Moody Monday: Somewhere between selfishness and selflessness

Visions of tightropes and teeter-totters dance through my head when I consider the difference between being selfish and being selfless. Striking a balance between the two is essential in life yet far from easy.

It’s true that we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of other people. However, things can easily go way too far in either direction. The line between selfishness and selflessness can get kinda blury sometimes. In the past I know I’ve spent way too much time asking myself: “Am I acting too selfishly here?” And at other times: “Am I being too selfless. Do I need to think about myself more?”

Mental health and self-esteem play a big role. I suppose it’s understandable. Mental health troubles can drastically skew normal thinking. Being emotionally needy and vulnerable and having little-to-no self-esteem is a terrible way to live.

Learning to be selfish in the right kind of ways is a great thing. Developing a stronger sense of self most definitely has an effect on the way we treat other people. When we love and respect ourselves we can better love and respect other people…. for me, something to continue to work on.

Selfishness and blogging

Blogging can, in part, be a selfish endeavor. We want to share our story and connect. We want people to read our work, benefit from our wisdom and praise our brilliance. C’mon, we’re all a tad guilty of this aren’t we? And to a certain extent I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

Over the years though I’ve had to consider whether I’m being too self-absorbed or coming off as too self-important… too selfish in other words. Finding a healthy balance can take some practice.

As much as I hate to admit it, when I first started reading other people’s blogs it was mostly for selfish reasons. I was looking to procure readers for my own blog. That’s how I inadvertently discovered a treasure trove of awesome and interesting bloggers, all with many various talents and interests. These days I thoroughly enjoy reading other people’s blogs and the only thing I regret is not always having enough time to do so.

That being said, there’s one big thing that can turn me off when reading blogs and that’s when a blogger only seems interested in “I” and “me.” It’s all about them and what’s happening to them. No thought seems to be given to the outside world other than how it affects them. It can just be so annoying.

Selfishness and narcissism

Clever selfish people know they can more easily get what they want if they do certain things for other people. Highly manipulative people make it difficult to tell the difference between selfishness and selflessness. Most of us have had plenty of real-world experience with this…. maybe every now and again we are guilty of it ourselves. Surprisingly though, I have found that good mental health is easier for me when I practice stepping outside of myself to consider the thoughts and feelings of other people. That’s just me.

A culture of selfishness?

  • Here in America we are conditioned to want bigger and better things all the time. At the same time, there can be a lot of guilt placed on wanting and acquiring things.
  • I often hear people comment on how selfish Americans have become and it’s only getting worse.
  • Many of us were admonished as children to stop being so selfish.
  • Most religions instruct us to be selfless instead of selfish.

Have we have become more selfish as a society? It’s certainly debatable but one thing I’m always quick to point out is that older generations of people have always had a tendency to point their fingers at younger generations and decry how selfish and irresponsible they are. I believe this is hogwash. Young people have always had a tendency to be that way and they probably always will be. Good or bad… little in society would probably ever change without it. Young people are capable of doing amazing things, too. That tends to get overlooked.

Here are a couple of links to consider for more fascinating info on this topic as well as some definitions. Have a great Moody Monday!

Selfish vs. Selfless on

Being Selfish vs. Being Selfless on


The definition of selfish and some related terms.

Selfish: Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. –

Notable examples: Earl in the wonderful movie Waitress, Melvin in the beginning of As Good as It Gets. Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wallstreet, Annie in Misery, Hitler, Bernie Madoff, all serial killers.

Related terms: self-serving, self-absorbed, vane, conceited, narcissitic, egotistical, pretentious, self-obsessed.

The definition of selfless and some related terms.

Selfless: Having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc. –

Notable examples: Duckie at the end of Pretty in Pink, Harry in Armageddon, Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, Ghandi starving himself for the plight of his people, Warren Buffett donating 99% of his fortune to charity.

Related terms we may use: humble, modest, kind, big-hearted, helpful, generous, charitable, magnanimous, benevolent, altruistic, philanthropic.

The balance between selfishness and selflessness.
Photo by Marcelo Moreira on

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21 thoughts on “Moody Monday: Somewhere between selfishness and selflessness

  1. Fascinating post, JoAnn. You definitely put the brain through its paces on this one, both you, in writing it, and we, in reading it.

    Now, before we continue, am I “a tad” guilty of hoping my own blog draws praise? A tad? Seriously? Try “mucho!”

    Why not? Unless we walk across water, we all need an immediate, visceral motivation to do what we do. Else, why spend all this time and effort researching, planning and writing? The true generosity of spirit comes later only, when others comment and interact. I write, we converse, see? Gives our post some air, and it happens every time. They – and we – grow as they populate.

    Besides, how much “selflessness” is motivated (in part…in part!) by selfishness? Hoping others will notice and praise us, and craving the self-satisfaction it brings? Sure, there’s plenty of selflessness, and it makes the world a far better place than it would’ve been otherwise, but something other than pure virtue inspires the action too. Of course it does. We’re only human, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, mucho! I do love and appreciate your honesty!

      Unraveling the true motivations behind our actions is rather interesting. Not sure if I buy the belief that all of our actions are secretly selfish but maybe much more than we care to accept!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of your more thought provoking posts, JoAnn. There’s a saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. You are correct to direct us toward a more others-oriented thinking and living. Much has been said about ‘quality of life’. One of the chief ways I’ve found is finding new and creative ways to show love for others. Plus, if you’ve found someone who loves you even with all your eccentricities (we all have them), then you’ve found a great treasure. Being loved is both healing and freeing; it gives us much needed inner power to be released from our ego-driven needs (many of those aren’t bad). God is mentioned much at this point, and you know I write form a faith-based perspective. Well, love’s power is real, and it genuinely heals and forgives. That doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows, but it does mean we have an Ally in heaven; actually, many of them. Keep thinking and posting! You’re always fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement. It’s always welcome and you are very good at it!
      Very wise words! It’s such a paradox isn’t it that thinking about ourselves less alleviates a lot of pain. Getting rid of the feelings of being cheated or wronged by life… it’s not always selfish to feel that way but most of the time it is. Feeling love and forgiveness for the world is so much better than hating it. It’s also a great thing to have people like you who help us remember that! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Young people often seem selfish-it is like their own age group’s superpower. Invincible because nothing and no one can harm me in my gold fish bowl. Yet, so often, it is the kids who look beyond their world views into a bigger picture.
    I am constantly concerned I use that word ‘I’ too often in my own blog. At first, I wrote as a need to vent away from FB and people who would judge me for being upset with caring for a stubborn cancer patient (note: am STILL mad at mom). Now, it is more just for fun and am constantly surprised by people who want to follow it! Especially with all the whining and selfish comments I tend to pepper it with. I do agree with you that it is hard to keep up with certain blogs. Ones of persons who have my address/cell number/email address are almost always read completely. Others because they are a dear part of my online self.
    Yours is enjoyed because it always gives so much to others! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much my friend.
      I’ve never felt that way about your blog. I think you talk about your interests and experiences in a way that strikes a balance and brings people in and along… at least for me!
      I totally get you with Facebook… it’s mostly for happy stuff. If you dare bring up any real problems it’s like your suddenly in a ghost town with the crickets chirping… either that or people want to judge you just like you said. One of the best things about blogging is that people love it when you’re honest! I personally like to put a positive spin on things at some point just because if not it can seem so dreary and depressing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My sister is on FB and she always comments or calls if something is off to boss me. Which is funny, I’m the oldest by a couple of years! And yes, that ghost town experience…icky! Thank you for following me and feeling this blog of mine is interesting! That gives me a good feeling. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree, youth always have been and always will be selfish; it’s just part of development.

    I think some people are more self-absorbed than selfish; it’s not about personal benefit or deliberately disregarding others, they’re just too caught up in their own stuff to notice anything else.

    Culturally, on the spectrum of collectivist to individualist cultures, selfishness becomes pretty likely t occur at the far individualist end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Collectivist and individualist are great terms and ones I hadn’t thought to use but should have! I’m sure it’s the case for most of us that we think we are less selfish than we really are. As you said it’s not always something we conciously think about. I suppose the thing this really does is allow us to be more forgiving when people are acting selfishly… within reason of course!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it’s down to the rise in consumerism in the latter 20th century. We live in a society surrounded by advertising, where buying things we don’t need has become ingrained. To quote, “Purchasing and consuming goods in excess of needs develops a selfish attitude and promotes a ‘way of life’ that goes against the principle of simple and disciplined living upheld by thinkers down the ages.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to think that way but I don’t so much anymore. I believe consumerism gets a bad rap sometimes. After all it’s up to each of us to make our own buying decisions and to decide what we need and what we don’t need. Consumerism is only driven by demand from all of us. If it wasn’t for consumerism it’s arguable that we wouldn’t have as much modern technology as we have today including the computer I’m typing on and this very blogging program. I’m not saying we should ignore the negative but I feel like people spend way too much time focusing on the bad instead of the good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do agree that we are responsible for our own decisions, we don’t have to buy things we don’t need. But it can be tough when they are in our faces all the time – Facebook adverts, magazines, Instagram, tv, not to mention societal pressures. It’s definitely not all bad though, you’re right.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh true that! Maybe it gets easier when you get older. I have better willpower then I was young. It takes a lot of practice to untrain the mind of always wanting things. I still want certain things though… we all do I suppose.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. There is a line of philosophy that says every action a human can do is selfish. Doing what you want to do is selfish but then so is doing what you are supposed to do. The only difference is how what you do is perceived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. To some degree it’s probably true. I’ve done little experierments where I try to step outside of my mind and into someone’s aura and see them completely serparate from myself… it does seem to work sometimes although perhaps I’m just deluding myself.


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