Why Selfishness Is Making Me A Better Person
Selfishness can be a good thing. I used to spend all my time helping others and trying to live up to unrealistic altruistic values I’d set myself but then I’d always find myself drained, feeling low and in the shallow end of the success scale.
Before I continue I just want to say this is not going to be a debate about defining success. I consider myself very successful in some area’s of my life and not so much in others. I continually evolve the benchmarks I set myself in alignment with my personal growth goals.
The connection between success that I want to establish here is in regards to perceived “selflessness” and success.
The way in which I’ve seen many define selflessness has often been the thing to lead to their demise.
There’s A Reason Nice Guys Finish Last
When I first started my journey of personal development nearly 19 years ago I equated “being nice” and trying to please everyone as altruistic.
I now understand what a crock that was. This isn’t the cynical Amit here rearing his ugly head. It’s just a deeper understanding of the universe and human nature.
Being nice has nothing to do with altruistic values or selflessness. In fact, I think there is a very deep rooted selfishness, and not the good kind, in being nice.
People who are nice can sometimes hoard secret feelings of resentment when that kindness isn’t returned. It can manifest in subtle ways such as depression, or more gross ways in the form or bitching to friends.
Now, when I want something, I try not to be nice about it. It sounds counter productive but it seems to work much better. I will be polite and follow a code of etiquette but I won’t “suck up” so to speak.
I find the more I try and coerce people the less effective I am. I let go of trying to control how others respond and just allow whatever outcome to emerge naturally.
I would so much rather people help me through their own volition without a hint of perception that I had a hand in the decision; preferably to the point where they’re not even sure why they’re helping me.
In the past, When I met someone who was doing better than me, in a field in which I wanted to excel, I couldn’t help but feel a hint of jealousy. I don’t believe, despite what many may think, it was a bad kind of jealousy.
I saw someone successful and I kind of felt a sense of disappointment that I wasn’t there yet when I knew I’m was more than capable.
It’s not even a sense of jealousy, but almost a feeling of helplessness that I can’t offer that person something of value at that moment in time.
Then I think about all those times I used my time and energy to helping others with the bitter after taste of resentment for not being given anything in return.
I still, even now, feel occasionally jealous when people are doing better than me and I know people will come along and say “don’t be jealous, be thankful for what you have” but they seem to miss the point.
Being thankful for what I have, or trying to force those thoughts is, in my opinion, the wrong way to go. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that kind of jealousy.
As I mentioned, it’s just that I see where I am, and I see where someone else is, and it’s actually more a feeling of disappointment that I am not there yet; that I want to move to that level. It motivates me to keep pushing forward
How do you determine who you say no to? Well it’s entirely up to you to set your own criteria. It truly does depend on what area of life you’re talking about but I can give you a couple of specific examples of mine.
Firstly I say to them, “I’m a Life Coach, so you are in essence my competition, so how is having you on my show going to bring value to both me and the listeners?”
Your first reaction to that statement might be one of contempt for me, but think about it carefully. How would you handle the same situation?
Secondly, nowadays, if I do invite any coaches onto my show, I would need to know that they would be able to handle themselves under serious pressure.
A chat show needs a controversy in order for it to be a chat show, it is the very premise under which a chat show operates. It’s needs strong opinion and no middle fencing. I’ve met many Life Coaches who are often, too placid, and too boring to be on a radio show.
Another example is when, a few years back, a friend asked me to coach them to write their book which I did. I gave them free coaching which they went on to have published and for which I was never even thanked. I offered my valuable time and energy and got absolutely nothing in return.
That wasn’t altruistic of me. In fact it was cowardly not to ask for a fair return. I have not heard from that person since. At the time I thought I was being selfless but I was weak and horrendously under valued my services.
What Selflessness Does Not Mean
Being selfless does not mean you go and help people to the detriment of your own well-being. Remember, sometimes helping people over and above you may actually be taking something away from them.
Sure, guide them; throw some clues their way, but for heavens sake, don’t do all of the work thinking you’re doing a good thing.
I have a slightly different definition for selflessness and the equation goes a little something like selflessness = oneness.
Do I want all the answers and rewards given to me on a plate? Hell no! I want to work for them otherwise life would be more boring than watching paint dry. I offer the same level of support as I would want.
I am now much more selective about what I give my time and energy to.
Time And Selfishness
I don’t know about you but I used to have about 2000 connections on Facebook. I recently did a clear up and went down to about 900 and now again it’s creeping up to around the 1700 mark. Now, you don’t need to be good at maths to calculate that it means that,, on average 5 of my connections on Facebook will have a birthday every day.
Even if only 1 out of every 3 of those connections decides to have a birthday bash, and I get invited to it, I would have one a day throughout the year. That doesn’t even include other kinds of gala’s, charity events, launches, etc. I can’t possibly attend all of them, otherwise I would have no time for anything else!
I could try the selfless route and please everyone and attend as many events as I can but eventually I would burn out. I had to learn how to discriminate and how to say no.
The whole point about living consciously is that you can pick and choose who you decide to help. Being selfish and altruistic are not mutually exclusive.
You don’t have to say yes to everyone and everything and saying no can be saying yes to yourself (a cool line from the book The Yes Man by Danny Wallace).
You will find by being selfish you will have more time, more energy and more focus doing the things you love doing rather than the things you think you should be doing.