What Is Being Selfish
So your wife called you selfish……again. Trust me, I know the feeling. What is the deal with getting called selfish on a regular basis? When I think of a person who is truly selfish it does not reflect what I see in the mirror everyday. I have known some people that I would consider extremely selfish and I am not in that camp. So it got me thinking, what is being selfish?
Look, I get it. I’ve seen where husbands have been quite selfish in the marriage equation. I’ve also seen where wives can be the selfish person in a marriage. Same thing with a boyfriend/girlfriend or a friendship. Anytime one person is doing a lot more work in any type of partnership you can bet the other person is being selfish. It’s also selfish when one side of the equation gets something out of a deal and the other doesn’t or gets much less. This dynamic plays out even more so when the unselfish person will take it without pushing back.
The reality is there’s what I would consider a variety of levels of being selfish. Some of them are good, others aren’t very nice. Let’s take a look at what is being selfish.
Slippery Concept of Selfish
When you think about selfishness different things come to mind don’t they? Many of us were raised in such a way as to believe that being selfish is bad. You should make sure you order pizza that everyone will like or else you aren’t being considerate of feelings. Everyone needs to make it to the family get together because if they don’t, they are being selfish. They care about themselves more than their family. If we don’t consider everyone’s feelings when making a decision we are being selfish. When you decide to do something for yourself instead of something that is helping someone else you are putting yourself first. This type of mentality, basically people pleasing.
Another take on being selfish is what we read about more often these days. That being selfish isn’t really a bad thing, it’s actually good for you. You should put yourself first because then you can better serve others. If you don’t take care of yourself you can’t help others. When you put the focus on you first and foremost it shows self love. And so on. It’s kind of like when Gordon Gekko said “Greed is good” in the movie Wall Street. You kind of go “whoa…..what?” and then the way he explains it makes sense. Being selfish is good, right? Maybe.
I think the reality is that both of the concepts have truth to them. It’s probably a good idea to be selfish in some areas (such as self care) and not so selfish in other ways. I read something that I think put it in a very nice way. Being truly selfish usually comes at the detriment of someone else. Let’s take a look at good and not so good types of being selfish.
Being One Sided – Bad Selfishness
When there is a situation where one person is benefitting from something at the expense of another, that’s the bad type of selfish. An obvious example is when someone robs you or steals your car. They are getting exactly what they want, your ride or your wallet and cell phone. What do you get out of the deal? A big fat nothing – you actually wind up with less than you had.
Another example would be at work for a crappy company and a boss you hate. If your boss makes you work loads of overtime but doesn’t pay you or compensate you in some way, he or she is taking advantage of you. This is especially true if you have to have that paycheck. Maybe you’ve got a boss that undermines you to his or her advantage. They are getting something out of the deal but you are not. Again, this is a bad type of selfish.
Finally if you think of a marriage or a relationship that’s very one-sided, there’s usually a selfish person involved. This is when you imagine the husband who golfs every Saturday no matter what, even if their 3 kids have 6 birthday parties to attend and mommy has to take the brats to every single one on her own. That guys not only selfish, he’s a douche bag. To flip the script what about a wife that has a weekly routine of shopping with her friends, getting pedicures, and going out Friday and Saturday night with her besties while hubs works full time and takes care of the kids. That ain’t right either. All examples of a bad type of selfish.
These examples point out what I consider to be the “true” version of selfish. This is when one person puts their needs fronts and center the vast majority of the time, typically at the expense of the other. In many situations they get themselves into positions to achieve their goal of it being all about them. Employees that will put up with working 60 hours a week but getting paid for 40. A spouse that quietly takes burden of being responsible for 90% of the household. They put up with it but you can bet there’s a slowly building resentment brewing under the surface.
Even Type Or Win-Win
There is a type of selfishness where both parties get something out of the deal. An obvious example is when people exchange something that the other person wants. So if for example I need help on this website but I don’t know how to do something technical. I ask my friend to help me for a few hours because he’s an IT whiz. He needs to have a section of his fence repaired so I then help him with his fence for 2 hours after he helps me with my website. At 5:00PM we head out for a few beers to celebrate. We both got what we wanted and a little something.
This type of win-win is evident in many activities where 2 people are involved. I like going to concerts and so does my wife. So we are both investing our time and energy in something that we both enjoy. We both get something out of the shared activity, enjoying great music.
When you work at a company you like doing work you enjoy and report to a boss you respect it’s a win-win type deal. You are creating some kind of value for the company and getting compensated fairly in an enjoyable environment. You get something you need and the company gets something they need and everybody is happen. It’s a win-win baby.
Self Care Type of Selfishness
This is the one that we read about and hear about more often these days. It’s good to put yourself first because no one is responsible for your well being more than you. If you wind up giving of yourself and your time on an ongoing basis eventually you’ll have nothing left to give. You see this on a regular basis with mothers. Many moms put everything about their household, especially their children, ahead of themselves. They give and give and give and if they have a husband that isn’t prone to lend much of a helping hand, well……they give a little more. They do and give until they become a ball of resentment because they give until they are tapped out.
Many people who were brought up to always be considerate of others feelings, myself included, learn to be people pleasers. That you always have to consider everyone’s feelings in all situations. The problem here is that it then puts us in the position of attempting to make everyone happy. And that simply isn’t possible. I finally learned this lesson a number of years ago. It’s very hard to let go of a paradigm that is so deeply ingrained in you but once you “get it” it’s also quite freeing. You realize you can’t make everyone happy and that you are fully responsible for your own happiness. And from there you can begin to get more “selfish” and embrace the self-care type of selfishness.
Self-care is when you take the time to take care of yourself. When you spend some of your time, energy, and money to do what you want to do. It’s when you carve out the time to put some of the focus on YOU. In other words, it’s how you be selfish with yourself. It includes such things as working out, eating right, hanging out with friends, having a hobby, doing meditation, joining a band, going on dates, seeing movies, going to the pool, paying for a massage, goofing off, etc. You get the picture. Here’s how self-care is great for you:
Reduces Stress – when you take the time out of your busy life to do something for you, it helps reduce stress. Why? Because you are unplugging from the daily stresses of life and doing something for yourself.
Helps Your Health – part of self care is taking care of your body. Getting enough sleep, working out, eating right, meditating, those type things. When you give yourself the time to focus on things that help your physical health, it’s a win-win. You have more energy and enthusiasm for the rest of the things on your plate.
Increase Your Productivity – when you focus some of your energy on being selfish for yourself in the form of self-care, it actually makes you more productive. Think of the overworked and stressed out guy who gets yet another thing tossed onto his plate vs. the happy and healthy guy getting another “to do”. Pretty easy to see who’s going to hammer it out faster and with higher quality.
Better Self Esteem – practicing self-care shows you that you are worth it. A lot of times people get it in their heads that they aren’t worthy of getting a massage or taking time out for themselves. When you practice self-care, it’s also a form of self-love. You are showing yourself that you are worth it. Priceless.
You Give More – being energized, refreshed, happy and engaged because you spend time taking care of yourself means you actually have more to give. You are in a better position to give of yourself when needed. Of course this balances a bit as you have to actually say NO to something but it allows you to give me truly and freely of yourself.
What is Being Selfish
As you can see there’s a wide variety of actions and situations that can be labeled as selfish. No doubt there is the bad type of selfish that we can all understand as we’ve run into it on occasion. Someone that puts their needs front and center at the expense of others is definitely a selfish person. And when they get their needs met to the detriment of others, they are not only selfish but another word or two I shouldn’t type here.
A win-win or neutral type situation has something for everyone, pretty difficult to label that as selfish.
Finally the self care type of selfishness is what I would consider a good kind of selfish. By taking the time to focus on yourself rather than others from time to time you actually are in a position to give more when you want to. And from a more genuine place. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re selfish for working out or for eating well, they are probably just jealous.
Here’s to some self-care and self-love,