How To Be Selfish – Free Ebook

We’re always hearing that being selfish is one of the worst character traits that anyone could possess. It’s smacks of greed, entitlement, and cruelty. And yet, some of the reason we fail to have the lives we should, and thereby end up mean, bitter, and irritable, is because we’re suffering from an opposite problem: an excessive selflessness– an exaggerated modesty, an over-hasty deference to the wishes of everyone but ourselves. Our problem is that we’re not selfish enough. We collectively get muddled because we fail to distinguish between good and bad versions of selfishness. The good, desirable kind of selfishness involves having the courage and self-awareness to give priority to ourselves at particular points, the confidence to be forthright about our needs– not in order to harm or reject other people, but in order to serve them in a deeper, more sustained and committed way over the long term. Bad selfishness, on the other hand, operates with no greater end in view, and no higher motive in mind. We’re not declining to help so as to marshal our resources, to offer others a greater gift down the line, we just can’t be bothered. Unfortunately, afflicted by confusion about this distinction, we frequently fail to be brave enough about stating our needs as clearly as we should, with disastrous results precisely for those we’re meant to serve. For example, in order to be a good parent, we may need to have an hour to ourselves every day. We may need to take a long time in a hot shower to mull over events. We may need to do something that seems a bit indulgent, like a life drawing or clarinet lesson. But because we may sense how contrary to expectations these desires can seem, we might opt to stay quiet about our requirements and just get on with the job. And so, we grow increasingly ragged, angry, and bitter with those who rely on us. A lack of selfishness can turn us– slowly– into highly disagreeable, as well as ineffective, people. Good selfishness grows out of an unembarrassed understanding of what we need in order to maximize our utility for others. As good selfish people, we accept what we require to develop our abilities, get our minds into the right frame, summon our most useful powers, and organize our thoughts and feelings so that they can, eventually, be helpful to the world. We recognize that we will, at select moments, have to back out of doing things that people would very much like us to do. But we have no compunction about politely explaining that we just can’t be there for them… unlike the selfless, who will dutifully smile and help out and then one day explode in vindictive, exhausted rage. We know, as kind egoists, that we may be confused with the mean-spirited, but our innate conviction of our sincerity lends us the calm to pursuit our aims politely in our own way. So as not to be accused of the wrong sort of selfishness, the trick is to become a better ambassador of your intentions. We have to persuasively and kindly convey to those around us that we’re not lazy or callous (and indeed we’re not), but we have to show them that we will simply better serve their needs by not doing the expected things for a while. Sweet people run the strange but highly important risk of becoming an nuisance to other people by what sounds like, but really isn’t, a good idea: always putting others first. As good, selfish people know, sometimes, putting oneself first may actually be the best way to serve others properly in the long run.

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