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When is Selfishness Healthy vs. Harmful?



Selfishness is defined as excessive concern for one’s profit or pleasure. While no one wants to be called selfish, there are times when it is healthy to be selfish. Determining whether selfishness is healthy or harmful depends on the intention behind it.


When Selfishness is Healthy


When It is Time to Move On

Be it a job, relationship, environment, or situation, if it is harmful or fails to aid in our growth, being selfish is appropriate. Even when we know that it is time to move on, we tend to question our intuition and ask for the opinions of others or look for answers elsewhere. The truth is, we have the answers within us. This is the time to search inward, listen to your intuition, and make the right decision for you.


When Taking Care of Your Wellbeing

Many people focus on giving to the point that they feel overwhelmed, burned out, or stressed. To reduce this stress, we must take care of our needs first. This puts us in the best

position to care for others around us. Knowing when we need rest and giving ourselves space to recharge is not selfish. It serves the greater good when we “fill our cup” before helping others.


When Setting Boundaries

While it may seem selfish to say no to hanging out with friends or taking on a project at work, setting healthy boundaries is an act of self-love. Boundaries teach others how we would like to be treated and display self-respect—subsequently earning us the respect of others.


When Selfishness is Harmful


When You Only Consider Yourself

Selfishness often connotes a lack of concern for others. While selfishness can be healthy at

times, it teeters towards being harmful when we fail to consider others. It is crucial to understand how being selfish, in a healthy way, is beneficial to the greater good. For example:

Leaving a job that is not serving you is healthy. However, it can become unhealthy if you leave without giving adequate notice or following through on prior commitments that may negatively affect your team—leading to the next point.


When You Abandon Others

If we abandon others to achieve personal gain or dismiss the negative consequences our decisions may have on others, we are being selfish in a harmful way. When we focus solely on our success, we leave people behind. Be mindful not to abandon your support system and loved ones for personal profit and pleasure.


When Used as an Excuse

When self-care practices like setting healthy boundaries are used as excuses to avoid responsibility, putting in our share of the work, addressing unpleasant emotions, or having difficult conversations, these practices become manipulative.


Selfishness In Conclusion:

When the intention is to refuel and recharge, selfishness positively affects our well-being and those around us. To give from a place of abundance, we must take care of ourselves first. However, when the intention is for personal gain or pleasure at the expense of others, being selfish is harmful to those around us. Selfishness does not have to come at the expense of others. By practicing mindful selfishness, we extend the benefits to all those around us.


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