Are We Selfish?


Are we selfish? When this question crops up in my mind, I try to seek an answer within myself first. Am I selfless? After much thinking and admonishing myself, I try to extract an honest answer out of my evasive mind…

“Well, we all have selfish tendencies –  it is only human,” my inner voice whispers.

At times I might have offered my services, done something good for others, without expecting anything in return. Is that enough?

I have given unconditional love to my children and family but another question confronts me…”doesn’t everybody do that?”

‘No, everybody doesn’t do that’, says my friend.

Why are children abandoned, abused, killed? Many of them grow up in acute neglect.

So I went on to search…what exactly is selfishness? While it was so confusing and mind boggling, two definitions appealed to me:

According to Wikipedia: “Selfishness is placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.”

According to Oscar Wilde: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

I again asked myself: Do I fit in here? I have never placed ‘my interest’ above but my inner voice slowly speaks: “sometimes, you have!”

I ignore that voice and tell myself: I have never asked others to live according to my wishes. But these arguments didn’t melt my doubts.

Why did I choose only these definitions? Because they suit me?

This reminds me of a woman who gave up her successful career to look after her ailing husband. She was applauded by everybody and was called selfless, but she admitted that she was selfish because she had placed her own concern over and above anything else.

“A selfless act out of even the purest desire to do for others, will be selfish in the satisfaction and happiness it brings to one doing it.”―Ashly Lorenzana

My friend thinks falling in love is also selfish! Isn’t that absurd? How can the basic human emotion make us selfish?

When I try to analyze further, I agree with the reasoning: Love makes people selfish. It crosses all boundaries, it transcends all values and it drags them away into their own world. “Love is the most selfish of all the passions,” said Alexandre Dumas.

I ponder further…

Even those who work for the welfare of others are selfish as they have their own goals in mind… perhaps they want fame, power, self-fulfillment or are eager to record their names in the pages of history.

So I realized that:

  • Selfishness can be defined according to one’s own perspective.
  • Selfish traits are inherent.
  • Self- interest takes us closer to our goals.
  • Selflessness doesn’t bring any rewards.
  • Sacrifices are mocked at in today’s world.
  • The more you acquire, more selfish you become, whether in terms of money or knowledge.
  • Selfish people are actually weak, insecure and unhappy.

Let’s look within:   

  • Are you kind and considerate?
  • Are you tolerant?
  • Do you listen to others?
  • Do you really understand the feelings of others?
  • Do you respect the opinion of others?

I know we all nod to the above questions without giving a profound and honest thought to them. I also hope these questions will keep guiding us toward better understanding and enhancing our personality.

If selfishness hurts you, don’t forget it hurts others too. A little concern for people around us makes us emotionally balanced and less selfish.

Have you come across selfish people? Do you have a different understanding of selfishness? It’s your turn to share your valuable opinion.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social sites..

 Thank you for being here. Sharing is caring.

© Balroop Singh

40 thoughts on “Are We Selfish?

  1. You can be selfish without even knowing; when you discover someone else has thought to do something for a mutual friend or aquaintance and it had never even crossed your mind let alone been acted on!

  2. Re logged this on my site.
    A question deep
    Answer clear indeed
    To live is
    Being selfish
    Only the dead
    Won’t have it
    In his or her head
    Have this struggle
    To be selfish
    Or selfless

    1. Thanks Pranab. Well said! It is the life that makes us think about us and only us! Slowly we steer away from “self” but only a little.

    1. I think this trait runs in human blood just like many virtues…probably quite difficult to eliminate but could be controlled just like anger.

  3. In general, I wouldn’t say I’m selfish…at least I try not to be. That said, I know sometimes I put writing before Derek, which isn’t fair to him.

  4. This is a very insightful perspective of selfish, Balroop. Really like the example you used where the woman who took care of her ailing husband was seen as selfish – she probably turned down many invitations from friends to go out or moments to be there for them, and also put her husband’s needs before hers even as people applauded her. We can’t be there for everyone all the time/

    I think we are all selfish to a certain degree. Sometimes we need time for ourselves. There are times when I need to be alone and recharge, and have to turn down chatting and hanging out with others. Is that selfish? I don’t think self-care is selfish at all. Sometimes you really just have to put some things first over others.

    1. When we do something for a close family member, we are actually doing it for ourselves…there is no doubt about it. It may help the other person but it is self-gratifying, freedom from any guilt, which may later scare us. At the same time, I don’t consider self-care as selfishness. What can a broken person do for others?
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts Mabel. I am glad to see you back. Stay blessed.

  5. My husband and I frequently have this conversation. According to him, we’re all selfish in everything we do because we’re always doing it to benefit ourselves, even if it’s charity, we’re doing it because WE want to do it. I’m beginning to agree. This is a lovely post, by the way.

    1. Thank you KE, for chiming in and welcome to Emotional Shadows. I am glad you liked this post. Some questions keep coming back to us and help us keep the balance on the curve of life. I agree that charity is done for self-gratification, as deep down there is a feeling that “I have to do something for the needy.”

  6. Beautiful share Balroop. A question I do ask myself on occasion when I engage in something purely for my own satisfaction. 🙂

  7. A difficult question to answer in depth. However, I wouldn’t see myself as selfish but do believe
    we all do at times act out of self interest. We might not even be aware of this at the time.


    1. “Depth” is the right word here Miriam and I agree with you…most of the times, this question is dismissed in haste or is laughed at. It is human nature to evade serious discussion over topics that analyse their behavior. However, introspection is the first step to adding some value to our personality. 🙂

  8. Interesting post, Balroop. I particularly liked the Oscar Wilde definition of selfish. When we become parents we learn to provide for their needs before our own. It’s the most unselfish role we play—motherhood. Yet, we must put our own oxygen mask on first in order to take care of others. Sometimes it’s necessary to be a little selfish 🙂

    1. That definition appealed to me too Lisa. Expecting others to follow your own way of living or imposing your thoughts on others could be the worst form of selfishness. But we do so and many people follow…for their own reasons. Even children live in the shadow of their parents till they learn to distinguish what they believe to be right.
      Thank you for sharing your perspective Lisa, much appreciated.

  9. I do think that we are all selfish at times for one reason or another. Selfless acts of kindness, especially when stretched over a number of years can be physically and mentally damaging. Many times people do want to help but they don’t have the personal resources to do so which leads to guilt. Then there are those who to be honest are never going to help and they have been like that their entire lives. In certain cases you do need to put yourself first to enable you to be effective in helping others. What I don’t admire is the petty selfishness such as ‘this is mine and you can’t have it’. You do what you can when you can.

  10. Putting yourself first is not selfishness Sally, I absolutely agree with your thought. Only when we are comfortable, do we think of others yet there are situations when selfish behavior stands out — grabbing the share of a sibling, poisoning the ears of others against a colleague or a family member to win some brownie points, knocking a friend down to rush ahead in the race of life…some serious points to ponder!
    Thank you for coming over to read and share your insights Sally. Stay blessed.

  11. This is a post that makes you think hard after reading. I guess we are all guilty of being selfish at some point in time. This in itself is not bad unless this feeling is paramount in all our decisions. I guess most of the times we don’t even realize that we are being selfish.

    1. Those times when we don’t know we are being selfish could be actually self-care or working for our goals. Selfish behavior is always checked by our inner voice and when we ignore it, only then are we guilty of selfishness.

  12. I think of selfishness as a primitive instinct that no longer has value to our survival. Hoarding
    resources makes sense when there is a real scarcity of resources. We now live in a thriving global civilization that requires us to empathize with and collaborate with each other.

    1. Collaboration is done in businesses, not relationships. Technology has sharpened this primitive instinct, as most people don’t even understand the values, which laid the foundation of society.

  13. I think variations in human behavior are as myriad as the stars. Though I love this article and love how you have offered these ideas for readers to contemplate, I come to no firm conclusions about any of it. What I Do do is to be mindful of my own intentions and thoughts behind my actions. There are times I am just too tired to really give a fig, but these are few and far between. Cheers, Balroop! 🙏😘

    1. Now that is a poet’s observation! I agree with it…contemplation is good for healthy living. 😊 Many thanks for sharing your thoughts Bela. Have a nice week ♥️

  14. This is interesting Balroop.
    I bet we are all a bit, even if we say we are not that selfish. It’s part of human nature maybe.
    I guess we need to find the right balance. Taking ourselves into account while being there for others. It’s not an easy equation. But maybe something to ponder every time we have to lake a choice.
    Wishing you a lovely end of week.

  15. I really like the Oscar Wilde quote, Balroop. It defines selfishness as enhancing oneself to the detriment of another. Those two parts seem necessary to give a clear picture. Self-interest is natural and a fine motivator as long as it doesn’t entail trampling on other people. 😀 I hope you’re having a wonderful summer, my friend. ❤

    1. What a balanced perspective! Thanks Diana, welcome back! I really missed you and your insights that add so much value to each piece. Take care of yourself too.

Comments are closed.