Nobody follows selfish people. How does one become less selfish and more selfless? Understand the continuum of self and increase your impact.
Is there such thing as a truly selfless person? Is the act considered selfless if you enjoy and feel good from it? How can we be less selfish?
In an episode of Friends, Joey argues with Phoebe that since doing good feels good, it is impossible to do a selfless deed and all acts of kindness are actually selfish.
But what if this is simply the natural wiring of the human mind? What if part of being human means receiving joy in the joy of others?
It would be strange if not disturbing for a mother not to enjoy feeding and caring for her child. Though it might not always feel like it in the moment when she’s woken up at 3 am to the screaming song of “Feed Me,” the mother derives a deep joy in the sacrificial giving to her child.
To be human is to be a hedonist. From the masochist’s plead for pain to the mother’s cleaning of puke, people everywhere are propelled by pleasure.
What does it mean to be selfish and selfless?
The challenge with thinking of selfishness and selflessness is that we think of it as binary. Let us first define the difference between selfish and selfless in a spectrum and let’s use Mother Teresa as an hypothetical example.
1) Better than (worst)
She cared for the poor and vulnerable to feel morally superior to the world and more powerful than the people she helped.
2) Benefit from (not the worst)
She did it to get into heaven.
3) Become better (pretty good)
She did it because she believed the chief goal of life was to be like God: to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of others and be as selfless or unselfish as possible.
4) Blessed and to bless others (best)
She did it because she was blessed when she saw those less fortunate blessed. Her blessing others blessed her.
The Continuum of Selfish and Selfless
Can a good deed be selfless then? If by selfless we mean that we have absolutely no motivation, logic, or intention, I don’t think so.
We can’t help to do good things, because we were wired for it to feel good.
Stepping Toward Selflessness
In my book Being is Greater than Doing, I talk about how all of us are motivated by our wounds and needs deeper than we admit or are aware of. There are people out there that help others only to feel loved and in relationships because they just can’t be alone.
But when we can come to a place of self-compassion, self-acceptance and self-love, we can then begin to be less self-ish. It is strange to think, counter-intuitive, but self-love is the root of self-less.
CS Lewis said, “Hell is a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about their own dignity and advancement and where everyone has a grievance.”
Why are people not more selfless?
Because they are more concerned with themselves and giving to their insecurities than giving out of their security.
In a world where the bottom line is everything, where we won’t commit to anything in fear of missing out on something better, and where social media is more about the marketing than making connections, it feels like we live in a pseudo-hell.
If you want to be a leader worth following, if you want this world to be better, then you have to become a person of self-love and selflessness and not self-centeredness or selfishness.
And that starts with self-awareness and self-knowing.
You can’t love someone you don’t know.
Question for reflection
What’s your favorite movie or television moment that showed extreme selfishness or true selflessness?
Written by: Ryan Lui Originally appeared on: Ryanlui.com Republished with permission.