Selfishness! It’s one of the most evil words in the English language.
Fine, maybe not one of the evilest, but almost no one wants to be known as selfish.
Most of us associate selfishness with something negative. As a result, many of us try to avoid being selfish every day of our lives.
As I do so well, I’m here to play devil’s advocate. I’ll do so by making a case for why we should all try to be more selfish. If not, we should at least allow ourselves to be a bit more selfish here or there.
What is selfishness?
Before I get into why we should all allow ourselves to be selfish at times, let’s define what selfish is.
Simply put, being selfish is doing something that benefits you.
Unselfish is when you do something that benefits others. I don’t see the world this way.
I think the definitions of selfish and unselfish are a bit more complex. But, that’s beside the point. I have addressed this in another post. That post discusses how a “grayscale view of the world can make you happier”. For the sake of this argument, let’s keep it simple.
Between selfish and unselfish, (according to the definitions above), there is something AMAZING. It’s when you can be both selfish and unselfish at the same time. I call it being selflessly selfish.
Below are two examples of being selflessly selfish, and why it’s a good idea to be this way.
Be selflessly selfish in a relationship!
Usually when a person cares about another, s/he puts that person’s well-being before his/her.
Take being in love for instance. For the sake of this example, let’s take two people in love and call them John and Jane.
If John is in love with Jane, John will often want to make Jane the happiest person in the world.
Most people see this attitude as being unselfish. If you look closer, however, you realize it’s not as unselfish as you think.
The reason John wants to make Jane happy is that seeing her happy, makes him happy. So in reality, John is looking for his own happiness. When he is in love, his happiness has to go through (someone else) Jane’s happiness.
This is an example of being selflessly selfish. In this example, you can be selfish. Your selfishness allows someone else to be happier. It’s a win-win.
When you’re selfish, people don’t like you because you’re not looking out for them. When you’re unselfish, you won’t like you because you’re not looking out for you. When you’re selflessly selfish, people will like you, and so will you. Again, it’s a win-win.
Be selflessly selfish at work!
Caring for someone is an example of being selflessly selfish. Doing what you love for a living is another way of being selflessly selfish. For the sake of this example, let’s use John again.
Let’s say john is an artist. John loves to make abstract art and is also good at it.
Let’s also say that John lives in the 1990’s and during those years, abstract art is mainstream and popular.
In this case, John can do what he loves and make money doing so. Since abstract art is popular, John can make a living from his artwork. In this case, John gets to do both what he wants, but also what others want.
This kind of situations could be considered the holy grail of life. When you find these situations, something magical happens.
People will be in demand for your talents/skills/services. At the same time, you’ll be able to do what you want/love for a living. The best part about doing what you love is that it usually doesn’t feel like work. It’s like getting paid to work on your hobby.
As you can see, being selflessly selfish can be amazing. However, it’s not the easiest thing to do. Whether it’s finding people worth caring for, or finding what you and others will love. Being selflessly selfish is hard.
If you’re in love today, think of how hard it was to find that special person. You more than likely went through bad dates, breakups, relationships etc…
If you have found your passion and are doing it today for a living, think of how hard it was to find it. You probably went through bad bosses, co-workers, jobs etc…
If you haven’t found any of those, then you know the struggle. If you haven’t found it yet, search on.
It is hard, but if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s hard but when you find it, it’ll be special. You won’t have to question yourself. You won’t have to wonder if you’re being selfish or not.
You’ll just do what you love or what makes you happy. Doing so will make one or more people happy.
Selfless selfishness in nature.
This concept of selfless selfishness isn’t new. It is present in nature. Scientists refer to it as “symbiotic relationships“.
One of the most famous symbiotic relationships in the world is that of the honey bee and the flower.
Bees use the nectar flowers produce as food and a source of energy. Flowers benefit from the relationship because as the bees travel from one flower to the next, the help the flowers reproduce with pollination.
Why be selflessly selfish?
I wrote this article because I know many truly unselfish people. As you know, I don’t believe in “black and white thinking”, so when I say truly unselfish people, I mean that these people would rank really high up in selfish/unselfish spectrum.
These kinds of people often feel awful for thinking of themselves too much, even though they already do so much for others.
That feeling of guilt can lead to varying degrees of stress, which is not good for mental health.
Moreover, these kinds of people are often overlooked. They give so much and appear so strong that people forget to give to them or to check on them.
We all are selfish by nature. We can’t help but think of ourselves first. So, if you’re one of those people on the higher end of the selflessness scale, stop feeling guilty, or at least try to stop.
For people like you, it’s important to think more of yourself sometimes, for your own mental well-being, and so you never run out of love, help, compassion, and hope to give.
How to be selflessly selfish.
As I said earlier, we can’t help but think of us first. That might never change.
Being selfish is live life with those instincts, and not trying to change anything about it.
Being (too) selfless means working so hard to only think of others that you eventually forget about/stop caring for you. No matter how great that might sound, it isn’t. You can’t help others to feel/be good, if you don’t feel/are good.
To be selflessly selfish, you have to go the extra mile and always think about how situations can benefit you AND others. Its always thinking about how to create win-win situations (like the honeybee and the flower) for yourself and others.