Why is being selfish considered a negative trait, why do we become negatively selfish, what selfish can mean, and why I find a great pride in calling myself selfish and raising my children as such.
The third module of the masterclass I am currently running (On Mindfulness and Secure Attachment) is all about identifying our own needs and learning how to act better to have them met. In a discussion, one of the participants asked a super important question, and this is why I am bringing this discussion on selfishness to you today.
She asked, “but doesn’t this make me terribly selfish?”
What is Selfishness?
We all know at least a few selfish people. You know, these people who only see their own needs, who only act to have their needs met, who only think of themselves, and fail to see how their words and actions affect others around them.
We don’t like their presence, we often don’t consider them good or reliable friends, and we often use them as an example of what we shouldn’t be like.
I get it.
But this is only so because we have an utterly disturbed view of human needs.
How Do We Partake in the Creation of Selfish Societies?
So let’s talk about it – almost all behaviors are learned behaviors. So is selfishness, but this behavior is learned from within. True, we can learn selfish behaviors through the modeling of other selfish people around us, but, still, we will learn through the impact this behavior has on us – rather than merely from our observations.
We will learn that at the presence of these people, our needs are not met. We will learn that when we are with these people, our needs are not seen, we are not acknowledged, we can not be heard, understood and definitely not accepted for who we are – and it will be at the pretense of these people that we will be forced to adopt selfish behaviors ourselves – otherwise – our needs will go completely unmet. And this is a feeling that all human beings are designed to avoid.
You see, selfishness is learned through the lack of consideration from others. In other words – if I won’t strive to meet my own needs, no one else will do it for me.
This is a lonely, dis-empowering learning that designs lives.
And having this experience in mind is the reason for which most of us experience selfishness as a negative trait. But there’s one thing that this world is missing.
Connection is An Existential Need
Those people around us, who teach us the selfish side of selfishness, are people who were never taught the power of connection, or the mere fact that connection is an existential need, just like food and water.
We are, all of us and without exception – social creatures. If we didn’t connect as newborns and toddlers, we would not survive. Societies are built and ruined by their members’ sense of connection – when we are connected, we protect each other, we work together, we thrive. When we are disconnected – we fall apart.
It is disconnection that leads us to selfishness, or rather – the selfishness that we are all familiar with.
But, there is another way.
The Selfless Selfishness
When we place the need for connection at the top of our needs, where it should rightfully be, and start acting from this need, we will notice something incredible happening – we will notice how, when we meet the needs of our loved ones JUST BECAUSE WE WANT TO (and not because we expect them to do something else in return) our hearts open up, and the endless feeling of contraction releases us and finally allows us to breathe.
We will find that the more we do for others without expectation, the more they will learn that meeting our needs – makes them happy, too.
Violence begets violence, we all know that. Love, compassion, connection, and empathy beget love, compassion, connection, and empathy – we know this, too. But we tend to forget.
As soon as we place ourselves as human beings among human beings, and understand that connection is what regulates our society, our family life, and our life in general – we would view meeting our own needs in a completely different light. In a positive light – because it will breed nothing but positive feelings around us.
Selfless Selfishness – What Does it Look Like In Real Life?
I’ll give you a tiny example: when my child was in his “why stage,” and each time he asks me WHY do I do things – I give him the FULL explanation: I did x for you because making you happy makes me happy. I did this because I am happy when you are happy. This is so because people LOVE making other people happy.
And what do you know? He earned that meeting my needs makes him happy, too. And so he now meets my needs without me even asking. Because he knows me, because he loves me, because making me happy makes him happy.
I’ve worked with so many families on these concepts, and I see how these new perceptions change lives. How our ability to connect to ourselves (first and foremost) and then to our loved ones, to recognize and acknowledge why we do things that we do, and what we aim to achieve – allows us to bring selfless selfishness back home, and finally live the life we were meant to live. A life of connection, compassion, cooperation, free choice, and acceptance.
Hope to meet you soon 🙂