Why being genuinely selfish is good for humanity

Sept. 21, 2015

Evan Musick
emusick@uccs.edu

Being selfish isn’t always bad.

Humans do not simply do what they do for no reason. We gain from our actions, or it fulfills some need, physiological or psychological. The word selfish suggests looking out for only you with no regard to others.

But, when the concept is dissected, this becomes much more complex.

What does an act of pure self-regard look like? I need food, so I eat food. Is this selfish? Most likely not, you are just fulfilling a physical need.

If I were to commit a kind deed, realizing that in the end, I’m really helping myself, is this selfish? If it were helping a friend move out of their apartment, sacrificing my time and giving it to them, realizing this will foster a stronger bond between the two of us, would it then be considered selfish?

What if I had a friend who was dealing with substance abuse? If I removed myself from their life entirely and realized the draining and enabling effect it had on them, would this be considered selfish?

Does selfish mean acting out of desire to benefit oneself?

Alternatively, is selflessness your actions performed in a way so that nothing is returned, received or even desired? If I were to help my friend move, I would most likely end up feeling a sense of accomplishment and acknowledgement, especially if I were to receive a beer and a thank you. If I were to have done this act out of a desire to help them, and only a desire to help them, that would be considered a very selfless thing to do.

However, I know full well that my friend will end up thanking me and I’ll receive a sense of acknowledgment. In fact, if they didn’t thank me, I would become a little piqued.

Because of this, I don’t think there is any way to not do something out of pure disregard for oneself. If I end up being thanked, I feel good. If I’m not thanked, I feel as if I was used. But, I might even get over this and take satisfaction that my friend was able to comfortably live in their new apartment due to my efforts.

Either way, I have what may be considered a selfish desire; I am getting something out of it one way or another.

But this brings up the question, “then what is selflessness?” Selflessness would be conducting an act with zero regard for oneself. It even reaches to the point that I have no physiological or psychological need to be fulfilled.

If I were to pay someone a compliment on the street, I’d feel good that I said something that fulfilled another’s need.

In this way, both of us have now had a need fulfilled. If the act were to be truly selfless, I believe the compliment would have to be void of any authenticity.

Now ask yourself this: when was the last time you said something nice to someone with no feeling of self-recognition, positivity or an overall “good vibe?” What would even be the significance of a compliment then?

As humans, every act we do is done to fulfill some sort of self-need or desire; we do things selfishly. When an act is genuine, both the giver and receiver have selfish needs of esteem, love and belonging fulfilled.

With this I challenge you, be selfishly genuine. You’ll end up feeling a whole lot better about yourself and others.