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  1. #1
    Junior Member plaminal's Avatar
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    Default Is Some Amount of Selfishness Normal?

    Over the last week or two, I've been taking the various fairly-serious psychological tests I've found here and elsewhere. One question has me wondering; it's something like, "Do you put others first?"

    Well, no, not really; not me. For example, let's say that I've been craving chocolate cake for days. So I finally make myself one, and the frosting has cooled just enough that I can cut it cleanly, and I get myself a knife, a plate, and a fork, and start to sit down and enjoy.
    The doorbell rings. It's a friend or neighbor or family member. She says, "I can only stay for a minute." She sees the cake. She says, "Oohhhhh, I've been craving chocolate cake for days."
    So I get another plate and cut her a big piece, and wrap it for her to take home. Maybe I cut her two big pieces. But I keep enough of that cake to satisfy my craving. I'm DEFINITELY not giving her the whole thing.

    Since I'm in self-discovery mode these days, I decided to google some relevant words and phrases, to find out what to call this attitude, that you matter as much as other people--and actually somewhat more, to yourself.

    There were pages and pages about how great it is to put other people first. Putting *yourself* first brings up pages about being narcissistic and sociopathic. Well, there was one page, about Satanism--which doesn't appeal to me--and there were the blogs of a couple of teenagers who had apparently been let down recently.

    But anyway, I don't think I'm sick (and no one has let me down in some huge way lately).

    Here's another example, something that actually happened (and makes me look somewhat better, but still not "perfect"):
    The other day, I was waiting in a checkout line at a store, wondering if I'd get out in time to catch the bus. A woman behind me, with 2 items, asked me if she could go ahead of me, saying that she was in a hurry. I automatically said yes.
    Then I stood there wondering if I really liked that decision, given the possiblity of missing the bus (it only comes by there once an hour). She was still waiting, so I could have explained and gotten back ahead. But then I thought, "She's in enough of a hurry to ask to go ahead, so maybe she's in a bigger hurry than I am. All that can happen to me is that I have to wait an hour for the next bus, and I don't have to be anywhere soon. Maybe she'll miss a plane trip or an important appointment or won't be in time to pick up a child at school." So I said nothing. (As it happened, I was on time for the bus, with about 3 minutes to spare. Life can be so fair at times.)

    So I'm not a monster or unfeeling. I enjoy helping other people. There's just a limit on how much I'll give up to help another person. And if the amount of inconvenience to each of us is close, I'll probably choose my own well-being, at least some of the time. To me, my own wants and needs are as important as anyone else's, and since I'm the one living in this skin, mine actually matter more to me. I'm not going around letting myself down and causing myself trouble all the time.

    Some people are probably more giving than I am. But ALL??? Or even most?

    Also, do you know the word for someone who takes care of himself or herself, sometimes more than others? I mean besides "selfish".
    ********* Alphabet soup--trying to find the right four letters **********

  2. #2

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    Starting from your own needs is important. Starting from yourself and working out. I think that is different to selfishness.

  3. #3
    Cheeseburgers freeeekyyy's Avatar
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    Selfishness is normal, but that doesn't make it good or unavoidable. A person must take their own needs into account, but the question is order. One should always put their own needs last. Love is putting others needs ahead of your own, in all cases. To truly love people is to be totally selfless, while still managing to meet your actual needs.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Lily flower's Avatar
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    It sounds like you have a balance. If you gave up the whole chocolate cake, that would be being a doormat. If you gave her no chocolate cake at all, that would be selfish.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by freeeekyyy View Post
    Selfishness is normal, but that doesn't make it good or unavoidable. A person must take their own needs into account, but the question is order. One should always put their own needs last. Love is putting others needs ahead of your own, in all cases. To truly love people is to be totally selfless, while still managing to meet your actual needs.
    I think this is ultimately impractical. It is a nice idea but in the end you need a philosophy, an ideal, that works in the real world. The last part in bold is impossible to fill with the first part in bold. Nearly impossible, it would rely on everyone working with this ideal in mind.

  6. #6
    Senior Member VagrantFarce's Avatar
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    Taking care of yourself is important for your own well-being. If you don't feel good about yourself, you're never going to feel good about anything. Simple as that.

    The problem is when the balance gets thrown of whack, either by neglecting yourself or those around you - and that's when the excuses come.
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  7. #7
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    A good way to look at it, for somebody who wants to give to others is that your capacity to give to others diminishes when you your needs aren't being taken care of. Less for you means less for others. If you spend time on yourself in the ways you need then you will have more to give.

  8. #8
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by freeeekyyy View Post
    Selfishness is normal, but that doesn't make it good or unavoidable. A person must take their own needs into account, but the question is order. One should always put their own needs last. Love is putting others needs ahead of your own, in all cases. To truly love people is to be totally selfless, while still managing to meet your actual needs.
    I disagree almost completely. Selfishness is not only normal, but essential. Putting your own needs first ensures that you do not become a burden on others, and leaves you in a much stronger position to help them. If you give so much money to charity (or relatives in need) that you can't pay your own bills; or let the time you spend helping others (or waiting for the next bus) interfere with your job, you have done more harm than good.

    As someone wrote already, the key is balance. I might come first, but others are a very close second. I may put my NEEDS before others, but not always my WANTS. Moreover, I have many needs and wants, and must often prioritize among them. I might have that chocolate cake ready to go for myself, then hear that my neighbor just landed in the hospital. My wish for good relations with the neighbors might take precedence over my wish for cake, leading me to take the whole cake to his family. This might look like I'm putting their needs ahead of mine, when I am really just prioritizing my own wishes.

    Putting my own needs first also does not mean meeting them at others' expense. If I want cake, I buy one or make one; not steal from the bakery, or demand someone else make one for me. Perhaps the balance is to maximize what one can do for others, while still meeting one's own needs. You cannot meet your own actual needs while being totally selfless.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  9. #9
    Junior Member plaminal's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input.

    I was actually becoming concerned that I had missed something. I realized that if you do help other people, it does strengthen your bond with the human race in general and those people specifically, which is good. It feels good too. And I was wondering if I should go farther along that line. Okay, this sounds selfish, like I'll only do it to feel good, when I actually think I enjoy it because I care about people, but that's a whole other debate, about why people are altruistic.

    Anyway, maybe I should try doing more, and maybe I will, but whew, there are other people more like me who aren't in jail or an institution, and are actually decent enough people to reply to this.

    To play with my concern, and realizing this is silly about a serious matter: I've been imagining an apple. I have an apple, and the person next to me doesn't, so I give it to him. Now he has an apple, but someone on the other side of him doesn't, so he gives it to him, and on and on.

    So is anybody actually going to EAT the thing before it rots?
    ********* Alphabet soup--trying to find the right four letters **********

  10. #10
    Junior Member plaminal's Avatar
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    A separate thing, about Personality Type:

    Does the fact that I stood in the line trying to weigh my need to catch the bus against another person's hurry and how serious her need was, say anything about my personality type?

    Also, does the fact that I was uncertain about the seriousness of her need, but decided to give her uncertain need precedence over my risk of waiting an hour (mild to moderate inconvenience, but not really bad) say anything?

    How about that my first response was, "Of course, you can go in front of me." This may be just common courtesy, even habit. I've never heard anybody say "No" to such a request.
    ********* Alphabet soup--trying to find the right four letters **********

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