No matter how you slice it, everything we do is for our personal benefit. We love someone because we get something from them; we do a job because we profit from the rewards, we buy showy things to be seen as cool. Even our play is done for our pleasure. This is how we are wired; it is natural, and it makes us selfish.
Our search for authenticity is also a self-centered pursuit. Our authentic self takes its direction from a higher consciousness, and it is important we learn to live relying on this inner source and away from the control of external influences. This is when we find fulfillment and happiness. As Mahatma Gandhi puts it,
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Note this is a purely self-centered process. We cannot gain happiness by pleasing others.
Destructive vs constructive selfishness
Our parents, teachers, and mentors have taught us that being selfish is a bad thing, but it is not. It is the focus of our actions that makes being selfish right or wrong. For example, if in pursuing our benefit we do not consider what this does to others, then this is destructive selfishness. This is also the case when we become concerned with our own personal profit or pleasure at the expense of others. These are the kinds of selfish acts our parents and teachers were trying to teach us to avoid.
A Higher Power created us to evolve and become ourselves. It wants us to evolve into our truest selves so we may discover joy, love, pleasure, and passion. This intent can best be described by the concept of “enlightened self-interest”, a philosophy in ethics which states that those who act to further the interests of others, groups and communities to which they belong, ultimately serve their own self-interest.
Choose love over fear
Destructive selfishness is rooted in fear. It says you cannot get what you want without exploiting circumstances and others. The tools of destructive selfishness are hatred, jealousy, violence, deception, revenge, devaluing and exploitation. Our ego’s desire for self-preservation drives our destructive selfishness.
Constructive selfishness or enlightened self-interest is a decision to follow the better angels of our nature. These are love, kindness, generosity, support, courage, acceptance, valuing and supporting. This is the center for our Higher Power and authentic self. Being selfish is your birthright, but we cannot gain fulfillment if we do not use our selfishness to create a greater good. That is the catch.
Create a greater good
There are many ways to create a greater good. Working for the betterment of our entire community, feeding the poor, taking an active part in stemming back global warming, advocating for the voiceless, standing up for the rights of all, ending wars and creating peace around the world and many more. Isn’t it great to know that in doing these kinds of deeds you are taking care of yourself and your interests? This is the greatest gift of our lives.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will fill you with joy and contentment.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.