How to stop being selfish in 4 common situations

how to stop being selfish

I never thought of myself as being selfish. In school, I was a total push-over because I never said no to helping people. Since I can remember, I was always proud of being a good listener and a loyal friend (I would have made quite a good dog I think).

But here’s the thing: I thought that I was good at something, and I didn’t bother learning to get better. Don’t I always say that you have to keep learning?

Being selfish is okay when it comes to putting your needs first. But if you wish to be more selfless in relationships, just keep on reading!

1. You’re being selfish when you are too focused on your own problems

Let me take you back a couple of months. My boyfriend and I had moved to our new place not long ago, and his older brother came to visit us for a day. He’s going through some tough time at the moment because he lost his job and has trouble finding a new one. Well, you know how that goes.

So he came to our house and he was telling us all about his job search and how he constantly gets invited to interviews and… and the rest I don’t know. Because after a while, I realised that my mind was so full of my own problems that I didn’t even listen.

It might sound silly, but it was quite a shock for me. I, who’s probably only quality in life was being a good listener, failed even at that (It’s not as dramatic really, but you see what I mean).

I started questioning myself. When did I become so self-absorbed that I couldn’t make time to try and help someone else?

And then I started noticing: I didn’t pay enough attention to my boyfriend’s problems at work. I didn’t make time to explain to my brothers how they could create a YouTube channel (how come 10-year-olds all have a YouTube channel nowadays?). Basically, my own life had taken the upper hand, and I was being selfish in my relationships.

So I forced myself to change. I tried to understand every single detail of what my boyfriend was telling me, started making much more time to talk to my family, and really listened to what was being said.

I feel much more like myself again!

2. You’re being selfish when you feel better when others fail

These are examples that I’m not quite happy to share, but I will anyway to illustrate what I mean. It’s about how other people’s failures can make you feel better.

You might know about my whole existential crisis I had in the past years. Well, I wasn’t too proud of myself during that time. And every time I heard that other people were becoming successful, it made me feel a little bit bad in comparison.

My best friend got her dream job and was paid twice as much as me (literally). A friend from school created her own business and was killing it. People I knew were getting married and seemed to get their happily ever after.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy for them – it’s just that in comparison, I felt like a failure.

Unfortunately, it made me feel better when I heard that people I knew didn’t do so well. I’m not proud of it. But it did, and I preferred comparing myself to them to feel good about myself.

But it’s stupid, and I feel it now more than ever. Success is not a limited good, and when others succeed it doesn’t mean that you won’t.

Moreover, the more you surround yourself with people who do a great job at life, the better you’ll become over time.

3. You’re being selfish when you don’t properly listen

I don’t quite like writing this post anymore, because it makes me share things that I don’t like about myself. But acceptance is the first step towards change, so I’ll continue. But please don’t hate me.

So, let’s talk about fights with your other half. How many times have you waited for him or her to be done talking so you can say what you’re thinking?

How many times have you been collecting counter-arguments while you were supposedly listening?

And how many times have you actually taken the time to carefully listen to his or her point of view, without judging, without thinking of a reply, and tried to understand what they were feeling?

I have to be honest, I do the “collecting counter-arguments” kind of thing way too often. I do it because I feel that my boyfriend never listens to me. And while that might be true sometimes, it doesn’t give me an excuse to do the same.

So I started forcing myself to just listen. It’s weird how, by doing just that, my perspective on things started to change. I suddenly realised that there is no objective point of view. There is my boyfriend’s point of view, and mine. Both are subjective, both are right and wrong at the same time.

I don’t want my relationship to be about who’s right and who’s wrong, especially since there’s no solution to that anyway. I want us to figure out a common point of view instead. So, this is my way of being less selfish in my relationship.

4. You’re being selfish when you talk too much about yourself

Think about your communication with your parents.

The thing is, we’re all quite self-absorbed when we’re little. But that’s supposed to change when you get older, and it’s something that I struggled with recently.

Since there was so much going on in my life and I’m in this by myself, I’ve been needing an outlet to talk about everything. And I realised that whenever I called my parents, we always ended up talking about my stuff. Well, I was talking most of the time.

It took me a while to realise why our conversations didn’t feel quite right anymore. I was focusing so much on what I was going through that I didn’t participate in their life anymore!

So I decided to make an effort and asked questions instead of talking. And within 5 minutes, everything went back to normal!

Now I’m really careful not to overshare. I still share, but I really don’t have to dump the whole inside of my brain on anyone else!

how to stop being selfish

I really hope you liked this post because it wasn’t an easy one to write. I’m not even sure if I want anyone to read it but oh well… if you think it could help someone, feel free to share!

17 Replies to “How to stop being selfish in 4 common situations”

  1. These are such great reminders! I used to do these in the past when I was younger, but I’m relieved to say I can’t remember the last time I’ve done these. My job working with college students and helping them certainly helps. It’s all about a balance of helping others and finding time for yourself. 🙂

    1. I agree! I wish I could say that I never do these things anymore, but I probably do, especially when I’m really stressed… But I’m working really hard on myself to get better!

  2. Guilty as charged of all of the above :). (Especially when talking to my parents). Your reminders and illustrations are much-appreciated, and I like how you present them in a helpful, non-judgmental way. Just as I actively work on fitness and sharpening my writing skills, being a more considerate (and less selfish) human being is a skill I can improve every day!

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comment! 🙂 I agree that being a less selfish human is something that we need to work on every day. It’s not something you can just switch on or off… I’m glad that you could relate (and that I’m not the only one doing this)!

  3. I won’t lie that I do some of these things and I’m definitely working towards being less selfish.

    1. I think it’s really worth the effort!

  4. Yep. These are right. Not active listening, not giving someone your undivided attention, rambling about yourself, borderline selfish. I struggle with being confident and not coming off being arrogant. I thing the key is being humble.

    1. I agree! I guess we always assume that being confident means talking a lot, but it doesn’t have to.

  5. I seriously admire you for sharing all of this! I definitely have been noticing my own patterns with a few of these lately, and I’m also trying to be better and more aware of how much I say about myself and when. Your post inspired me to work even more on those aspects of myself that I don’t like sometimes!

    1. I’m glad that it was able to inspire you! 🙂

  6. James 4:1 asks the question “Why do quarrels and fights arise?” Then, it answers the question with this: It comes from our selfish desires that war within us. Think about it. Why do people argue? Because people want to do things their own way.

    Since learning this, it’s tremendously helped my marriage. I didn’t think I was selfish at all. Me? Never! But there are times when my husband and I will have a disagreement and later I’ll realize it’s because I was just being selfish.

    I can be stubborn at times and of course we all want to have things our way. Nevertheless, we live with billions of other people on the planet. (And we’re all different!) In order to come together and be peaceful with one another, we must learn to be understanding with one another and compromise.

    Is your way REALLY the only way something can be done? Is it possible that someone else out there knows a better and more efficient way to carry out an action? Would it hurt to try a new thing?

    Listening to another person speak is truly a great place to get started. Also, notice that people LOVE to talk about themselves. Who doesn’t, seriously? But show interest in them and allow them to vent their feelings and emotions. Sometimes, people just need to talk.

    Great post Karina! Can’t wait to read more from you.

    1. This is SO true! We always feel like our way is the only way, but that is not true at all! Everyone has a different education, background, and values, so it’s quite normal that we don’t all have the same opinions. We don’t have to agree with others on everything, but it’s good to try and understand their point of view.

  7. These are great reminders! I do catch myself too focussed on my own problems. My vision becomes super narrow and I tend to ignore what’s around me. Thanks for this great list! Will bookmark this post 🙂

    1. I”m glad that you liked it! 🙂

  8. I’m so guilty of all that of them, I think that had you been able to see my face as I read you would either have laughed or wanted to offer comfort. I honestly didn’t realize I WAS being selfish, well maybe not consciously, but I’m starting to rethink a lot of things now.
    Thank you for such an honest and helpful post.
    I have a lot of thinking to do.

    1. That was my problem, too – I just didn’t notice that I was being selfish! And the moment you realise it, it’s not a pleasant experience… But I also think that it’s normal that we’re not perfect all the time, and the important thing is to keep working on yourself. We can’t change the past, but we can change how we act in the future. Anyway, I’m glad that you could relate!

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