Selfish vs Selfless

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I began a class today, “Uncovering Your Own Pathways to Success”.  It is a 6 week coaching circle program where you “explore yourself and deepest passions and purpose”.  I thought that it would help me to become a better writer, but even after the first class,  I know that it is going to teach me so much more.  I am going to learn about myself.

The leader of the class is a my friend Tammy and something she said today really had an impact on me.  She told us, “selfishness is not a bad thing but actually something that can be very good”.  I have been thinking about this all day.   I have always thought of the word “selfish” with negative connotations.  I, like many, often think that people who are selfish are inconsiderate and only interested in their own pleasure.  Most of us are brought up to being told that we need to please others and to not hurt their feelings.

Selfish is defined as a person, action or motive, lacking consideration for others: concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure

Selfless is defined as concerned more with the needs of others than with one’s own.

Perhaps we have gone too far, promoting the idea that if we want to truly be good people, we need to be as selfless as possible.

Maybe there is some “give and take” with these two words. If you are too selfish you may lose friends, yet if you become too selfless you may not get what you deserve because you allowed others to take before you took what you needed for yourself.  Selfless does not have to mean making everyone else happy but rather it should be doing what is best for them.  Maybe this needs to start with ourselves.  If we do not take the time to do what we need in order to help ourselves, we are not doing what is best for us.

Tammy said that she believes we are all selfish – that even the choice to be selfless stems from a selfish place, either because you enjoy helping others, because it supports the image that you have of who you want to be, or because you get something out of it.  I never thought about it that way, but if that is correct, than I really am selfish, because all of the charitable things I do are not just because it  helps others and makes them happy, but because it makes me happy too.  Very happy!  The very act of selflessness has its own backhanded way of giving self gratification. Even if I am not receiving a personal thank you note, or something in return, I  know that I helped someone else in need, before I helped myself and that makes me feel so good!

So, although the two definitions seem to be quite opposite, perhaps they are really intertwined because it does not seem that you can be selfless without being a little bit selfish.  If you can find happiness by being a little bit selfish once in awhile, focusing on your own happiness, it will not only benefit you, but may even benefit those that you’re giving to.

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