Essay On Selfishness (Download Free Essays)

Essay On Selfishness

Outline of Essay

  1. Introduction
  2. The Psychology of Selfishness
  3. The Impact of Selfishness on Relationships
  4. The Consequences of Extreme Selfishness
  5. Overcoming Selfishness


Selfishness is a personality trait or behaviour where an individual prioritizes their interests, needs, and desires over those of others. Selfishness can manifest in various forms, such as hoarding resources, neglecting others’ needs, exploiting others for personal gain, or failing to consider the well-being of others. In many cultures, selfishness is discouraged, and instead, altruistic behaviour, which involves placing the well-being of others before one’s own, is promoted as a desirable trait. This is because selfishness is often seen as contributing to social problems such as inequality, exploitation, and conflict, while altruism is seen as promoting social cohesion and cooperation.

The Psychology of Selfishness

Selfishness can be defined as a focus on one’s own needs or desires without regard for the needs or desires of others. In evolutionary psychology, selfishness can be seen as a survival mechanism that has been selected over time. The basic idea is that individuals who prioritize their own survival and reproduction are more likely to pass on their genes to future generations.

This evolutionary perspective suggests that selfishness is not necessarily a bad thing, but rather a natural part of human behaviour. However, the extent to which individuals display selfish behaviour can be influenced by a variety of factors, including upbringing and societal influences.

Upbringing can play a significant role in shaping an individual’s level of selfishness. Children who grow up in households where their needs and desires are consistently prioritized over those of others may be more likely to become selfish adults. Conversely, children who are taught to consider the feelings and needs of others may be more likely to develop empathy and altruistic tendencies.

Societal influences can also impact an individual’s level of selfishness. In cultures that prioritize individualism and competition, people may be more likely to display selfish behaviour. On the other hand, in cultures that emphasize cooperation and communal living, people may be more likely to prioritize the needs of the group over their desires.

The link between selfishness and mental health is complex and can depend on the context in which the behaviour is displayed. While some level of self-interest is necessary for survival and can promote positive mental health outcomes such as self-esteem and confidence, excessive selfishness can lead to negative outcomes such as isolation, conflict with others, and feelings of guilt and shame.

The Impact of Selfishness on Relationships

Selfishness can harm all types of relationships, including intimate relationships, friendships, and family dynamics. Here are some ways in which selfishness can affect each type of relationship:

When one partner is selfish, they may not be able to empathize with their partner’s needs and feelings. This can lead to feelings of neglect and frustration. Selfish partners may prioritize their own needs and desires over their partner’s, leading to an imbalance of power in the relationship. When one partner is consistently selfish, the other may begin to feel as though they cannot rely on them or trust them. This can lead to a breakdown in the relationship.

Selfish individuals may only be interested in their own needs and desires, leading to friendships that are one-sided and unfulfilling. When one friend is consistently selfish, the other may feel as though they are always giving and never receiving in the relationship. Similar to intimate relationships, selfishness can lead to a breakdown of trust in friendships.

Selfish family members may prioritize their own needs over the needs of others, leading to feelings of resentment among other family members. When family members are selfish, they may not be able to effectively communicate with each other or understand each other’s perspectives. Selfish family members may not be supportive of other family members, leading to a lack of cohesion and unity within the family.

The Consequences of Extreme Selfishness

Extreme selfishness can cause harm to both individuals and society as a whole. Here are some potential consequences of extreme selfishness:

Extreme selfishness can make it difficult for individuals to maintain healthy relationships with others. People who are only concerned with their own needs and desires may struggle to empathize with others, leading to a lack of trust and intimacy in relationships. Extreme selfishness can also lead to social isolation. People who prioritize their interests over those of others may struggle to find meaningful connections with other people, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Pursuing one’s interests to the exclusion of all others can leave individuals feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied. While achieving personal success and wealth can bring a certain level of happiness, it is often the relationships and connections we have with others that provide the most meaningful experiences in life.

They can cause harm to others, both directly and indirectly. For example, a person who only thinks about their financial gain may engage in unethical or illegal behaviour that harms others. Additionally, individuals who are solely focused on their own needs may neglect the needs of others, leading to neglect, abuse, or abandonment.

They have significant societal consequences as well. For example, when individuals and businesses prioritize their interests over the common good, it can lead to environmental degradation, economic inequality, and political corruption.

Some examples of people who have been negatively impacted by extreme selfishness include:

Children who have been neglected or abused by parents who are only concerned with their own needs and desires. Employees who have been exploited by business owners who prioritize profits over the well-being of their workers. Citizens who have been adversely affected by politicians are more concerned with their power and influence than the needs of their constituents.

Overcoming Selfishness

Selfishness is a common human trait that can hinder personal growth and damage relationships with others. Acknowledging and addressing one’s selfish tendencies is an important step towards personal and interpersonal improvement. Here are some ways to recognize and overcome selfishness:

The first step to overcoming selfishness is to acknowledge that it exists within you. This can be difficult, as selfish behaviour often manifests as justifiable actions in our minds. Reflect on your actions and decisions, and try to identify any patterns of behaviour that prioritize your own interests over those of others. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can better understand their needs and perspectives. Try to actively listen to others without judgment or interruption, and consider how their experiences may differ from your own.

Altruism is the practice of putting the needs of others before your own. This can be as simple as offering to help someone in need, or as complex as dedicating your career to serving others. By prioritizing the well-being of others, you can break the cycle of selfish behaviour and build stronger relationships.

Often, our selfish behaviour is rooted in assumptions we make about ourselves and others. For example, you may assume that others are not capable of handling a task as well as you are, leading you to take control and exclude them from the process. By challenging these assumptions and actively seeking out different perspectives, you can overcome selfish behaviour and build stronger, more inclusive relationships.


Is being selfish always bad?

Being selfish is not always bad, as it can help individuals focus on their goals, build self-confidence, and create healthy boundaries. However, excessive selfishness can harm relationships and lead to negative consequences.

Is it possible to be completely selfless?

It is unlikely that anyone can be completely selfless, as humans have their own needs and desires. However, it is possible to strive towards greater selflessness and to prioritize the well-being of others alongside one’s own needs.

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