9 Signs That You Might Be Selfish

I’ve been thinking about the meaning of the word “selfish” for a while, ever since various people hurled that insult my way. This post is about some conclusions I’ve reached. I believe it applies to marriage, friendship, family life, and online interactions.

But first, two definitions.

Selfish = Focusing on one’s own needs, wants, desires and pleasures. Not focusing on the needs, wants, desires and pleasures of others.

Selflessness = Having little to no concern for one’s own needs, wants, desires and pleasures, but showing lots of concern for the needs of others.

Now for the list.

  1. Everyone is selfish sometimes. Unless you are a canonized Saint or an enlightened being, then you are probably a lot like me. Sometimes you behave selfishly. Other times you behave selflessly. Refusing to admit this is both selfish and misguided.
  2. If you think you deserve to be canonized as a Saint, then you are selfish. The desire to have others know you, revere you, and recognize you is a self-focused desire. You will be truly selfless if someone offers to canonize you and you turn down that offer by saying, “Oh, no, this other person deserves it and would benefit from that a lot more than I would. Please give this other person the honor. I do not deserve it or need it.” This holds true for any title of recognition.
  3. It’s selfish to call someone else selfish. By accusing others of being selfish, you are attempting to bring others down and peg and yourself up a peg. This is, by nature, a self-focused action. You are motivated by concern for your own reputation and not by your concern for the well-being of others.
  4. Selflessness breeds happiness. Selfishness breeds unhappiness. If you are angry, worried, guilty, frustrated, depressed, envious, or jealous, you are probably focusing on yourself and your own needs and not on the needs of others. As soon as you stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on others, you will find that your negative feelings evaporate.
  5. Selflessness can be scary. That’s why so few people manage to act selflessly all of the time. It requires a huge amount of trust and vulnerability. We are often our most selfish when we are terrified.
  6. If you think some people deserve your help, but others don’t, there’s still a lot of selfish in you. It’s only once you can love every living being equally—no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or political party—that you will have completely transcended selfishness.
  7. Sometimes it’s selfless to be selfish. If you completely neglect your own needs and drain yourself dry, there will be no you left to focus on the needs of others. It is selfless to make sure you get enough rest, for instance. It’s easier to be selfless when you are rested, healthy, fit and well fed.
  8. Sometimes it’s seemingly selfish to be selfless. In focusing on the needs of many others, you might have to neglect the needs of a few. The few who are neglected might selfishly accuse you of being selfish. As long as your actions were focused on helping others, this is not true. The ones who accuse you of being selfish are actually the ones who are selfish as they are the ones who are concerned about their own needs.
  9. It’s selfless to forgive people for calling you selfish. After all they can’t learn how to be selfless unless they have role models like you to emulate. Also, as I mentioned, they are scared. If you respond to their show of selfishness with selflessness, you will show them what true courage looks like.

What do you think it means to be selfish? How do you use the word? Who do you accuse of being selfish and why? Who do you admire as embodying “selflessness” and why? Why do you think humans tend to call other humans “selfish”? What motivates it? What can you do to foster more selflessness in your marriage and life in general?

87 comments… add one

  • Eve November 5, 2015, 2:02 pm

    I believe that for one to be selfish, they must have had ACTED in a selfish way. For instance, I do NOT believe it is selfish to REFRAIN from doing something that someone else wants you to do/would benefit from (assuming that by doing nothing, you are not necessarily gaining anything yourself).

    A perfect example is if there is one seat open, and you get there first and decide to sit down (and did not see anyone near/walking towards the seat), it should not be considered selfish if you do not get up for someone else who also wants to sit in that same seat.

    I think people get the term selfish confused. Because as far as i’m concerned, selfishness is when someone ACTS or SEEKS their self-interest before the interest of others.

    • LaDonna Sheffer December 21, 2015, 4:42 am

      Trying to put priorities in right order,just $eem to be failing.Exhausted and confused at what next move to do.

  • Tonnette Jackson November 7, 2015, 5:06 pm

    What do you call a person when you ask them nicely to bring something out your car becuz they were already going to they car and he ask you, what’s the temp outside, I says I DONT kno he days look at your phone, mind you he never answered my question, I ask again, he walks away, I explained that I DONT understand why your not responding to my question, he then huffed n said where your keys…I said DONT bother I’ll get it…..I told him he can get his clothes out the dryer, he says no you said you will washed them for me, I told him, its not fair that I can cook and do things for you n you can’t do nothing for, well at least at times, this is weird to me….what do you think?

    • c November 20, 2015, 8:41 am

      A person who is beat on life and gained the perspective “what’s the point in life”. Also he might have a problem in having the ability to care for you because he is not in a good place at the time, himself. I find it helpful to attempt to address what he is feeling and what is bothering him emotionally. be warned: those type of person is extremely hard to open up; and they tend to lie to give you what you want to hear to get themselves off the undesirable topic (especially he gained distrust in you that if you truly cares for him). So approach with extreme gentleness and try not to care about his shitty attitude (since its most likely steered from misunderstandings with you , sometimes we can all sound tired and unpleasant without realizing) but show that you truly care about the issue at hand (ultimately him), then move forward to positive discussion while maintaining firm on your view, if he sees that often enough he will feel ashamed for being the a**hole: letting his down look on life ruin relationships with others. but then… you’ll have to deal with him being ashamed of himself… ha ha . sometimes it is good to look at our own doings, placing influence on others around us. think about what might have led him to the place he is in.

      -from going through the same experience
      c´s last blog post ..Did the man in the wheelchair need help? I was too wimpy to ask.

      • L July 22, 2016, 2:52 am

        C, can you email me? What you posted is something I am currently going through. I am the blinded person who has the negative outlook on life though. I need advice before I ruin my relationship for good. Thank you!!

  • toni toni November 7, 2015, 5:17 pm

    Why is it when I ask my husband to do something for me he DONT answer hu turns around and ask me something, but he never answered my question, so I ask again then he walks away, I told him I’m confused n why you won’t answer, he huff n then say were are your keys, but still never answered, but he wants be to cook n wash his clothes for him…..I DONT understand…… Any advice

    • Smile More December 8, 2015, 4:24 am

      Leave him, no one deserves to be treated the way you described.

      • ch December 8, 2015, 4:15 pm

        that’s pretty selfish of you to say (ironic ). because you choose not work to make a struggling relationship work , should not affect some who does want to face the challenge and see it through.

        you are being a airhead for giving advice to Act without further interest airheaded to assume you know all relationships, it is the reason why you might be having trouble with w/e you mentioned in article.

        piece of advice: don’t think too much, feel more. it’s hard but close eyes and Feel you. Then realize caring for one’s self is a good thing. treat others as you treat yourself.

        merry christmas to all and to all a good night!

  • Jess January 17, 2016, 1:39 pm

    This implies that someone suffering from depression is just being selfish. It also implies that someone attempting to break free of codependency is just selfish. This could do a lot of harm!

    • David February 4, 2016, 3:49 pm

      Fully agree. This could do a lot harm.

  • Cecilia Robinson May 3, 2016, 9:04 pm

    Toni, have you ever asked your husband why he won’t answer you? No one can assume they know what he’s thinking, so that’s the first thing you need to find out.

  • Vanessa Liza Juan Dela Cruz June 15, 2016, 1:00 am

    Thanks for this post and it is really informative. married couple should be helping together to achieve happy life. I have read articles 3 Tools To Help Overcome Selfishness that could help a married couple think that in every choice we make affects other people specially to our spouse. Thanks!

  • Nashae July 7, 2016, 10:36 am

    I think if a person goes to the store to purchase food items and have a significant other at home and not ask if the person want anything and than come home and eat it in front of them is selfish. It’s selfish for a person to spend their money on material things knowing bills need to be paid.


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