The word “selfish” itself seems a little scary because we’ve grown up learning that being so is a bad thing. It’s not considered one of the most admirable traits in anyone’s personality, but it is certainly a manageable one. More importantly, it can be so quickly redefined so that we no longer cringe when we think of it.
When you first realize that there is a certain amount of selfishness in almost everything we do, it’s not easy to accept. In fact, we are prone to fighting the idea that we could in any way be selfish.
If we simply accept that being selfish means gaining personal satisfaction from our life choices, the idea of it starts to make sense. The word already hints to us that it’s got something to do with the self.
A selfish act is something that will cause us to feel a certain amount of personal benefit. We have something to gain, whether spiritually, emotionally, or sometimes financially.
When we volunteer our time, for example, we are helping others and benefiting a cause, but we also feel good about ourselves when we reflect on the joy and comfort we bring to others.
When we help the people we care about, we are rewarded by receiving their gratitude. In turn, that makes us feel good and we are compelled to repeat the behavior. If we become aware of the selfishness that underlies our actions, we can then examine it and determine whether it’s behavior that enriches our lives.
Selfishness can be great for everyone when it means that you are doing things that help improve the quality of living for you and those around you. A less agreeable selfishness comes from working too hard to please a single person in the hopes of being rewarded with intimacy. But the expenditure of that kind of energy can pull you too much from other people who may really need what you can offer.
In sum, redefining our understanding of selfishness can lead us to become more empowered and insightful. The more we understand why we do what we do and what we expect form our actions, the truer we are to ourselves and to others. Of course, if you’re constantly concerned only with yourself and never stop to serve others who have served you, then you’re probably just being kind of a jerk.
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