Why selfish is not a bad word

Aman Mehta
2 min readSep 17, 2016

The word “selfish” is derived from “self”. Generally, the word, selfish is perceived as a derogatory term, meaning lack of consideration for others. I beg to differ. I think selfish means putting your self-interests above others’. Putting your self-interests above others’ does not necessarily mean that you have a complete lack of consideration for others. And I will explain why isn’t a bad thing to be selfish.

Everyone is selfish. Most of us won’t admit that we are selfish. Almost all of us see it as a bad trait in one’s personality. Believe it or not, even the world’s greatest philanthropists are selfish too. They may have donated billions to charity, but by keeping their self-interests above others’. You may be wondering, what can be person’s self-interest who donates most of his money to charity! Happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment. He wouldn’t have donated a single penny, had his action didn’t award him with happiness and content. Does his selfishness make him a bad person? No. Does his selfishness means lack of consideration for others? No. Unfortunately, our society likes to measure self-interests in terms of money and materials, while neglecting feelings like happiness, love, and content, which are actually the core ingredients of a successful life.

The above example also disrupts the common notion that someone needs to lose if you want to gain. Being selfish can be a win-win situation for everyone. You get pleasure by helping an old lady with her groceries, by teaching a poor child for free, by randomly smiling at a stranger. In all these situations, you are keeping your self-interests.

I have a theory about selfishness, which I call “The cake theory”. There is only one slice of cake, which can’t be split. And there are two people- my mother and me. She wants me to have the slice, and I want her to take it. Naturally, she derives more happiness if I have the cake, and unnaturally, in this case, I derive more happiness if she eats the cake. Finally, she eats the cake. You know who is more selfish? It’s me. You know who sacrificed? My mother. She has the cake, but she would have been happier, had I took that slice. The society, generally, would call my mother more selfish than me. This is another clear example that the society values materials more than happiness.

Selfish isn’t a good word either. People kill and cheat others over their self-interests. Other than the commonly perceived meaning of the word, the word itself carry a little significance. Every action that man takes is governed by his self-interests. This makes every person a selfish person.

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Aman Mehta

Armchair Philosopher | Location Independent | Amateur Photographer