I think most of us are selfish, at least to a certain degree. It's quite natural when you think about it. We see things from our own perspectives and are influenced by our own thoughts and emotions. This happens automatically, without effort. We exist within our own bodies from the moment we are born. And yet, no matter how much time we spend with ourselves there are always things we don't understand. Why do I get upset over some particular thing? Why do I have certain fears? Why don't I have as much energy as other people? Why do I worry so much? Why can't I focus? Why am I good at one thing but not at another? For every person, there is a part of himself that remains a bit of a mystery.
As difficult as it is to know ourselves, it is even more difficult to understand others. In order to try to see things from someone else's perspective, we must first set aside our natural inclination to see things from our own perspective. We must then imagine how that person sees the world. This is easier to do in situations that are similar to those we've experienced ourselves; we can recall how we thought and felt. Still, this strategy rests on the assumption that the person we are trying to understand reacts to the situation in question with the same thoughts and feelings we ourselves had. This may or may not be the case.
It seems to me that the natural inclination is to see things from our own perspectives and to act accordingly; we are thus all inclined to be a bit selfish. Empathizing with others requires intention and effort. When we are under a lot of stress or when we are tired, sick, hungry, or distressed, we may lack the energy or the presence of mind to empathize with others. These are the times when we are most likely to behave selfishly, often without even realizing it.
I've been thinking about this because someone recently accused me of being selfish. My first reaction was to become defensive; I felt I was being judged, and unfairly at that. It bothered me though. I'm not selfish, am I? I care about other people. I constantly think about the people I love. I call them. I spend time with them. I tell them I love them.
What does it mean to be selfish anyway? Almost certainly it means different things to different people. As I said before, I think everyone is a little bit selfish and I don't necessarally think it's a bad thing. There are times when we need to put ourselves first.
Still, I've been thinking...Maybe I put myself first too often. It is something to consider...