We’ve bandied about the word selfish quite a lot recently.

Do we have the right to call anyone selfish?

When we say the word selfish, what do we mean? Of course I went to New Oxford American Dictionary for an actual definition:

(of a person, action or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure

Is it wrong to tell someone that they shouldn’t look our for themselves first?

Realistically, is it better to be selfless? (New Oxford American- concerned more with the needs of others than one’s own)

A few years ago my neighbor sent me a letter saying that she did not like the scented candles I would burn at the the end of the day when I was chilling before making dinner. In this specific scenario, who is right? Should I be selfish and light the candles because it was good for my peace of mind? Should I not use them so I can be a better neighbor?

Should I be selfish or selfless? Why?

Ok- take a minute and argue that one out…

When my daughter needed to choose a High School (high school choice in NYC- which after reading about some disastrous ELA programs, I’m selfishly happy that she had) was she supposed to choose a school that was best for her, knowing that if she got in, someone else wouldn’t? Or was she supposed to choose a school that was inconvenient and not inclined towards her academic interests?

In everyday parlance, what does selfish really mean?

What is the line between self advocation and putting others first?

My friend’s Mom felt bad because she got an appointment for the vaccine before her friend did. In this case, she was over 75 and clearly entitled to the vaccine. Why should someone feel bad because in this particular instance they got lucky? Was she selfish to get the vaccine before someone else?

What about survivor guilt? How many people feel bad because they didn’t die but others did?

I have to admit, much of what I do on a daily basis could be considered selfish in the right circumstance. I live in a home with heat and air, hot and cold running water that I presume to be potable, have a building maintenance person to take care of apartment issues. Pre COIVD I had a biweekly cleaning person to clean the bathroom and the kitchen because it’s easier on my knees if I don’t do that. Should I use less of these resources because others don’t have access to them? Should I take someone in off the street to shelter them?

I have volunteered in the public school system so that my daughter would benefit. I mean, obviously, my securing grants helped everyone, but my motivation was clear: do what I could to help my kid. Is that selfish?

We can think about public policy. Is it selfish to want your tax dollars to go to something you support, even though someone else might not support it?

If someone is anti-vax, are they selfish to not get inoculated?

Are smokers selfish because they pollute the air?

Do we have the right to tell anyone what they can and can not do with their body, their time, their money and their life?

What is your definition of selfish?

What do you consider a selfish act?

Pretend you’re a high school debater and argue both sides of the argument:

X is selfish because they _____________

X is not selfish because they ____________

The guy that tried to pickpocket me- was I selfish to not want him to take my wallet? Or should I selflessly have given him my cash because he obviously needed it more than me?

Discuss…

116 thoughts on “Self…?

  1. In the case of scents, I can understand that as I am highly allergic to floral perfumes. I have had to kindly ask co-workers to limit the amount of scents they use when they work close to me. I feel bad that I am taking away their freedom of choice, but I also need to breathe too. We have to strive for the happy medium.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Does happy medium mean both are not happy? I know they always they that that is the outcome of a successful negotiation: both sides are mad and think they got cheated

      Liked by 5 people

      1. No. Then you negotiate. Arrange so scent is directed at you and away from sensitive person.
        Or one of you exercises Right to Liberty and Pursues Happiness elsewhere.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Ooooh. Trying to draw lines and boundaries over selfishness….

    The definition crosses the line of acceptability when your actions negatively affect another. No, living in a house doesn’t negatively affect someone not living in a house -unless you dropped that house on them like The Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, smoking does because its secondhand smoke causes lung cancer.

    I take the line to also cover voting for measures that just throw money at problems, to live a hedonistic life and then expect bailouts, and (as you said) to include scented candles if they really bother someone (my husband was in a choir that didn’t even allow scented deodorants).

    Liked by 7 people

    1. This is the problem. Everyone of us is going to think that someone else is selfish, and that person is going to think you’re ridiculous. In a world where there are no right answers even in math… (you know I’m not ready to let that go. I’m probably going to find a way to mention it every day) should we eliminate the words selfish and selfless because someone is going to be marginalized by these statements?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Hm. They likely need some fine-tuning. I know I’m guilty of less self-care because of all the freakin’ kids I have … but, how much self-care is too much? Some mothers are downright neglectful.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Are they neglectful, or are they doing what they need to keep themselves together? Unless you are the person, can we accurately determine what each persons individual needs are?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. True. If the kids health was affected, sure. It’s funny. I read a memoir recently …”Bravey” about this incredibly talented young woman who,lost her mother to suicide. Her father and series of aunpairs raised her. In many ways her dad was great, but she apparently had a long term issue with lice. She grew up to be quite successful in many areas, yet her fathers attitude towards this baffles me. I’m still trying to decide about his parenting style

        Liked by 2 people

      4. And what about Tiger Momming, the too-involved parenting?

        I do think there are times we need to step in and set a standard. Those times may not always work out perfectly, but situations like A Child Called It need an out.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. I waffle on this. I disagreed with her Fathers parenting skills. But she is quite successful in the things she set out to accomplish. Does the ends justify the means?

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Well…she was in therapy. But then, is it nature or nurture? Her mother suffered from mental illness and depression. What contributed to her journey

        Liked by 2 people

  3. What are ELA programs ? As a childless adult, I have no clue what you are referring to. I feel no guilt in regards to the Pandemic. Selfish is taking credit for something you didn’t do, Selfish is not sharing on the flip side though, a person could have their reasons for doing or acting selfish. Reasons that aren’t easily pinpointed, why one should never assume.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. ELA stands for English Language Arts, which is what most programs that teach English are called. I like the taking credit idea…I’m going to chew on that

      Liked by 3 people

      1. From an arts perspective, it was selfish of Andy Warhol to include his name on reissued prints of Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula…Both films were directed by Paul Morrisey featuring “actor” Joe Dellasandro. Yes, Paul and Joe were connected to the Factory, the arts collective of Andy Warhol but in no way did Warhol have anything to do with those films.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. AHA..always the either/or in the binary. Reply to candle hating neighbor, “Let’s try this one, tell me what ya think?” Then go light your candle. While optimal and practical, it may appear a bit selfish to include a list of personal air purifiers, in descending order of price, in said reply.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Ok. That type of headline pops up regularly in my feed.
        Rush did a parody long before this sort of thing was in the headlines.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I have struggled to come up with a definition of selfish that I like. It’s. It selfish to do something that benefits you and your family unless you are purposely hurting others to do it. I think selfish has to do with motivation and awareness of how the action will affect other people

    Liked by 6 people

  6. First rule if first aid is make sure YOU, yourSELF, are OK. Then you take care of others. You can’t save someone if you for on the way.
    And next time you need a job, ask the homeless for one.
    Who did more for charity – Michael Milken the junk bond billionaire it Mother Teresa? Mullen. Because without junk bonds MILLIONS of well-paid people wouldn’t have jobs and therefore couldn’t donate to charity.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My daughter had a lawyer mentor her high school law team. My daughter asked why she chose to work a high paying corporate job as opposed to one more “helpy” because this woman was always volunteering her tine. The lawyer answered…”I solve way more issues donating my money than my time”.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. LA, before I read your post this morning, I was thinking about the blog post you wrote last year about your candles, and your neighbour !
    I love candles too, and I use beeswax candles – they actually help purify the air.
    And I love cologne, but only wear it at home, out of respect for those who have sensitivities to scent. 🤗🌷⚘

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Yes, LA, I agree. We need to care for ourselves before we can care for others. Thus, self-care is never selfish. It is necessary in order to care effectively for others. We moms know how important self-care is. 🤗🌷⚘

        Liked by 5 people

  8. Was your neighbor standing outside your door or worse yet sticking her nose literally under the door to catch the scent? On the flip side, was the scent so strong that she could smell it through closed doors and through what I assume to be insulated walls? Did she simply not agree with your choice or was she having respiratory issues because of your choice? If every decision you make is solely for the purpose of making your life better then you probably get the selfish prize. If, on the other hand you consciously ask yourself or reflect upon your decision in relation to others well-being as well then you have made the effort to be selfless.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. But is me really better than the other? Do we give selfless people a prize that they turn down because they don’t think they deserve it? On the practical side, I live in a 70s era building with coated wiring, thick walls and metal fire doors. My cooking smells also evade the hallway sometimes. What if someone was cooking a culturally appropriate food that had a distinctive aroma.if you asked them to stop, would you be xenophobic? This is one of those subjects that really can be looked at both ways. Is my neighbor selfish to ask me to stop? Should she purchase an air purifier and door draft thingy?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Perhaps that’s part of the issue itself: looking at one being “better or more deserving” than the other. Is there a way to fairly judge that? I’m not sure there is because circumstances play a hefty part in decision making…as does the way we define “fair and just” based on whose interpretation??

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Because as always, we try to determine one way is right and one way is wrong. Is it selfish to call someone else selfish? Ok…you know I’m loving this topic because I keep finding loopholes

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t even know where to being in discussing your post as there are so many facets of it! I love when you make us think by your post’s topic (and subsequent discussion of said topic) as well as the comments. 🙂 I think there’s a fine line that runs between selfish and selfless and it totally depends on if the others around you deem it selfish/selfless (as in your candle example). I’m just rambling now because I think it’s on a case by case circumstance as to if one’s being selfish/selfless. Wow! great topic!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Agree. It’s a case by case basis. You really have to examine all the angles to determine if there’s even a right answer. I’m voting we stop,using the words

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hmm, I think this is one of those words, like love, whose meaning is very subjective and can encompass such a wide span of behaviours. Is it selfish to light-up a cigarette in the house of a non-smoker or to take the last slice of cake? Bad mannered certainly. Or is it selfish to take the last life-boat and push away from the sinking ship before others can get in? The word covers a vast scope but, to me, it means a totally self-serving act that is done despite whatever ill-consequences may befall others. So, I guess its all down to interpretation and context 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  11. And there is the difference between self-ish and self-centered. And where does self-care fit in? Is it selfish for me to want some time alone to read or craft or am I being self-centered? The mind could explode with all this. You’re good!

    Liked by 5 people

  12. A little dash of self-centeredness is needed..but it must fit in with all the other personality “spices” in order to create a well balanced, nourishing ‘sauce.’ Too much or too little of any one thing and it becomes unpalatable.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. In a lot of ways I view being selfish as also being detrimental to others even though that isn’t the technical definition. It is being detrimental to others and either not caring about it or being so self focused that you are blind to the detriment that really makes a person selfish. I believe that self care with regards to physical and mental health don’t really count in the selfish category because it is about making sure you are capable of living and functioning in your life. That is essential, much like breathing and eating.

    The flip side, selflessness, can be just as harmful as selfishness, but it is focused inward as opposed to outward. Putting other’s wants and needs ahead of your own all the time and leaving yourself with nothing is never a good thing. That and I’ve always viewed it from the lens that it is ultimately selfish on a base level. People do selfless things because it makes them feel good or there is some sort of benefit to the selfless actions. Yes, it is thinking of others, but it stems from a selfish desire.

    Like everything else, it is about living in a balance between the two. Doing for you in the best ways possible without ignoring the concerns and needs of others. A good example is your neighbor and the candle incident. Burning the candle in itself isn’t selfish. If the neighbor came to you and said that the scent was causing health problems and you continued to burn the candle? That would fall into the selfish side. If the neighbor complained just because they disliked the scent? Well, that just makes them a bit of a jerk and is probably being pretty selfish.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s the thing about this topic…there are so many ways to view it, because everyone’s personal definition is different. I do like your thoughts on this though…good perspective

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My son’s answer to your neighbour and the candle question was “does she like her neighbour?”
    You had so many scenarios that I can’t choose or this would be too lengthy. There are times to be selfish, when it’s important to put yourself first. You know when.
    I think our society relies on a balance of putting yourself first and not. I think there are lots of opportunities in our days that allow us to be kind and unselfish and bonus they are free! I am thinking about when we are driving. Thanks again for your posts – I wonder if you like scented diffusers? ♥

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I was hoping you’d say your neighbor didn’t like the smell when she visited. In that case, the answer to the candle burning question would have been easy. It would depend upon how often you wanted your neighbor to come over. Now, I think it depends upon how much you like your neighbor.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. In 2013 we opened our home to a young writer/ musician for 3 months, to help her get her bearings. Our B and B suite was available, so we agreed to let her use it for little or nothing. Three months turned into 9, w/o really offering to pay her way. I can still remember the morning she came down complaining she could smell the smell of bacon cooking…the smell wafted through her bedroom window (2nd story/ other side of the house) . I remember thinking/ you got to be kidding me….why not shut the @!@#% window? shortly there after we had a “robust” house meeting. I upped the stipend she was paying, the relationship was tense after that. It was still another couple months of walking on egg shells before she moved. Never again.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Hmmmm. Okay, here we go.

    Taking care of the self is an act of selflessness, as it benefits your development, while also benefiting that of everyone you come into contact with. Taking care of the self becomes an act of selfishness when we are motivated by egocentric ideas of greed, sloth, envy, jealously, etc. When we act from that space, we are being selfish. When we take care of ourselves so we can better take care of others around us (in-service) we are being selfless. As always, a great question, LA.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. My sister is selfish in the same way i.e. no children. She has other “good” reasons for this, too. It really bothers me, though, when she puts the needs of her dog in front of those of the members of the two-legged family into which she was born.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s understandable that it would bother you. In my case, it would depend on what the needs of each are at a particular time. Taking my dog for a walk would not take precedence over a crisis my brother is having. Emergency surgery for my dog would take precedence over just about anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. My husband and I discuss this all the time. He believes EVERYONE is selfish in every thing they do because ultimately, they do it because it benefits them in some way (even if you do service work; you do it because it also makes you feel good and shows you’re a good person, etc.). I used to disagree with him, but I’m starting to see his point.

    Being selfish is being human. It’s just sometimes we like to twist it around to make it a negative thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I think it was very selfish of you to ask this question because it demanded a response from me when obviously you should have come up with the answer yourself! How rude, and selfish. Just kidding. I wish more people would mind their own business and take care of themselves instead of being ENTITLED which is way worse than being selfish, or taking care of yourself.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. I think it is okay to be selfish sometimes. Lighting the candles is something you have the right to do unless the candles will kill your neighbor.

    Although, I do think being selfish can be a bad thing. Smoking causes seconed hand cancer, selfish, very.

    If an action you are partaking in will directly harm others, then I think that is selfish and should be avoided.

    But, when it comes to just you and someone’s wants, I think if it doesn’t harm them being selfish is fine.

    Overall, we can’t plaease everyone. Someone in the world will always be mad.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Boy, I should not read your posts first thing in the morning! By all your examples, just living your life could be considered selfish. I say just try to be a good person along with taking care of yourself and your family.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. This is such a great conversation. I can’t believe your neighbor got upset about the candles BUT at the same time, you must live close enough for her to smell it. So I have a situation similar…we live in the suburbs and our homes are literally on top of each other. I can look into my next-door neighbor’s kitchen. Every once in a while, he will play music so loud, it rattles our walls. I am not being dramatic. I love music. But I don’t love HIS music and I even say, “that is really selfish”. Gah.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. Honestly in my opinion selfishness is only truly selfish when you are actively harming others and don’t care. If you do something to take care of yourself and it upsets someone else? That’s their problem not yours. But if you’re doing something that actively harms another person and you don’t care either way? That’s selfish. There needs to be a balance in life I think. Sometimes I think we need to be selfish. We need to break up with that person, or cut off that friendship so we can survive and maybe even thrive. But we should temper it with a level of selflessness so we don’t become too entitled. So we don’t harm people just for the sake of it. So that we can take care of each other as a society. There must always be a give and take. Great post by the way. Really makes ya think. I enjoyed it!

    Liked by 2 people

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