” Blueprint

Join The 5% Community

Learn Sustainable Weight Loss Nutrition Fundamentals


Paul Salter:

Hey, 5% podcast listeners. Welcome back to another episode of The 5% Way Podcast with your co-host and registered dietician, myself, Paul Salter, and the wonderful Micheala Barsotti, and we are incredibly grateful that you have chosen to spend time with us. Whether you’re a long-time listener, even dating back to the old school, Screw The Scale Podcast days, or a freshly minted new listener, we are incredibly grateful and happy to have you.

And as I’m looking at my notes for this show, this is episode 181, and we’re coming up on that 200 mark, which is really, really neat, but even more important to share with you, our beloved listeners, that the last 16 episodes are fresh and live on our website, each of which has key highlights, takeaways, resources discussed in the shows, and an individualized transcription for every single episode.

So if you are somebody who likes to listen once and then go back and read and copy-paste into your own notes, Evernote, Google Doc, et cetera, to take your own notes and draw your own conclusions, we have transcriptions for every single episode of the show readily available for you at the show or episode number is for this show. So this is 181. It would be /podcast/181, and you will be set up for success. But now, with that said, Micheala, how are you today?

Micheala Barsotti:

I’m good. I just got back from a week-long vacation. So I’m feeling refreshed. My cup is full and yeah, I’m just, I’m excited to be back to it. I love being away, but I also just really love coming back to routine, too.

Paul Salter:

Yeah, you were missed.

Micheala Barsotti:


Paul Salter:

You were missed.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. Well, and I’ll say too, I’m just really excited because as I was diving back into the community, first of all, we’ve had how many members last week while I was gone? Five?

Paul Salter:

Five in the last five days. Yeah.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. So that was really cool. And just seeing all their intro videos come in and just meeting them, it’s just been really exciting.

Paul Salter:

I agree. Let’s shout one out because that’s a perfect tone setter for today’s discussion. So new member Brittany, so happy that you are here. To be honest, not even sure if she’s a podcast listener, but she will be shortly, I’m sure, because I’ll make sure that she knows that we’re talking her up. But she just completed her intro video, and one thing, without getting off on a tangent, is every single member that joins is voluntold to film a quick intro video because it immediately puts them outside of their comfort zone or at least 99% of them. And if you can’t step out of your comfort zone with a 60-minute about yourself, it shows that maybe you’re not quite ready to get out of your comfort zone to do something different to achieve sustainable weight loss. And if you can’t spend 60 seconds talking about yourself, well, how on earth can you begin to put yourself first when it comes to achieving your transformation from the inside and out?

So that’s why we do it, and it’s not something everybody does, but we do our best to encourage and support. But Brittany kicked ass and took care of hers on Monday to start the new week, having just joined at the end of last week. And in her video, she was incredibly raw, real, vulnerable. She’s a mother to a two-year-old, a new dog mom, in school full-time, working full-time, and finally she said, decided to take action to put herself first. She spent just over four years serving our beloved country, and we’re incredibly grateful for her service, and literally just has an entire lifetime of putting others first and finally reached a point where she was ready to put herself first. And Brittany, we are so excited that you have chosen and done that and chosen to do so alongside us and giving us the opportunity to serve and support you on your way to feel, look, and be your best.

And on that note, I want to begin our episode today talking about the theme of selfish selflessness by saying this. Today, I want to talk about you. Yes, you, the listener. I want you to take a deep breath and to know that for the next 20, maybe 30 minutes, because we all know I like to talk a lot, that the focus is 100% on you, not your kids, your dog, your spouse, not your job, not your endless to-do list of bills, laundry, kids’ sporting events, whatever it may be. The focus is on Y-O-U and caring for you, nurturing you, and I want you to wholeheartedly embrace and step into being selfish.

And I’m curious to know, and I wish you were here to answer for me, but it’ll be a rhetorical question, how does that make you feel, knowing that I am challenging you to be selfish right now? Does it feel bad, wrong, bring up feelings of uneasiness, anxiety, perhaps even guilt? If the thought of prioritizing you evokes any degree of anxiety or negativity, do know that you are not alone.

One of the questions on our application to join The 5% community inquires about your current level of personal growth and development. What are you doing, if anything, to continue your own knowledge? And we simply ask that because that is really what The 5% community is founded upon, is continuing to do what is necessary to feel, look, and be your best.

And the option checked in this checkbox-style question most often reads, “Self-care is selfish, and I only tend to myself after I’ve tended to everyone else’s needs.” And the second most chosen option, we’re coming up on almost 200 different applications completed there, and the second most checked box is, “I attempt to engage in self-care, but it’s difficult without having a good reason why.” How about because you’re fucking worth it and you deserve it today more than ever.

Spending time caring for yourself or putting your needs first is viewed as selfish, and this is especially true for women who are not only, I believe, probably somewhat biologically wired to be selfless, but who have seen women’s rights, jobs, expectations change dramatically in the last 50 to 70 years.

And obviously, let me point out the obvious. This is from a man, a male’s perspective who’s worked with thousands of women over the years, but women were once expected to simply stay at home, care for the children, care for their husbands, really be the backbone of the family, responsible for all of the tending to the house, the chores, the pets, the homes, et cetera, whereas now, we’ve made some good progress. We’re still nowhere close to where we should be and giving women the opportunity to experience and thrive with limitless opportunity.

But my point is this. Roles, aspirations, goals, dreams have changed, but for many, expectations have not. And despite you now going to school full-time or working full-time or truly making the most money in the household, whatever it may be, there’s still this expectation that you have to care for everybody else, and that leaves you in quite a predicament, because if you choose to give into that, you’re constantly running on empty.

And you wonder why you develop some type of negative-impacted mood or wellbeing, whatever it may be, because your cup is empty, you’re running on empty and you have nothing left to give to everybody else. And what’s interesting is giving to others is what makes you happy, yet if you continue to give, give, give, well, you’re running out of energy. You’re no longer able to do what makes you happy, and now, you find yourself stuck in this nasty vicious cycle where you’re more prone to committing to unsustainable restrictive approaches to feeling better with exercise, nutrition, other modes of supplementation, whatever it may be, and it’s simply not a recipe for success. And ultimately, like I’m kind of alluded to, the result is that self-care gets put on the back burner and we continue to try and pour from an empty cup.

That is not acceptable. It’s not what you desire, and it’s certainly not what you deserve. So I would love to use our episode today to really converse with you, the listener, as well as Micheala and I to differentiate between the concepts of selfish and selflessness, and ultimately, by the end of this episode, hopefully paint a more clear picture for you to embrace and step into this concept of selfish selflessness, as you really are able to connect the dots between how taking care of yourself first allows you to better serve, support, or care for other people. And with that said, Micheala, I’m curious to know, how would you define both selfish and selfless?

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. I would say selfish is putting your own needs first and selfless being putting everybody else’s needs above your own.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. Simple as that. And Google simply says something very similar. Selfish, lacking considerations or consideration, excuse me, for others, concerned chiefly with one’s own needs, whereas selfless is defined as concerns more with needs and wishes of others than with one’s own. And to me, this is an immediate all-or-nothing mentality type of problem. It’s black or white, and it leaves no room for a gray area, which is incredibly limiting, restrictive, if you will, because can’t you put your own needs first to better be able to put the needs of others first? Yeah, absolutely. And that’s kind of why we’re having this conversation.

But the way we are raised, and I have little snapshots in my memory of when I was a kid and I’m the oldest of four. So as my little siblings started popping out and I had to share my toys or mealtime or parents’ attention, I remember distinct moments where I was called selfish for wanting more attention or wanting to do X, Y, and Z. So we’re taught from a very young age that doing or wanting something for ourselves is a bad thing. So the element of selfish carries this underlying negative connotation when now, fast-forward 30 plus years later, and I’m like, “Eh, wait a second. I don’t think I agree with that. I think there’s another way we can view this and see a happy medium between the two.”

So Micheala, before I do go off on a tangent and how I’ve seen this play out in 5% community members, clients, members, et cetera, I’m curious to know your own thoughts about this concept of selfish selflessness. Is it good, bad? How has it hindered your life or those you’ve worked with?

Micheala Barsotti:

Well, I would just say I’ve never met somebody successful that doesn’t make time to care for themselves and do things that fill their cup or keep them in tip-top shape. Have you? These successful people will always choose to put themselves first in one way or another. And so I guess what I would say about this is when you learn that selfish isn’t a bad thing, then you’re going to become more successful and it becomes easier to do the things that you know are going to help you become more selfless over time.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. I mean, you don’t see people like Oprah, Bill Gates, whoever, I’m thinking like athletes is where I default to LeBron James, the late Kobe Bryant, damn right there putting themselves first at some point because yes, they’re loving fathers, figures, parents, spouses, significant others, daughters, sons, et cetera, but they put themselves first. That’s a focal point to all of the wealth and success they’ve cultivated over the years.

And it’s just so incredibly interesting that when we think about self-care, a lot of us develop this skewed mindset that like, ugh, if I go exercise, I’m expending energy. I’m expending or wasting time when I could be doing X, Y, and Z. If I choose to spend more time preparing my meal or portioning, I’m expending this energy that could be put towards my child’s homework or whatever it may be. But in reality, regular exercise, regularly eating well gives us more energy. So what amounts to a very short-term time commitment that seems like a waste or a massive expenditure of energy actually gives back twofold, tenfold, to be honest, more and more.

So if a simple mindset shift, some cognitive reframing in play here, that if we can learn to view self-care, not just exercise and eating well, reading, massage, meditation, quiet time, journaling, walks outside, playing with the dogs, whatever fills your cup up, as a positive productive use of our time that truly gives us more energy in the long run, I mean, that’s a game changer. Right there, we have just now flipped a switch to open up for limitless possibilities.

And unfortunately, one of the all two common scenarios that I’ve observed in my years working with thousands of people is… And I’m not trying to stereotype, but it is that stereotypical mother who has a couple of kids. She is working full-time herself. She is taking care of the family, her husband or significant other, her children as well. And from the moment she wakes up, it’s how do I get my husband out the door or my partner out the door? How do I get my kids ready for school? Who’s feeding them? What are they having for lunch? Oh shit, who walked the dog? Et cetera.

So then they do all of that and they rush to their own job. They go through the work day. Oh, what does my boss need? What does my coworker need? Or what do my subordinates need? Then they get home. Shit, Ricky’s got basketball practice. Jennifer’s got ballet, whatever it may be. And then it’s 9:30 o’clock, and the only thing they want going to do to take care of themselves is find either a glass of wine or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And before you know it, they’re half asleep, and they wake up in the blink of an eye and it’s the next day again.

And slowly, this adds up. And maybe the effects aren’t felt right away. Your body will always give you signs of accumulated fatigue and that it needs a break, but we’re really, really good at masking or ignoring those signs. But eventually, what we amount to thinking is a midlife crisis, a bout of sickness, an autoimmune disorder. Stress burnout is simply just the result of not listening to the signs that your body’s been giving you for weeks, months, or years that, hey, you’re not putting yourself first. What else did you expect? I can’t run on empty all day long.

And if you are a mother listening, listen to this episode three times, please. Go read the transcript that we’ve provided for you as well because it’s incredibly valuable, and it’s one of the many reasons that in our very first module of The 5% community, we literally talk about how important it is to plant and nourish the right seeds. We talk about how important it is to take ownership of your actions and to prioritize Y-O-U. That’s literally some of the introductory orientation and onboarding information you receive to set the tone for your 12-month transformational experience, because if you can’t start doing those, you’re going to find yourself in a similar position, if not further from your goals, in due time.

Micheala, now, I’m curious to know in all of your vast experience coaching and leading others, how do you help past clients, current members of ours who share the issue of feeling that their family and friends don’t see their acts of self-care as selfless behaviors?

Micheala Barsotti:

I think first is just helping them establish some strong boundaries. First, you need to realize that not everyone is going to understand or agree with your decisions of making time for yourself. They might see that as selfish or wrong, but we have to remind ourselves that these are the things that we need to do for us and that we also 100% deserve to do in order to show up as that person that everybody else is relying on.

It’s also important that we share with our close circle and our loved ones why it’s important for us to do this thing. So workouts come to mind for me because I have a lot of moms that I work with and they want to do it, but then life’s priorities start taking over. So it’s like sharing with your husband I need this time for me because it helps energize me, and then I can go do this, this and this.

And when you share with them, and then they can understand why this is important to you, whatever this thing is, maybe it’s just 10 minutes of quiet time every day after dinner, it helps them become part of your support system to help you do that thing and you start working together as a team, versus that miscommunication or just not understanding why you need to do the things that you need to do.

And the last thing I’ll say is just remembering that before you were ever a mom or a wife or a caregiver, you’re you. And so you deserve to be loved and cared for. And I say this all the time, because it’s just so easily forgotten that we do become all of these different other titles and we forget that we’re still us, and that person deserves to be loved and nurtured just as much.

So to your point of, I think, it’s also important to be said that we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, and that’s why the community members have so much success because they do share a lot of their problems of what they’re all struggling with with, “I’m feeling guilty of this.” And then you have that reassurance from other people going through the same thing. You hear how they’re handling it, how they’re tackling it, and it helps remind you that it is okay. You’re meant to give yourself the time that you need. And so [crosstalk 00:18:14].

Paul Salter:

Yeah, that’s great point. Yeah, because I’ll shout out a couple of our members. So Amy, for example, sometimes in the background, when she attends the live call, and she rarely misses a call, her daughter is there in the background reading a book or doing her homework. So she is not only making time for herself, but those of you who are mothers, now she’s being a fantastic role model showing her young, beautiful daughter, “Hey, this is mommy’s time to learn and grow as well, while you go learn and grow or play,” whatever it may be.

And then shout out to Naomi, too, on our team. She has four young children, and now, they’re in and out of some of our Zoom calls and whatnot throughout the week, but again, it’s an excellent example as a role modeling, like “Hey, this is mommy’s time to learn, contribute, work, help,” whatever it may be. She’s putting herself first. And in the community lately, she’s been sharing how much she’s making time to exercise with the dog, with the kids, et cetera. And it is actually an opportunity to better serve or teach some valuable lifelong skills and lessons to your children by demonstrating the value and the importance and benefit of putting yourself first.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. And I would just say, too, that understanding what self-care is to you, it’s not always going to get a manicure or getting your hair done or going shopping. It’s like, self-care is something that you do for yourself every single day that helps fill your cup. So figuring out what that is.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. You literally read my mind. It’s incredibly important to get clear on what fills your cup up. If working out seven days per week is not for you, then don’t gravitate towards that. You can make fantastic health, weight change, muscle benefit results, whatever in three days per week. Find whether it is the 10 minutes of quiet time, closing your eyes. Or as my mom used to today, she’s just resting her eyes. Go read, go walk, play with the dogs, et cetera, find something for you.

And back to your point, too, Micheala earlier, communication is incredibly key here. I love how you shared the example. It’s so important to not only communicate what you need, but most of us also want to hear the why you need it. And I don’t know why that is in a relationship, but having that extra, “I need or want to do this because,” there is your framework to share your needs is very powerful because you’re significant other or whoever it is that you’re communicating with, I think we can all assume and trust here, they want nothing but the best for you and for you to feel your best. So giving them that why and reiterating, “Hey, I’m feeling this way. I want to go do this, so I can feel this way,” is a recipe for success in navigating what might have once been a bit of a anxiety-provoking conversation. So particularly, if you are speaking up to your significant other, utilizing that framework is incredibly helpful.

And on that, a lot of you listening, excuse me, may be feeling that lingering sense of uneasiness, like “Yeah, what Paul and Micheala are saying makes sense. Yeah, it sounds good, but I don’t really know where to start.” So I want to share just a couple action steps that you can take to leave this podcast episode with, so you can actually go implement what it is you are learning.

And the first thing is gain clarity. What does fill your cup up? Is it reading? Is it talking to a friend or family member on the phone? Is it meditation? Is it journaling? Is it a walk outside. For me, I am very much an introvert to a T. So I love me some me time. And if it’s a 10-minute walk outside with my dog, I can usually come back fairly recharged enough. And then if that’s all I get in that particular day, hey, that’s fantastic. But getting clear on what exactly fills your cup up is an excellent starting place.

Number two, identify who do you need to communicate with so that you can make this a priority and actually adjust your responsibilities or to-do list to make it sit atop the priority list. So again, significant other, family member, friend, coworker, et cetera, have that conversation. You need to do this or want to do this because you’re trying to change the way you feel. You feel this way, so you’re going to do this to feel a different way. Have that conversation.

And then the last step is really simple. Go fucking do it. Go do it. Take the time for you. Make the time for you. And the second or the last bonus step I’ll say is when you do it, celebrate the heck out of it when you’re done. Even if it’s 10 minutes of quiet time, have that wonderful smile of bliss and contentment come over your face as that timer goes off at 10 minutes, knowing you just took 10 minutes for you and you’re going to come back more energized, stronger, or focused to tend to whatever responsibilities await you.

Micheala Barsotti:

Yeah. I don’t mean to be negative Nancy here after all those great positive action steps, but just understanding that if you don’t take action and start making steps to make yourself a priority, the only person that’s hurting is you because eventually, you will get to that place of burnout where you are forced to make time for yourself. And when it gets to that point, you’re likely not going to like where you’re at. So it’s just realizing something’s got to change and starting to make those little baby steps towards a better version of you.

Paul Salter:

Yeah. And I could promise every single one of you listening right now who might be frustrated or fed up with how you feel, what your weight is, what you look like, your eating habits, et cetera, if you make self-care a priority, I guarantee you all of that will change because the relationship you have with yourself is really mirrored back to in your relationship with food.

And if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not feeling your best. So what is your brain and your subconscious naturally going to do? Seek out something that gives you quick doses of dopamine. What’s one of the best sources of that? Sugar. So you’re going to be more prone to eating shit throughout the day, which is going to negatively affect your energy even further, your weight even further, your physique, et cetera. So it’s a negative spiral of a fall down, and it’s a very simple solution. Take 10 minutes every day to care for yourself and even the tiniest way possible, and all of that will fall into place the way it needs to.

Micheala Barsotti:

Definitely. Yep.

Paul Salter:

Awesome. So just a couple points to recap and we will end this episode with an exclamation point, but I want to leave you with this. Being selfish creates an opportunity to be more selfless. It’s all about how we frame it and whether we clearly and intentionally connect the dots. So do keep that in mind.

And yes, it can be challenging to communicate this with others, to deal with the judgment backlash, and even some inevitable feelings of guilt, regret and uneasiness, but it gets easier, especially when you communicate to the appropriate people how you’re currently feeling and what you’re going to do to change and evolve or level up that feeling to something more desirable. And that only comes through honest and transparent communication. So utilize the framework we’ve shared with you to have that conversation and remember that you are a priority. You can’t be the best mother, caregiver, spouse, significant other, employer, employee, neighbor, friend, family member, whatever it may be, until you take care of you.

Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode. We sincerely rather hope you found it incredibly valuable. And if you did find it that way, please share it with somebody else who would find benefit in listening. And if you’ve not done so already, take 30 seconds, leave a genuine rating and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcast, as this helps the show grow and get placed in front of more people just like you, who are going to find it valuable. Well, have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you again for listening and we’ll catch you next week in a new episode.

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.



Micheala is a Transformation and Community Success Coach. She specializes in bringing out the absolute best in you and helping you see that you already have everything you need to achieve the transformational results you desire. Micheala will be an incredible asset for you on your journey since she went through the process herself and has seen long lasting results.

The Maintain My Weight Loss After A Diet Blueprint

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