I’ve always considered myself to be a fairly selfish person. I think it’s unfortunately easy to be this way. Our society promotes individuality (which isn’t entirely bad) and encourages the step-on-others-to-get-to-the-top mentality. Still, when I’m forced to watch others’ self-centered behavior it reminds me why I aspire to live my life differently.
Being selfish doesn’t get you as far as you’d think. I truly believe that the energy we put out comes back to us. Our friends tend to mirror our inner personalities and our lives can actually be hollow while seemingly full from the shallow outsider’s perspective. I want my life to be profoundly full, and I want to spend my life with caring people who don’t always put themselves first—because to me this isn’t love. So if you aspire to live your life with love and self-betterment as your driving forces, then this blog’s for you. Here are seven ways to be less selfish.
1. Listen. As someone with a Sociology minor, I always think it’s extremely important to not be ethnocentric. To be a good listener, you have to let go of your own beliefs—even for just a moment in time. You can’t be thinking of your next words or move—or that your own thoughts are better and more worthwhile. Listening to the people around us, really listening, promotes positive self-growth—and closer, less selfish relationships.
2. Put your needs last. When you’re a partner in a marriage or a parent, you learn about the necessity of putting someone else’s needs before your own. Sometimes, doing what another person needs rather than what you want surprisingly leads to your own happiness as well. Do you really care what you eat for dinner? Does the laundry actually have to be done now when a good game is on? Too often we waste our energy on making a point to just be “right;” when the thing is, there is usually more than one “right” route anyway. Try occasionally putting other people’s needs before your own—and you might find that your own desires are changed and met.
3. Put yourself in their shoes. Over the weekend, my husband got up with our two-year-old daughter when she woke at 3 a.m. Already sick and overly tired this epitome of an unselfish person, my husband, did everything he could to either get her back to sleep or keep her happy. When a bath and her favorite music and toys had failed, he finally took her on a drive. Our little girl fell asleep with her daddy driving slightly below the speed limit on a deer populated country road at dawn. Imagine my husband’s disgust when a ginormous truck rode his bumper and held down the horn. Now this person had to see our sleeping lady from the truck’s vantage point. Even if they hadn’t, really? The next time you judge someone or act unkindly remember that life exists outside that check-out line or highway—and cut people some slack.
4. Get off your high horse. Let me give you a heads up on an important reality: you are not more important than anyone else. You might be good at your job, pretty or just plain talented, but so is everyone else in their own way. So get off your high horse and stop thinking that what you want or need is more important.
5. Do you want to be known as the jerk? People that always get what they want don’t exist, but people that always try to get what they want do—and those people are probably jerks. Don’t be a jerk. Here’s another tip: other people notice—and remember—your bad behavior.
6. Break the habit. I can tell you from personal experience that being selfish can be like any other bad habit—hard to quit and often a cycle that you don’t even want to be in. Checking your poor attitude and using sheer will to change is often easier, and more worthwhile, than you think.
7. Let it go. Okay, okay I write this a lot, but it’s true. So you’ve been selfish in the past or someone else close to you has. Happiness means moving on—and truly moving forward means letting go of the past. You can change; others can too; and learning to let go of selfish and unhealthy relationships (including with yourself) is crucial to plunging into a more caring way of life.
Selfish behavior is not necessary to getting what you want anyways. Here’s a thought for you: if everyone was putting another’s needs before her own, wouldn’t that mean someone else could then be putting your own needs first? This is how my marriage functions; and my little girl’s needs come first because of her age and the nature of our relationship, but I get her unconditional love and those great smiles so really I win—and I’ve noticed that my life is a lot more fulfilling when I’m not obsessed with doing only what I want.
“If you think only of yourself, if you forget the rights and well-being of others, or, worse still, if you exploit others, ultimately you will lose. You will have no friends who will show concern for your well-being. Moreover, if a tragedy befalls you, instead of feeling concerned, others might even secretly rejoice. By contrast, if an individual is compassionate and altruistic, and has the interests of others in mind, then irrespective of whether that person knows a lot of people, wherever that person moves, he or she will immediately make friends. And when that person faces a tragedy, there will be plenty of people who will come to help.” –Dalai Lama