Healthy selfishness helps you live betterRemember: you can feel good and be happy without necessarily hurting others.
Selfishness seems to be distributed in an entirely unequal way: there are those who have too much of it and there are those who are completely without it. As often happens in life, some things become insane only when they are brought to exaggeration. Shopping is nice, but when we reach excessive levels we talk about compulsive shopping. Sex is a pleasant activity, but when its research becomes spasmodic it is called sexual addiction, the same goes for food, alcohol and physical activity.
If when we talk about tangible behaviors the “excess” seems to be clear, when we talk about more abstract concepts, grasping the differences becomes more complicated. The reason? For those unfamiliar with certain themes, the boundary between what is healthy and what is not seems to be extremely blurred. In reality this border is clear. A few more clarifications should be made for those meanings which in common parlance have only a negative connotation, just like selfishness.
To better understand, let’s start from the definitions of selfishness taken from the Oxford Dictionary.
1) “Attitude that implies the subordination of the will of others and the values of others to one’s personality;”
2) “Excessive and exclusive love of oneself or an exaggerated evaluation of one’s own prerogatives, which leads to the permanent search for one’s own advantage, to the subordination of others’ needs to one’s own and to the exclusion of one’s neighbor from the enjoyment of one’s possessions.”
Now let’s try to define ” healthy selfishness “, because let’s clarify it immediately, if in front of this noun the adjective “healthy” has been added there is a reason. Healthy selfishness can be defined:
1) “An attitude that clearly marks the boundaries between oneself and the other with the intention of asserting one’s emotions, needs and opinions without, however, offending or discrediting the values and personality of others;”
2) “Self-love associated with an egosyntonic evaluation of one’s prerogatives that leads to the search for equal relationships, made of equal rights and mutual esteem.”
Having a healthy selfishness means thinking and acting on one’s own good without the need to take anything away from one’s neighbor . So healthy selfishness exists and does not hurt anyone, on the contrary, it helps to live better.
Martyrs and altruism
Despite this premise, I am sure that many will continue to consider “healthy selfishness” as an excuse to harm others without having to deal with guilt. This happens because you cannot see the big border between what is right and what is wrong .
The term “healthy selfishness” for many people will remain an oxymoron, a contradiction … but it is not at all. Since childhood, we have been taught that being selfish is bad , that it is important to be selfless and always put others in front of you .
Martyrs are the extreme example of altruism. Extreme altruism leads to the annulment and denial of the self. Here a good thing like altruism, taken in its most extreme form, becomes a guarantee of malaise . In a diametrically opposite way, a “negative” thing like selfishness can lead to something good. Indeed, a particular form of selfishness can have a positive impact on oneself and those around us.
Healthy selfishness is an attitude nourished by the desire to respect oneself and is nourished by our ability to love . Here is another very common place: only those who are able to accept and love themselves will be able to love their neighbor.
In recent years, the concept of healthy selfishness has made room in psychology alongside the theme of ” self-care ” and self- love . Being focused on yourself, cultivating good self-esteem and loving yourself is not selfish, much less the effect of a society in which individualism reigns supreme.
To say that it is necessary to build a complete personal identity and feel good about yourself is not selfish. Self-love incorporates the concept of healthy selfishness and integrates internal and external complexities: this means that healthy selfishness does not ignore the importance of altruism and relationships .
Healthy selfishness, as well as self-love, promote both self-esteem and a profound respect for others . Any process of growth requires comparison with the other and relationships, therefore even in the concept of healthy selfishness there is no absolutistic individualism. Cultivating healthy selfishness allows us to move around the world in a safe way, allows us to forge functional bonds and to define well-defined boundaries.
A healthy selfishness gives us many advantages.
From a relational point of view
Healthy selfishness puts us on a level of reciprocity because by developing a healthy self-esteem we do not feel the need to overwhelm the other, let alone feel inferior.
Healthy selfishness defuses any attempt at manipulation in the bud, therefore it represents a sort of personal protection . If I look for reciprocity and want to be esteemed in relationships (and therefore I am ready to give esteem) I will be led to make relationships only with those who, in turn, want to grant me their esteem.
System of values
Healthy selfishness helps us mark our priorities based on what we want for ourselves. Does this seem selfish to you? Ok, then think about it: wouldn’t your best friend wish you the best in life? Well … then why shouldn’t you want the same for yourself? 🙂 Here, healthy selfishness is actually a form of self-centered altruism . What you wish for the people who are closest to your heart, you also hope for yourself and strive to obtain it.
When you enter the dimension of healthy selfishness rather than for “impositions” (I have to do …, I have to say …) you learn to move for needs and desires (I want to do …, I mean …). Of course, the concrete duties will not disappear, but you will acquire the good sense to think about yourself too.
Your well-being becomes the fundamental fulcrum of life. At this juncture it is necessary to remember a sacrosanct truth: if you feel good about yourself and are satisfied with your life, you will also be more projected towards your neighbor.
NB: it is not a banality, studies and empirical observations in Social Psychology have shown that people with good self-esteem are more involved in altruistic gestures and pro-social behaviors.
It makes you take on your responsibilities
In life we cannot wait for others to save us, we must autonomously take care of ourselves.
Healthy selfishness begins with the recognition of one’s needs and values, begins with a deep knowledge of one’s personal identity . Not only must we get to know each other deeply but we must also accept and legitimize our needs. Knowing each other also means understanding what is under our control and what is independent of our responsibility.
The world is full of unsatisfied people ready to put the blame for their malaise on others. It is often true, we go through adverse situations, we meet “toxic” people who can hurt us, but it is up to us to extricate ourselves and pursue the path of well-being.
Boundaries can be defined as those limits that we set every time we enter into relationships with other people. Those limits that indicate to us what we consider acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior towards us.
Boundaries are an essential form of self-care and the limits you place on others make it clear that you too deserve your space. Many people are inclined to accept everything, adapt to any form of treatment, always say “yes”. If you have not already done so, learn to distinguish the desired “yes” from the established “yes” as a form of learned duty . Start exercising your right to “no”. Start exercising your right to self-care.
If you believe that healthy selfishness is not for you so that it can clash with your natural attitude towards guilt, read the article dedicated to “sentences that trigger pathological sense of guilt”.