Self-leadership has become a common buzzword. After all, who is more responsible for your attitude, your actions, and your motivation than you? So much of what I’ve learned and used in my own life has been based on the idea that we have the power to choose our thoughts to create the best outcomes for ourselves and others.

Yet, there can be times when self-leadership is not enough. Or maybe it’s just plain out of reach.

When I was at the World Happiness Summit a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to listen to one of my amazing past teachers in positive psychology, WBI’ Megan McDonough. She referred to the idea of self-leadership as “selfing.” While acknowledging its power, she also acknowledged that there are times when we’re just trying to endure life and selfing is just too hard.

I think of a friend who lost her son to fentanyl poisoning, or a new friend who is battling a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, or another friend who is overwhelmingly exasperated at the state of humanity and the world. Finding our way through these dark times can feel impossible. It can suck the life and energy from our souls.

Megan used the term “un-selfing” to emphasize the idea that at times we need to let go of our individual separateness; that sometimes we need outside help. This could be leaning on others or leaning on our spirituality, whatever that looks like for us.

A common trap is to withdraw and feel isolated in our misery. Instead of turning to friends, family, and/or the divine, we can be lured in by the escape of alcohol, comfort food, addictive shopping, and other unhealthy distractions that provide temporary relief. Or we can spiral downward into negative thinking that blocks our ability to see any of the good in our life.

Megan quoted William James: “We are like islands in the sea—separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”

Do you need to shift from self-leadership to un-selfing right now? Have there been times in the recent past that un-selfing would have been a better choice? Do you know of someone in your life who needs to un-self and maybe you could help by offering to hold space for them? 

This post was reprinted with permission from Tina’s website,

Tina Hallis

Tina Hallis

Tina Hallis, PhD, is a positivity speaker, trainer, author, and founder of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to sharing the science of positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She has shared her programs with thousands of people from a variety of industries, including government agencies, academic institutions, medical staff, financial institutions, biotech companies, manufacturing companies, sales teams, and nonprofits. Tina has also presented and trained at organizations across the United States.