Being selfish gets a bad rap when contrasted with being selfless. So why do we need to be selfish to be selfless?
I’d like to suggest, that selfishness and selflessness are ends of a sliding scale that we move up and down all the time.
Very few people fall into the category of truly selfish or selfless. Most of us have had times when we are both.
Hands up if you have secretly enjoyed taking time out to do what you want- when there are jobs to be done or people waiting for help! Or what about feeling smugly pleased when you are complimented for doing a kind turn for another.
What does it mean to be truly selfish?
At the truly selfish end of the scale (and clearly, we don’t want to be like this) are those who ignore the feelings of others when achieving their own goals.
Coupled with a assumption of entitlement and a bloated sense of importance these people may tick all the boxes for narcissistic personality disorder.
Many of our clients at Attuned Psychology struggle to live with a family member who is highly self-involved.
Or truly selfless…?
At the other end of the scale are those who are so selfless and giving, that they may very well have lost sight of who they are.
The danger in being completely selfless is that you risk having others take you for granted or in time, take advantage of you.
Often, those who are selfless at the expense of themselves struggle to be assertive. They might have forgotten or feel too powerless to exert their right to be respected by others.
I want to be a better person!
While being completely selfless is not a good thing, many of us aspire to be more kind, caring, empathic and merciful – qualities which are all a core part of being a “good person”.
For some this is easy, for others these qualities may need to be consciously nurtured and grown.
A good first step is to be conscious of the small ways that we can make a difference to other people’s lives. A simple act of kindness can make someone’s else’s day, but also improve your own.
Yes, we need to be selfish to be more selfless
We all need and deserve to be selfish at times. This provides us with the emotional capacity and self-knowledge required to sensitively and genuinely offer help, understanding, or even forgiveness towards others.
For the many of us who have caring responsibilities for others – this doesn’t require you to be selfless! It might sound trite but it’s true, that to be a good carer you need to care for yourself.
This means feeling comfortable asking for and receiving help to enable you to have a break, perhaps the start of a journey towards a new assertive you.
If I need help
Sometimes it can be hard to get perspective on interpersonal problems. You may fear that you are being too selfish, or not selfish enough. Or you may be having difficulty letting go of anger towards others who’ve taken advantage of you in the past.
If this is the case, Attuned Psychology can help. Call our friendly admin team on 8361 7008 or contact us here to make a time with one of our experienced Psychologists.
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