In my previous articles I went over the advantages and disadvantages of both selfishness and selflessness. In this article I will share my personal experience dealing with the extremes of selfishness and selflessness, along with the lessons I learned along the way.
When I was young, I started out as a very selfless person. I wanted to help people and be friends with everyone. The problem was, I had not developed myself as a person yet and did not really know who I was. I would completely hide what little personality I did have whenever I interacted with another person, and tried to change myself into the exact person that I thought they would like. Predictably, most people saw right through me and did not want anything to do with me. The only people that did want to associate with me were the “user” type of people that wanted to take advantage of me.
I came to the conclusion that other people sucked because I was mistreated by these people. I tried to avoid socializing with others as much as possible. I was unwilling to take a good, hard look at myself and my own shortcomings; it was much easier to put the blame on others. I was not ready to face the fact that I was part of the problem.
As I grew older I became interested in human behavior and self improvement. I voraciously read as much as I could on the subjects, and in doing so I learned a lot about myself and what I was doing wrong. One of the most important things I learned was that you have to help yourself before you can help others. I had to develop myself mentally, physically, and socially. To accomplish this in the quickest and most efficient manner, I had to swing to the other end of the spectrum and become extremely selfish.
No longer did I talk to people and try to become their friend by changing myself to their liking. I developed my own personality and sense of humor exactly how I wanted to, not for the benefit of others. I did and said what I wanted to, and refused to do anything I did not want to do. I was surprised by how much more successful I was when socializing with people. More women were attracted to me and more guys wanted to be friends with me.
Acting this way increased my social success for two big reasons: confidence and authenticity. I was more confident because I was no longer seeking approval from others. I was doing my own thing, whether other people liked it or not. This set me apart because most people are conditioned to try to fit in and go along with the crowd. They are too afraid to do what they want for fear of disapproval.
I was a more authentic person because I was not trying to put on a false front to try and impress people anymore. People appreciate it when you are genuine, and it is easier for you to be relaxed because you are not worried about keeping up an act. The old adage to “be yourself” is actually very good advice. The thing is, you have to know who you are before you can truly be yourself.
I have since felt the call again to help people, so I have moved closer to being more selfless. I am in a much better position now to help people since I have grown as a person and know the types of people to avoid. I get to help people that actually need and want my help, as opposed to the people that only seek to use me and take advantage of my kindness.
So which is better, selfishness or selflessness? I think for most people, a time of selfishness is needed to find out who they really are and to develop their personality. Once this is accomplished, they can then move toward selflessness to strike a better balance in their life. Like many things in life, the answer ultimately lies somewhere in the middle, instead of one extreme or the other.
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