“It cannot be avoided anymore, at this point there needs to be a genuine answer to the question of how you become what you are. And this leads me to that masterpiece in the art of survival — selfishness . . .” — Nietzsche
Wehear about it so often. “Don’t be selfish”, “Think about others”, “ Don’t care only about your ass!”. Moral judgments coming from all sides instructing us to forget the very thing that sustains us. But before we transform ourselves into mother Teresas, it’s always a good practice to realize what we are leaving behind and what are the aspirations we are striving for.
Selfishness exists only in the realm of society and our environment. It condemns all the actions that promote the self-interest over the general good. And if I may ask, isn’t this selfish from society’s perspective? But this aspiration is the standard mechanism used to keep the equilibrium between sustaining this little construct we came up with, helping each other to survive and keeping our self-interest at heart, at the same time. And that makes sense if the society is to keep its cohesion.
But it feels like unselfishness has become a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a means to an end. It’s more of cleaning out a table with no dust just to show off our meticulousness, rather than the actual cleaning itself. Nice guys, social anxiety, stress, and unhappiness levels have risen up to highs we’ve never seen before. These moral judgments subverted us a bit too much for our own good, and now we pay the price of losing our compass.
There are healthy and unhealthy manifestations of selfishness. Any action that provokes detriment and destruction to our environment is harmful and surely belongs to the second kind. But in the hunt to avoid any of these painful outbursts we grabbed the bull by the horns and took the principles to their limits. The result is leading a great number of people to suffocate under the strive for goals that have no purpose or benefit.
It’s the first time in history people succumb to the opinions of others to such a degree that puts a strain around their neck. What is everyone thinking? How am I gonna look? What if I make any mistakes? …But why do you care so much, anyway? How did you manage to lose view of your core opinions and submit to the power of what is blatantly labeled as ‘others’?
The problem with this circumvention is that it kills anything unique enough to stand out. In order to buy cohesion, we sold out the authentic expression of our unique perspective.
Look out on any craft that requires some sort of personal exposure and you’ll find people copying others, censoring their true opinion, and smoothing out the edges, in the hopes of being more likable. Appeasing harsh feelings seems more important than our very own well-being.
It’s not hard to see why bad boys are so appealing in general. It’s not the fact that they are really bad or that they are harmful, but the fact that they managed to bypass that inner fear of other people’s opinions. Not an easy task by any measurement. It means they have the particular belief that what they have going for themselves is sufficient to get them by and they don’t really need any allies in the outer world. Which is quite a badass thing to have if you think about it. They declare to the world they don’t need their good judgments to feel good. They found the way to generate that for themselves like self-sufficient machines. But what is really stopping anyone from achieving this same state in themselves? Why can’t anybody have these fuzzy feelings of admiring their blossom awesomeness on their own? Are you telling me you need 100 people cheering you up and billboards on the streets with your face on it to feel good?
Selfishness is knowing that you have needs and desires to take care of. In today’s standards, anything that doesn’t offer immediate value to others is discarded as pointless or negative even. But how pretentious is that really? Isn’t everyone in a way striving for his own good one way or the other?
Surface Level Selfishness
When someone mentions selfishness, people tend to think about materialistic outcomes. “I’m taking a break to watch a tv show for myself”, “I’m buying myself some nice clothes”, “I’m spending some extra bucks for that nice car because I deserve it!”. This, although disguised as helpful to someone, is the destructive kind of selfishness and certainly not the one I try to emphasize here. There is another kind that precedes this level of thinking and I consider it much more creative and essential. The core-level selfishness that sits right at the storefront of our being.
The core-level selfishness is answering the questions of why you are doing something, what are your true opinions on it, and what it really means to you. Not to your friends, or your spouse or anyone else, but to you at the core. It’s when you spin your worldview to position you at the center of it instead of other people’s criticism. Judging with your eyes and acting in the circle of your influence, instead of diving into victim mindset on situations you don’t want to participate in. Screw you, nobody here is having a blast, everybody is just pretending to.
At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of perspective; Are you leading your life out of the social pressure and conditioning, or out of your core belief system?
Selfishness is being distanced enough from your situation to be able to see yourself as an independent entity, instead of an unworthy element you can suppress, for your perceived benefits. You cannot censor your needs just to gain some likes and smiles. You can’t disrespect your desires because you have developed the ability to control them through conscious elimination. You need to re-learn how to get yourself out of the way of blocking yourself.
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.” — Oscar Wilde
Below are 3 exercises you can use to promote your fainting ego:
The 30-minute check
In a recent interview, Elizabeth Gilbert shared an original exercise that can re-calibrate your lost ego and help you find a way to resurface it. It’s called the 30-minute check. Its premise is quite simple. You set up your phone to get a notification every 30 minutes, that triggers you to think about your current standing. Any ungrounded lie that diminishes yourself in any way and you committed under social pressure or habit needs to get corrected.
Did you accept that invitation to another co-worker’s child’s party you are not really interested in going? That coffee with the old high school friend that can drag down a whole city with his mindless banter? Or even a simple coffee out when you know you don’t have enough time for yourself and you could use a break. Well, you need to get back to everybody and set everything straight again. And there doesn’t have to be some grueling excuse you need to make up for how a meteorite fell right in your front yard and how urgent it is to pick up the pieces. A simple “Thanks but no thanks” should do the job. And that’s the end of it.
Paying Tribute To Yourself
It would be a huge mistake to take all this as an excuse to purchase superficial stuff. You don’t really need that golden watch or the fancy costume. It’s an illusion that won’t help you fix your confidence or make you feel better for more than 10 minutes. What you do need though, is start paying tribute to yourself.
That means listening to your needs, your core desires, and unique way of going about, as the unique little star you are. If you think getting the dopamine hits by checking your likes on Facebook or by superficial commodities is attributing to yourself, you are mistaken. Not only it misses the point, but it also stops you from seeing what you are really all about. It takes your focus away from what really matters. Paying tribute to yourself means you give yourself the time to come forth on its own terms and you allow some room for his full expression. Without all the noise and buzz of the current world.
Rocking The Boat Intentionally.
It’s incredible how much people have immersed in patterns of fake-kindness and self-deprecation to totally forget the actual needs they have. This exercise through is not so much about the what, as it is for pushing your ego outwards so that you reactivate patterns of accounting for yourself. So again, it’s not about the actual things you are gonna get, but for establishing the mental habits.
So every time you catch yourself not rocking the boat out of fear that you are gonna bother other people, you have to go the opposite way just for the sake of it. So is your coffee a little bit more sugarish than it should? Does your spouse not spent quality time with you and stopped being there when you need it? Did your co-worker disrespect you with a bitter comment? You need to come forth in a nice and non-confronting way and set out your expectations for every one of them. And I emphasize the fact it has to be “in a nice way”. This is not about becoming an asshole but about taking care of yourself and showing that you care about your needs. Your unconsciousness is always there to listen to all of it…0