Selfishness is defined as prioritizing one’s self interest over those of others.


While Group selection theory argues that humans evolved to be altruistic, the currently agreed upon theory (explained in the Book - The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins) is that our genes evolved to be selfish. In other words, our genes prioritize their survival and reproduction, and in doing so they direct our behavior (which tends to be selfish, some exceptions made for family).

Book - Elephant in the Brain by Robin Hanson argues that while we mostly act selfishly, we tell ourselves and others that we are altruistic.

Acknowledging Our Selfishness

Selfishness is likely part of what Carl Jung called The Shadow, the group of “negative” aspects of ourselves that we don’t like to acknowledge and that we repress (making them stronger). Shadow Integration work involves coming to terms with our shadow. Doing so allows us to be less controlled by it. The same is true for selfishness.

As we acknowledge and accept our selfish nature, we get to know ourselves better and we can act more naturally (without pretending). In doing so, we weaken our Ego and become more understanding towards others (because we recognize that they are also selfish, and that’s ok.

This realization also helps us to Focus on What You Can Control (Internal vs External)

Osho saw taking care of ourselves as a prerequisite to become truly altruistic. To be of service you have to be fit for service As Truly Good is Unconscious of Being Good, if we try to be good to others we’ll never succeed. But as we become fulfilled, we effortlessly take care of others (because doing so feels good).

Our True Self

If we realize that everything is interconnected -interbeing-, we suddenly see that selfishness and selflessness are not two opposites (Yin Yang). They are two sides of the same coin. Acting selfishly can help others and acting selflessly helps you.

Care flows naturally if the “self is widened and deepened so that protection of free Nature is felt and conceived as protection of ourselves… . Just as we need no morals to make us breathe … [so] if your “self in the wide sense embraces another being, you need no moral exhortation to show care… . You care for yourself without feeling any moral pressure to do it… . If reality is like it is experienced by the ecological self, our behavior naturally and beautifully follows norms of strict environmental ethics. - Arne Naess

Foolish Selfishness

The Present Bias and our ignorance to interconnectedness skews our selfishness to be very foolish. We prioritize short-term pleasure over long term (much more important) consequences.

Created on: 2020-11-22 Inspired by: does true selflessness exist 1.1