Altruism: Your Best Coping Partner

            Why do you want to cope better with the stresses and strains of living? No secret to that answer! Better coping increases the likelihood that you will experience a host of positive reactions – things like contentment, satisfaction, competence, confidence, well-being, and acceptance of who you are – that motivate you to achieve and improve. Better coping also enhances your sensitivity to the needs of others, and improves the quality of your interactions with them. When you cope well you become more comfortable with yourself, and accept that while you are far from perfect, you are close to being all you can be. That reinforcement is pretty empowering!

            In this blog, each week we discuss ways to enhance your sense of fulfillment as a useful participant in the human family. While there is no magical elixir that guarantees you will attain self-realization, serenity, and satisfaction with who you are, there are factors that come close to being absolutely essential for those outcomes: Focus on the needs of others; understand and empathize with them; and place their needs above your own. Psychological research shows that those who accept the premise, “I am not the indispensable ingredient in the recipe of life; it is not all about me.” –  those are the people who are most likely to be comfortable in their own skin, and to feel fulfilled by their participation in a life that places the needs of others above their own.

            As you read those words, however, be careful. Serving others is not like working at a salaried job that brings you material gains, nor is it like going to church hoping to become a more spiritual person. Personal contentment, fulfillment, and acceptance of who you are – these are not goals you can seek and find. Rather, they emerge from a coping style that (1) recognizes the inherent value of others, (2) understands that how you make people feel defines your true self-worth, and (3) is guided by the belief that self-knowledge can never be complete without feeling and appreciating the needs of others.

            The reality of 2022 is saturated with examples of self-preoccupation, narcissism, and attempts to dominate others. Observing all these biases against the family of humanity can be quite stressful. How do you live with that stress? Try reaching out to those in need, especially those who differ from you. Conduct yourself with honor and be guided by values that transcend your needs in deference to the needs of others. Your stressors will still be present, but they will not dominate and disrupt your daily activities. Isn’t that about the best you can expect from coping better with the stress of everyday life?

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