Traditionally, selfishness is the concept that by taking something for yourself you are somehow taking it from someone else and they consequently miss out on it. Most of us are brought up to believe that the correct way to be is focused on satisfying someone else’s needs ahead of our own (to varying degrees depending on who they are and your culture and upbringing).
It may be, though, that we are all ALWAYS being 'selfish' in every single moment of every single day and that it is impossible for us not to be...
Without even needing to delve into a discussion about whether the universe has unlimited resources or not, and whether we are truly 100% in charge of our life experience or whether we are not, the question of why we do ANYTHING must be answered.
Here are three questions that help to unravel this simply: When we decide to go to the beach is it because...
(a) We feel like going?
(b) We are going with someone else who feels like going?
(c) We are only going because someone told us to go?
In scenario (a) we are satisfying our feeling of self-directed pleasure.
In scenario (b) we are satisfying a feeling of, perhaps, making someone else happy or satisfying a feeling of duty.
In scenario (c) we are satisfying a feeling of possible duty or self-preservation.
In each case, it is OUR feeling we are satisfying. It may sometimes SEEM as though it is someone else we are catering for but it always comes back to how WE are going to feel about the decision we make. Even the soldier risking her life for others FEELS that the decision to fight and protect has more value to her than to stay at home and to let others do the fighting. Equally, the person who witnesses a child about to be hit by a car and chooses to risk his life to save them by jumping in front of the vehicle does so because the FEELING of standing by and watching safely on the footpath is worse than the feeling of possibly dying or being injured for them. Risking one’s life is as much a choice between one outcome and another as any other. But whether the decision turns out to be ultimately beneficial to the individual long-term or not it is still a question of satisfying a feeling.
It may come across as a cold way to see the world but only from a limited perspective. As an example, I can tell you that the reason I am passionate about a career advocating and promoting well-being is for my own pleasure and satisfaction. And that pleasure and satisfaction is what I get when I feel like I contribute to others’ growth and happiness because I LOVE PEOPLE. And Mother Theresa could be known as one of the most selfish people in history. All she ever wanted to do was to risk everything to help and rescue the less fortunate than herself. She was prepared to go to jail and even die to satisfy that feeling. Can you see my point?
Whether we like it or not, there is no way to escape our primary function of satisfying our feeling on any and all topics. Could this realisation have the potential to RELEASE YOU from feelings of guilt that cripple many others?