Wouldn’t you agree that we are all selfish to some degree? Many equate selfishness with self-preservation. But those who are seeking a higher spiritual existence or improved emotional health should analyze selfishness and its root causes carefully.
When we are concerned primarily with our own interests and benefits regardless of others, we are being selfish. Selfishness means that we serve our own pleasure regardless of how our actions affect others. The opposite of selfishness is altruism, which is the self-less concern for the welfare of others.
A selfish person doesn’t have room in their thoughts or considerations for others. They are completely self-absorbed. To be self-absorbed is to have tunnel vision on yourself and your own personal needs. In short, a selfish person’s entire world is completely about themselves. They don’t have the ability to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others. They have little or no ability to empathize.
A selfish person feels overly entitled to have their idea of a “perfect” life. They crave attention and have a need to be seen and heard more than anyone else. They become oblivious to what others need or say.
Selfish people are like children in that they have not yet learned to balance giving with taking. They view others only as a means to get what they want. And they demonstrate drastic mood swings related to whether they get their way or not. There’s elation when they “win” and despair and arrogance when their demands are not met.
Selfish people become threatened when attention is paid to others. They have difficulty letting other people win, get accolades, or be admired. They can not listen to someone’s opinions, stories, or advice without turning it back to themselves. They are not truly sincere when they wish someone else success.
Selfish people have a need for control and are not willing to reach compromises with others. When they need something they’re willing to trample over others to make sure they get it. Cutting in line, storming into a room unannounced, or having a temper tantrum are a few of the many types of selfish behaviors one can exhibit.
Let’s be clear about what selfishness is not. It’s not self-promotion, self-respect, self-admiration, self-esteem, or self-love. These terms describe behavior that most of us consider healthy, productive, and not harmful to others.
Why are selfish people selfish? The answer is that they feel deprived of something. This deprivation may exist in either their consciousness or in their subconscious mind. They believe that they got “the wrong end of the stick” and now someone (or everyone) owes them payback. There is a sense of entitlement and expectation that justifies their bad behavior.
The feeling of deprivation drives the selfish to behave in ways that they believe will insure the end of deprivation. To others, their behavior could be described as arrogance. The roots of selfishness usually come from unhealthy or negative childhood experiences that shape our thought patterns.
For example, children of divorced parents can become selfish because they find the love of a missing parent only through the gifts that they receive from them. So they make demands of the parent to substitute for the parent’s time and attention. The child may discover that their demands are met, and so they learn that they can easily manipulate the parent.
Do you recognize some or many of the characteristics of selfishness in yourself? If so, you have accomplished a very important first step with that simple recognition. Each of us must take responsibility for our inner motivations and external behaviors. We are living a healthy and full life only when we are able to consider what’s truly best for others, instead of how others can be of benefit to us.
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