Monday, November 03, 2008

The Art of Selfishness

I recently got back from a pleasant stay in Greece. As I sat on the aeroplane waiting to take off to return home I was listening to the usual safety procedures. As the stewardess spoke, something she said really hit home. The words” In the event of needing to use the oxygen masks, make sure you fit yours first before you help others. We of course think nothing of this statement because it makes complete sense. What’s the point of helping others when you need to take care of your self first?

Part of our life programming has been the belief that selfishness is bad. Well it is in the traditional sense. But I am talking about positive selfishness or rational selfishness. You and me, we are here to live the life that we choose to live aren’t we? We all have dreams and aspirations in life. Some people have big dreams and goals, and some people have smaller dreams and goals. The point is are you living your life in line with your desires.

The harsh reality is; many people aren’t. I see people every – day working in jobs they hate. I see people sharing their lives with people they don’t like! This is called sacrifice. We all have the right to choose the life we live, and we also have the right to sacrifice ourselves, but is this really the way we are suppose to live?

We have all heard stories of people who would love to get a degree or a PhD but feel that it would be too selfish “I wouldn’t have any time for my family” or the woman who has fallen out of love with her partner, but chooses to stay in the relationship,” but he is kind and he wouldn’t betray me, he has a good heart”…What this person is really saying, is I don’t have the self-esteem to get myself out of this loveless relationship.

Maybe it is a fear of criticism or some other fear that is stopping her from changing their life situation. Instead she must justify her decision to stay in the relationship with as much logic as she can think of. This could of course equally apply to us men as well.

…To put ourselves first, puts us in a position of strength. When we practice being true to ourselves, we are of more use to others - not less, because we are happier and as a result healthier. We are less preoccupied with the what ifs of life. If we harbour unhappiness and project that on others, we are being selfish in the most negative sense.

Yes, selfishness is an art: it must be used in the right way and not abused. In a nutshell it is about being true to yourself, following your dreams and desires, it is about listening to your own mind and not someone else’s. It is true that if you don’t make your own choices in life, someone else will do it for you. We are all being influenced by others all the time, without even realising it. We become reactive to people and situations around us.

Negative selfishness is on the other hand a potentially nasty thing. There is no benefit at all in adopting an uncaring attitude towards others. We all need other people to live a full healthy balanced and fulfilling life. The goal is to be able to assert our needs, desires and passions, and that is positive selfishness!