Selfishness is perfectly natural. We are all born selfish and, in some way, we remain so. It is just that as we grow, we realize that our selfishness is closely related to that of others. In fact, the purest form of joy could be described as bringing happiness into someone else’s life. However, that’s just the good side of it, and not all of us realize this. There is also a bad egocentric selfishness that first comes to our mind when we hear the word ‘selfish’. Moreover, apart from these two, there’s one more form of selfishness, which we can call as neutral selfishness. Before learning how to be selfish, let’s take a look into all these three types of selfishness one by one.
Three types of selfishness
1. The Good Selfishness
It is the type of selfishness that most of the religions claim to propagate. The joy in your neighbor’s benefit or at least in the benefit of those you love. This happiness too comes naturally to us. For example, when you smile at a baby, it very natural for it to smile back. It is the form of happiness that makes aware of the beautiful bond of love that we share not only with our fellow human beings but even with plants and animals. We all can experience this form of happiness to some degrees. However, those unlucky few who can’t do so, inevitably develop the second form of selfishness.
2. The Bad Selfishness
This is the type of selfishness that dominates the lives of the wretched few, who have somehow become inert enough and are unable to feel the bond that connects everyone in the universe. They think that by exploiting others for their own benefits, they are accumulating joy, but they remain ever dissatisfied. In addition, to cover up for this dissatisfaction of theirs, they might indulge in vanity too and might even put up a happy face.
Just like the good selfishness, everyone has their share of bad selfishness too, and it manifests itself particularly in people with a very authoritarian and narcissistic view of life. Not only you should keep a watch over this part of your own selfishness, you should also make sure that no one with such traits ends up exploiting you.
3. The Neutral Selfishness
The neutral selfishness, for the most part, deals with you and only you. Although it definitely has an effect on other people as well, it is more of an indirect effect. For example, you can count the time that you spend with yourself i.e. the ‘me time’ under this category. Depending upon whether you do something positive or negative in this time, would determine the outcome. It could manifest itself into either positive or negative, but it is neutral to begin with.
The Need to Redefine Selfishness
Not only the meaning of the word ‘selfish’ could be contradictory, but it’s also usage too sometimes makes us aware of some contradictions. In fact, those who use the word very often for others are generally the ones suffering from the worst form of bad selfishness. They would call everyone as selfish who don’t do things that they want them to do. For them, this includes everyone except those meek and sensitive people, who get easily manipulated and don’t realize that they are being exploited. If you or someone you know is being manipulated like this, then you shouldn’t let it continue. If you are not sure whether that’s the case or not, then here are some signs to confirm or reject your suspicions.
Signs that people are being selfish with you
1. No respect for your privacy
It doesn’t matter whether you are alone or have a spouse or family, everyone has a private space. We usually feel comfortable in this space and don’t want any distractions from the outside when we are in it. However, selfish people don’t realize this. They might even call you up in the middle of the night if that serves their purpose. Although they might apologize for disturbing you, if they are doing the same thing again and again, then know that it’s just a formality. They really don’t care about your privacy at all.
2. Taking you for granted
Everyone is good at something or the other. It is just not limited to talents or technical skills, but you could be good at other things too like handling your emotions or dealing with failures and shame, etc. Therefore, by helping out others and, in turn, taking their help, you could lead a much better life. But in the lives of selfish people, this transaction is usually one-sided. They would exploit your talents without paying you for that or giving back something in return. Moreover, they would continue to do so, until you ask them to stop. Later, they would get so used to your help that they might start acting as if it is your obligation to help them.
3. You are always wrong
No matter what reason you might give to defend your beliefs, they would never agree. They would tell you that you ought to be unselfish towards others when they themselves are being selfish. In addition, they would load you with guilt for not being good enough. This insecurity would just prompt you to act strongly in accordance with their will, which is ultimately what they want.
4. Asking you for undue favors
If someone is asking you favors on a more or less regular basis, then you might be dealing with a narcissist. Most of the times, these favors would be so trivial that you might be wondering why other people can’t help themselves. But that’s the thing you need to understand. Getting favors from you is just their way of subconsciously reassuring themselves that you are completely under their control. If you don’t put an end to it, it might soon become worse. Their demands would not only become bigger but more urgent as well.
5. They don’t realize when you are hurt
The worst thing about selfish people is that they only understand their own pain. They would overly exaggerate their pains and, on the other hand, would treat other people just as objects. Since they cannot feel your pain, when you tell them about it, they just won’t take it seriously. If, however, your being hurt hinders you from bestowing favors on them, they would consider it, but only for a little while. Once they get what they want from you, their apathy would continue.
How to be selfish without hurting anyone
Always remember that it’s your life and as long as you are not hurting anyone you should be able to live it as selfishly as you want. In fact, the selfishness of the other people around you might be what is hindering you from discovering your true self. If that’s the case, then it’d be best if you go by the saying of old Indian sages. ‘It’s good to be selfish as long as you know what your ‘self’ really is.’ Well, you don’t have to delve completely into oriental philosophy to discover the meaning of this, you can get yourself on the path of self-discovery by making the following changes in your life:
1. Say No
You shouldn’t just say no to drugs, smoking, alcohol, and fast food, you should also say no to everyone who, just like these, ends up harming you. Doing a favor for someone once in a blue moon is absolutely fine. However, even before bestowing this favor, you should do the following few things. First, don’t bend too easily, show them all the alternatives and ask them reasons for not opting for them. Second, while bestowing the favor you should say something like, ‘I’m doing it this time, but be careful as I won’t be doing this for you in the future.’
And in case they approach you again, just simply say no without any further explanations, because if you give explanations for the same, they might try to prove you wrong. Although, even after a lengthy argument, you might be able to convince them of your reasons behind saying no, it would be an unnecessary waste of time.
2. Don’t be always available
If your professional life is interfering too much in your personal life, this should be your mantra. In countries like Germany and Japan, where people bestow a high value on their personal lives, you would find many people that simply go by these words. These people are extremely devoted and hardworking, but when they are not working, they are off the limits.
As a matter of fact, before the inception of cellphones, this was the case with pretty much everyone, but now too it isn’t that hard to achieve it. You just have to do one thing, have two phone numbers, one for the office and one for personal use. Don’t give your personal number to anyone at the office, except maybe one very reliable colleague, who could call you in case of an emergency. Moreover, when you are out of the office, simply turn off your office number. If someone asks you the reason for doing so, just simply say that you don’t like to drag your work inside your home (in fact, you shouldn’t).
3. Spend Quality ‘Me’ Time
Nowadays, we have to battle it out with many clichés. One of them is that of being an introvert or an extrovert i.e. either you get energy from the people around you or from solitude, but not from both. Well, no matter on which side you think you are, it is time you break this stereotype. If you think you are an extrovert then nothing can be better to spend quality time with yourself. When spent correctly, this time could provide you with a tough backbone, even in your dealing with others.
Most of us don’t like to offend others because we feel that we are deep inside dependent on them. Let us tell you that this is not always the case. If rather than just binge-watching TV-Shows and movies when alone, you read some quality books or practice mindful meditation, you would discover an oasis within you that’s far comforting and far richer than anything you would find outside.
4. Stay away from your phone
It is a fact that most of us spend at least 4 hours on our phone on average. If you are wondering where does all your free time goes, then download an app for your phone that monitors your screen time. We assure that you would be surprised by your result. Moreover, it is also very easy for others to reach you through WhatsApp.
Limit your screen time. You should be available, but not readily available. We suggest that, in order to avoid distraction, you put your phone in silent mode, when you are reading, meditating or simply doing something creative.
5. Choose your friends wisely
Just like the time that you spend yourself, the time that you spend with others could be your backbone. There are billions of people on this planet and you only a handful. If you sit back and let others approach you, then you are very likely to meet selfish people. However, if you want to meet the best of people, you would have to take control in your own hands. Be sure that you are the one who always makes the first move.
Have at least so many friends in your friend circle that you can choose who you want to hang out with. Otherwise, you could end up having only self-centered people as your friends. These would not just drain all your energy but prevent you from having other friends as well. If you have anyone among your friends, we recommend that you start maintaining a distance from them.
One of the great ways of motivating yourself could be by motivating others around you to do the very thing you want to do. You just have to watch out that you don’t overdo it, that’s all. This is just an overview, if you want to delve deeply into self-discovery, we suggest that you find yourself a nice book on self-discovery to guides you. There are plenty such books available in the market (some of them are free too) and opting to read one might bring the change in your life that you might be waiting for.