The Art of Balanced Selfishness: Is It Really Bad To Prioritize Yourself?

We’ve all been told by society not to be selfish, that selfishness is a negative trait. But, is society giving us the complete truth, or is there more to it than meets the eye?

To understand this, let’s begin by defining what it means to be selfish. In simple terms, being selfish means prioritizing your own well-being. Now, ask yourself, is there anything inherently wrong with taking care of yourself?

Consider the following story:

Once upon a time, there were two good friends, Anthony and Gonsalves. They had known each other since childhood, sharing everything from school to their love for playing football.

On Anthony’s 25th birthday, they embarked on a journey to Spain to participate in a thrilling bull race. However, the twist in the story comes when Gonsalves finds himself in grave danger, about to be hit by a charging bull. In a heroic act, Anthony jumps in, pushing Gonsalves to safety. But the price of his heroism is high – Anthony falls before the bulls, and his legs are crushed beyond repair. Doctors confirm that he will never walk again.

You might think Anthony’s sacrifice would earn him endless praise and admiration. However, reality paints a different picture. While he’s celebrated as a hero for a brief moment, the excitement fades, leaving behind a crippled Anthony struggling with everyday tasks like bathing and using the toilet. His dreams of becoming a footballer are shattered. Gonsalves, initially a frequent visitor, starts coming less and less, leaving Anthony dependent on his family for care.

We’ve been raised in a society that often encourages us to prioritize others over ourselves. But is this always the right approach?

Society warns against selfishness because it often imagines one extreme scenario: a person harming others for personal gain. In our story, this scenario is Situation 2, where Anthony would have sacrificed Gonsalves to save himself. Indeed, such actions would be morally wrong.

But here’s the key insight: selfishness doesn’t inherently imply harming others. It’s entirely possible to prioritize your well-being without causing harm. This possibility, however, often goes unnoticed.

In our story’s Situation 3, Anthony uses his knowledge of bull behavior to create a win-win situation. By jumping to his side of the lane and tossing a red cloth in the center, he saves himself and instructs Gonsalves to jump on the other side. In this way, both are unharmed.

The truth is, being selfish isn’t inherently bad. What matters is the balance. You can prioritize your well-being without causing harm to others. In fact, it’s essential to strike this balance. It’s about being kind to yourself while being kind to others.

We’ve been taught an outside-in approach – caring for others first, hoping that it will lead to our well-being. But perhaps, it’s time to consider an inside-out approach. Great things often begin from within.

So, whether you choose to be a Situation 1, 2, or 3 Anthony is entirely up to you. The important thing is to find the balance that aligns with your values and promotes a harmonious coexistence.