The Importance of Being Selfish

Trust me, you want me to be selfish.

And I want you to be selfish, too.

Being selfish doesn’t seem like a good idea. Especially if building community and relationships is important to you. After all, being selfish is about being self-centered. It’s about the “me” and not the “we”. The focus on individual accomplishment and development can’t possibly be beneficial to the collective good of our society.

I disagree.

Selfishness carries with it the connotation that being selfish means you don’t care about anyone but yourself. “Personal gain is personal gain, and if my victories come at your expense that is of no concern to me.” Just “looking out for number one”, that’s the justification for the behavior and attitude.

FEAST I’m not a big fan of this brand of selfishness which is based upon a belief in scarcity and limitations, that there is only so much meat to go around. Unfortunately this zero-sum-gain mindset is a widely-held belief. “We are all dogs feeding at the same bowl and I’m gonna get mine. Every bite you take is one less bite for me.” The highly competitive nature of people in highly competitive situations usually produces less-than-pretty results.

The selfishness I like is the one that is based in abundance and expansion. The one that allows for us all to feast at the big kid’s table and never have to worry that the person sitting next to you will start eating off your plate. There is more than enough for all, and more is on it’s way.

Selfishness and abundance appear to be polar opposites. After all, the traditional definition of selfishness is rooted in a belief in lack. But I am here to make a case for embracing a philosophy of selfishness and abundance.

By it’s very definition, selfishness speaks of a disregard for others. What I am advocating for is a selfishness that keeps it’s focus on the self which in turn allows one to abundantly serve the needs of others.

INTENT TO IMPROVE I play many different roles in my life. Father. Husband. Son. Brother. Friend. Employee. Neighbor.  As a father, husband, son, brother, friend, employee, and neighbor, I have a responsibility and an obligation to be the best version of me in all the roles I play. My kids deserve the best Dad I can be, as my wife, Mother, siblings, friends, employer, and neighbors all deserve to have me bring the very best of me into all these relationships as well.

For me to bring my very best I need to focus on me. To be, yes, selfish. I need to take an honest look at the many roles I have in life and assess my performance. Am I making a real contribution, or am I just showing up and going through the motions? Selfishness redefined is a focus on self with the intent to improve the self for the betterment of others as well as the self.

COUNT ON ME Without a doubt, the most important role I play is that of Dad. It’s one role I just have to get right. It’s an awesome responsibility, the care and nurturing of a child. I am forever evaluating my performance, and quite often will receive unsolicited feeback from my kids regarding the job I am doing as their Dad. I know that what I say, don’t say, do or don’t do will form lasting impressions on very impressionable minds that can shape how this next generation will deal with the highs and lows of this thing we call life.

I better be doing more than going through the motions.

I need to invest in me if I hope to fulfill my responsibilities to those counting on me. I need to take the time to fully develop the skills and the mindset necessary to make the meaningful contributions I need to bring to those within my immediate world and to the society that I hope to make a little better. Yes, I need to be selfish. If I’m going to give myself away shouldn’t I give away the very best version of me?

Are you giving the world the very best version of you?

I want my daughter’s teacher to be selfish. I want her to be the very best teacher she is capable of becoming, and I hope she selfishly continues to invest in herself and her abilities. I want my doctor to be selfish, too. I want her skills to be as sharp as her scalpel. I really don’t want her just showing up. I want my friends to be their very best so that when I stumble as I often do I can count on them to pick me up and dust me off and get me back on my way. They should expect the same from me.

RESPECTING YOUR GIFT Being selfish is nothing more than making a commitment to yourself and your capacity for transforming your potential into something real. It’s bringing the very best version of you to the surface. It is respecting your gift, it’s honoring your voice.

We all entered into this world with a unique combination of talents, gifts, and abilities. We are here, constructed exactly as we are, to fulfill a divine purpose, to contribute that which only we can contribute. Sure, we have all this awe-inspiring greatness within us, but the contribution part is optional. No one is forcing any of us to fulfill anything. But if we allow them to, our contributions can produce equally awe-inspiring results, can change lives, can change worlds.

BETTER TOMORROW What would our world look like if we all selfishly became the very best we could be? Imagine the impact that would have on our families, our friendships and all the relationships and roles we all play in our lives.

Living Half Full is about taking a look at all the roles you play in your life. Look closely into the eyes of those around you, of those counting on you. Are you offering them all the greatness you have to give? Then look deeply into your own eyes and ask yourself the same question. No matter how good I think I am doing, I know that I can always be better tomorrow than I was today. How about you?

You have the opportunity to dramatically impact those closest to you by selfishly striving to fulfill the promise that resides within you…within all of us.

We all strive to make a difference, to make a meaningful contribution. Is there a greater contribution to be made than living up to your own greatness?

This is your chance.

Be selfish.

Can we count on you?

It’s a great day to be you!

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Selfish

  1. I agree, Peter. “Healthy selfishness” seems like an oxymoron”, but it’s not. Ego gets a “bad rap” but everybody has one, and those who “slam them” possess the judgment they make. A healthy ego, or self, is strong, flexible, and secure in its many roles. As Sidney Jourard said, a healthy personality “can take their self more or less for granted and devote energies and thoughts to socially meaningful interests and problems beyond security, or lovability, or status”. I love your thesis and you might enjoy Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness”. My January 13th “Simple e-Couragement” could be the cherry on the delicious cake you have offered up here and it says, “You have the freedom to act out the very best version of the very best you that you can be!” Thank you, Peter, for your fresh thinking on the matter of self.


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