The benefits of knowing it’s all selfish

 

There are many benefits to knowing that what I am doing is selfish, even when it also seems kind.

It aligns me with reality and truth and I avoid the stress of pretending something else.

It’s easier for me to take care of my own needs so I am in a better position to live the life I want.

I am less prone to burnout. I am less likely to tell me I am doing it for someone else so there is less chance of resentment.

It’s easier for me to stay in my own business. I am less likely to go into blame, victimhood and so on.

There is less sense of self-importance. I know I am doing it for myself so I can’t so easily use it to boost a false sense of self-importance or tell myself I am better than others. 

If I don’t immediately see how what I am doing is selfish, how can I explore or find it? Here are a couple of suggestions.

If I tell myself I am doing something because I need to, I can write down the “need” statement first (“I need to drive the kids to school bc there are no busses”) and then change it to a “want” statement (“I want to drive the kids to school because I want them to have a good education, and I enjoy spending the extra time with them”).

If I tell myself I am doing something noble or altruistic or for someone else, I can ask myself what I get out of it. Here is an example: I moved to Wisconsin to support my wife in her education. What did I get out of it? In what ways did I do it for myself, for my own reasons? It made me feel good to support her. I wanted the best for her. I got to be with her. I got to apply for US residency which I wanted. I got to be a good husband and see myself that way. All of that was selfish, and some of it selfish in the best way.

The Work of Byron Katie is also a great way to explore if what I am doing is selfish, and to find that it is, in the best way, and that it’s completely innocent. (At least, that’s what I have found so far. I am open to discover something else.)

I’ll add a few examples I have found for myself. When I do something that seems kind, for someone else, and in the interest of the larger whole, I do it because it feels good. I am aligned with my guidance. I know all is interconnected so I am really doing it for myself, for the whole I am intrinsic part of. I notice it’s all happening within and as what I am, so it is – as they say in Zen – like the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Sometimes, I may do something because it makes me look good. It feeds into a desired self-image or how I want others and myself to see me. It can make someone like me. All of that is also selfish and when I look I find it’s innocent. It’s what we humans do when we are caught up in stressful thoughts and neediness.

So yes, when I have looked, I have found that what I do – even when my mind tells me I need to do it or what I do out of kindness – is selfish. It’s often selfish in the best way. It’s innocent. And it’s a huge relief to admit to myself it’s selfish and it comes with many benefits to see it.

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100% selfish

 

Being halfway selfish is painful.

I eat something my tongue says is good, and my body feels bad. I keep something for myself, and others notice and keep things to themselves. I try to protect myself through a white lie, and experience stress and tension.

In short, I act on a very limited notion of what is good for me and who I am in the world.

It is much better to be 100% selfish.

When I am completely selfish, I take the bigger picture into account. I think longer term, and in terms of my relationships with others and the wider world. I ask myself, what is really good for me? What will meet my most essential needs? I act in ways that meet my own needs, and also the needs of those around me, and even for the larger social and ecological whole, because I know there is no separation there.

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