Being Selfish vs. Being Selfless

This is a crazy time. A time when people are rethinking their relationships and redeveloping boundaries, and changing the way we relate to people. Social distancing keeps us from our loved ones and can drain us emotionally. Some people are blatantly disregarding what scientists are telling us about staying home and are exhibiting some selfish behaviors whilst others are putting their lives on the line and being selfless to the extreme.

We’re being told to help ourselves, help others, be selfless, stay away… it can all be so overwhelming.

So this week I thought I’d focus on the classic dilemma – should you be more selfish or selfless? What if I told you that neither extreme is good? 


It’s the the norm to identify selfish people as those who take and selfless people as those who give. Usually “selfless” gets a happier welcome and is more widely accepted as “good”, but is it really?

Passive behaviour is sacrificing your own needs and wants, so that you can help others to get their needs and wants met. Sure, sometimes we need to be passive/selfless so that you can build positive relationships over the long term. Here’s the rub: if you’re consistently selfless then you become a doormat and other people WILL take advantage of you, whether they realise it or not.

Short-term, you feel that the approval of others is totally worth it. Hey… you’re helping others and not thinking of yourself at all. This is a “good” thing.

Ummm… nope.

In the long-term, you will be required to make bigger sacrifices if you wish to maintain the approval of others. Which most definitely leads to a sense of resentment. The day you become too selfless, people will start taking you for granted. They start exploiting your goodness, and pestering you for the things they want. 

 Why? Because there is ALWAYS  a payoff for our behaviour. 

We give to others and it makes us “feel good”.

We give in to demands so that the other person can be happy. But, it can also give you a bit of a martyr complex “Look at all I do for you. Now you have to tell me how great of a person I am for sacrificing myself for you.” Which is a REALLY dangerous mindset.



Just that word makes hackles stand up. But the truth is… 

Being selfish tends to get a bad rap and most people can give a laundry list of reasons why being selfish is BAD.

  • If you’re a selfish person, then chances are you’re always looking out for #1.

  • Selfish people are constantly thinking that they are the center of the universe and that the world should revolve around them.

  • Selfish people are always repeating that mantra, “I want, I want, I want…” thinking that everything in the world should be theirs and that they should deserve every little thing that they dream about.

  • Selfish people cringe when someone else goes in the spotlight because they always want it for themselves.

  • People who are selfish are always thinking that their way of living life is best and that anyone who tries to give them feedback is just trying to do them harm or has ulterior motives.

But many times what we really mean by being selfish is that the person lacks EMPATHY, or the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That is the extreme form of selfishness.

What if we looked at being a little bit selfish as a good thing?

A selfish person as one who is self-assured, clear about one’s goals, conscious of oneself, speaks up for oneself, and knows what one needs to do to be successful. You begin each day with a clear-cut list of what has to be done and how it could be accomplished. In today’s world, being selfish and taking care of ourselves is almost a vital necessity. We often allow our personal well-being to suffer in order to put others needs before our own, but what we need to realize is that it’s necessary to be selfish and take care of ourselves first. How else will we be able to be selfless?

Neither selfishness nor selflessness is good or bad. In fact, the two concepts are mutually beneficial. Just like anything else… extremes are not helpful. We have to have a healthy mix of selfish and selfless to be truly happy. Here’s my take on it: You can be both selfish and/or selfless; we all are. We may be selfish in some areas, yet completely selfless in other areas.

Do you tend to put other’s needs before your own? Perhaps you always put yourself first? How do you balance your needs with the needs of others? I’d love to hear all about it on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram

Let’s talk about it!