And at the other end of living I’ve notice how old people are increasingly self-centered and reluctant to think beyond their own comfort. My aunt in her final days maintained a very selfish view, as the world revolved around her – her health issues, her personal comfort. As older people become less flexible in their body, so the rigidity spreads to their mind, and they are less able to be flexible in their thinking, and rarely flexible in their routines. You could never get my elderly father to do anything that he hadn’t given thought to well in advance, even if he had nothing else to do; all spontaneity was gone. And his worldview preempted all others; it didn’t matter who was put out by his stubbornness.
So where does selfishness come from? Is it a bad thing? Is selflessness such a good thing? Human beings are innately selfish – it’s a matter survival. Competitiveness is very natural and super competitiveness is just our selfish streak gone wild. The true survivors of the world take what they need first, which guarantees that their gene pool will continue to propagate. So through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, we the selfish, have survived. And survival of the species is why we’re all here – our raison d’être.
But we have also evolved to be cooperative. To survive in the modern world we must cooperate, for unlike are forbearers, we have, for the most part, lost the ability to get by on our own. We need the work of others in a cooperative society to eat, to stay warm, to help raise our children. Division of labor has made life so much easier, giving us leisure time to pursue other interests, but it has also made us very cooperative. So we are team players, we don’t cheat the system, we smile and make nice and so everyone wins. We have also evolved to care about others in a reciprocal altruism. It affects us deeply to see a stranger in need, especially a child, and we appropriately reach out with our assistance.
These dual systems of remaining selfish while wanting to be selfless lie deep within us, with one or the other coming to the surface in any given situation. Should we give to charity when charity begins at home? Should we cheat and break the rules just this one time because the current situation is extremely important? (And cheating does indeed pay, but if everyone cheated there would be societal chaos, so we rein in the cheaters with punishments and chastisements to keep things running smoothly.)
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: When your inner voice tells you to stop being selfish, know that being selfish is a very natural tendency and is actually OK; you need your selfishness to survive – it’s not the terrible thing that your mother told you it was. Sometimes being selfish is standing up for your own self interests, which is important for self-esteem and confidence. It’s really okay to take the selfish route and say no.
QUESTION: Do you overload yourself with stress because you just can’t say no when somebody asks you to do something?
Please let me know your comments on this pervasive subject.