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How I changed my entire outlook on life, in one easy step… What I Can Give, Not What I Get


November 2014

An ether friend of mine wrote a post the other day that garnered a lengthy comment or three and the comment I left, expanded, led to this post.   Now, that post and my comment only got the cogs moving…that’s where it ends.  For this post I’m going a little bit deeper with the topic.  The simple truth is what I’m going to describe might be a little tough to grasp for normal folk… For people suffering delusions of grandeur, this should be earth-shattering because  most people simply don’t look at life this way…  Choosing to implement this in one’s life will mean a radical departure from normalcy…

I am, well technically “was” (Can one truly be cured of this? The jury is out), an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex. Now, aside from that being a fantastically humorous one-liner, this statement requires one know exactly what this means if one is to understand and identify with the rest of the post:


e·go·ma·ni·a (g-mn-, -mny, g-)
Obsessive preoccupation with the self.
ego·mani·ac (-n-k) n.
ego·ma·nia·cal (-m-n-kl) adj.
ego·ma·nia·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Now inferiority complex:

inferiority complex
A persistent sense of inadequacy or a tendency to self-diminishment, sometimes resulting in excessive aggressiveness through overcompensation.

Same source

So, an obsession with self combined with a persistent sense of inadequacy… That describes me before I sobered up and about two years after. What this means in normal everyday English is quite simple: I was preoccupied with me. I was always more concerned about myself, what I wanted, what I would get, my feelings, my concerns, me, me, me, me, me…and add to that the caveat, I knew I wasn’t worth much and I was a trainwreck.

Without giving too many words to the problem, one of the chief tenets of living a life in recovery is helping others to recover from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (Big Book of AA). We get out of ourselves and concentrate on helping others to recover. There are varying degrees of this, of course, but I happen take this part of recovery very seriously. AA or not, sharing my experience with others that they may recover as well is just as important to my own recovery as not picking up that first drink.

With that said, here’s my trick to ending the self-seeking obsession: I learned to stop looking at what I could get out of life and look at what I could contribute instead.

I told you, it’s radical and I’ll guarantee you, it isn’t easy (the fact that there’s only one step to this makes it easy…remembering to do it on a consistent basis, well not so much).  All too often we’re wired to look out for number one first.  After all, if we don’t look out for ourselves, who will, right?  Looking out for one’s interests is not a bad thing, doing so to the detriment of ourselves or others is.  In other words, there must be balance.  Don’t take my word for it either, give it a try.  Next time you have a chance, be it at a party, a business meeting, hanging out with your spouse or significant other…  Instead of looking for what you’ll get out of that interaction, look at what you can contribute.

Done on a consistent basis, this will change your life.

Fair warning though…  Self-pity hates this way of living.  They would list this as a cure for depression but you can’t put that in a pill.



  1. The old saying ‘You get what you give?’

  2. This post has me thinking. The egotism and self-pity frequently associated with alcoholism are aspects that never really resonated with me personally. I’ve always assumed I was a moron and that everyone else understood life while I missed the boat, and my lack of self-pity has likely caused some of my nastier self-abuse behaviors. My ego was pretty much ground to shit as a kid. About the only time I had any sense of being worthwhile was when I drank and I let some of my anger out. I’m still happier when no one pays any attention to me because that feels safe.

    So when it comes to helping others and sharing my story, I always get a distinct feeling that I am yammering on and on about myself and am in no position to help anyone. I’m an expert at absolutely nothing, including myself. I always fear I am going to do someone more harm than good and that no one should follow my example because as mindful as I try to be, I’m still bumbling through life. Right now, I’m feeling like I failed my own son because he can’t seem to get himself together at college, and I keep wishing I could go back and figure out what I could’ve done differently. The idea of being at all responsible for the newly sober frankly scares the crap out of me.

    “You get what you give” is something I definitely need to consider more. Thanks for this post and all you shared on mine. Food for thought.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thanks Judith… Don’t look now but that whole comment is the inferiority complex. You may not have the ego part of the equation, we’re all different of course.

      Your post just got me thinking about my own struggles so that’s what I wrote about. We look at how we’re alike though, not how we’re different. That’s a part of the common thread that keeps us together as recovering folk.

      As for your son, I should give you my mother’s phone number… She could help you through this, or at the very least share in your pain. I was lousy in school. Good luck, I hope the best for you and your son.

      • Oh, you’re absolutely right that there is probably more alike than un-alike. Which is part of why I loved rehab and my early days of AA so much, realizing that I wasn’t alone. I know I’ve got the inferiority complex down pat, although it is better than it used to be. For one, I’ve realized that most people haven’t figured out life either, they’re just better at pretending they do than I am 😉

        It’s good to know that there is hope at the end of my kid in college saga. I’m sure your mom wanted to shake you silly until you got some sense, but then again, some things people have to figure out on their own. I’m glad you are living a good, fulfilling life now. That’s all I want for my kid.

      • bgddyjim says:

        That first paragraph of your comment is it, exacty. You got it.

        The second part, yes she did. She was very happy that I made it. Thank you.

    • re your son, as I’ve replied in some other post, I’m all for the idea of the good enough parent rather than the best parent possible. Hope you can go well with all your goings forward, must be hard at times.

  3. OmniRunner says:

    Focusing on someone else is difficult, I consciously try to do it, but not always. ;(

  4. The Guat says:

    This is such a good post and I agree with being able to look outside yourself and contribute to someone or something. Makes things more rewarding In the end. It’s something that I wasn’t able to do on a consistent basis until I had kids. Consistency and balance is definitely key. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Chatter says:

    Good post as usual. I can relate to this and I would say until I got involved with the Ultra and trail running community I truly did not understand this. Since I started being around these groups I have found I am way more willing to help others, especially other ultra runners. I have found great enjoyment from ensuring others enjoy their experiences just as much as I do. Not sure if this is similar to your experience, but I know I am growing as a human due to this affiliation Thank you for keeping it hones..

    • bgddyjim says:

      It is the exact same thing, brother. Congratulations to you my friend. I had to be taught how to do what you picked up naturally. That says a lot about you my friend. You are one awesome fella. Thank you for commenting.

  6. my1sttrirace says:

    Adding value to others is how I judge my own self worth. It my experience that you have to give to receive. You will feel most fulfilled, when you feel like to your are contributing to the greater good.

  7. Sue Slaght says:

    I like this post very much Jim. Looking outside of ourselves and to how we can help others is vital to a rich live. Still thinking about your post with your friend who is blind on your bike. 🙂

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