Have you ever been torn between taking care of yourself and worrying about how those efforts may affect others? If so, you’ve probably wondered if self-love is selfish.
It’s a perfectly natural thought, and it’s hard to always negotiate our own needs with the needs of those around us.
Self-love vs selfish behavior is easy to navigate when you clearly understand what each concept means. It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s crucial to know the difference if you want to cultivate self-love while maintaining healthy relationships with others.
Luckily, you don’t have to do it on your own. I’ll help you to distinguish between the two and share what I’ve learned when it comes to striking the perfect balance.
- Self-love focuses on your well-being and maintains healthy relationships, whereas selfishness prioritizes your personal gain and creates distrust in relationships.
- Practicing empathy, setting boundaries, and considering others’ perspectives can help you avoid selfish behavior while maintaining self-love.
- Cultivating self-love involves self-compassion, seeking constructive feedback, gratitude, avoiding comparison, and practicing empathy towards others.
Table of Contents
What is Self-Love Anyway?
Self-love to me means reflecting on my past: the embarrassing outfits, the misguided advice I offered, my fragile ego and longing to be someone different, a short person yearning to be a tall model. The striving, the scraping by, my resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
The years of working diligently while wearing ill-fitting clothes, the years dedicated to breastfeeding and enduring sleepless nights, and the years spent doing laundry. I adore that woman! These versions of myself from the past collectively shape who I am today.
I now perceive her in a new light (with a great figure!) and possess an overwhelming compassion for my teenage self, my job-seeking self, my newlywed self, and the version of me as a mother.
I generously grant forgiveness to the person I once was.
In order to love yourself, it must involve appreciating of yourself from a distance, tinted with a vague recollection, profound compassion, and a healthy dose of amusement.
What is Selfish?
Selfishness means that someone places their own desires, interests, and needs above everyone else.
While humans have a natural tendency to care for and support others, selfishness creeps up when we don’t think there’s enough to go around, we’ve been badly hurt by people in the past, or we’re simply so preoccupied with ourselves that we forget to take other’s needs into account.
Selfish people don’t think about others or the consequences their actions will have on the external world. They simply do what they want with very little regard for anything else.
However, being selfish doesn’t mean that one feels good about their actions.
Self-Love vs Selfish: What Are the Key Differences?
Let’s dive into some of the differences between these two concepts for better clarity:
Focus On Well-Being vs. Focus On Personal Gain
Those who cultivate self-love focus on a sense of well-being.
While this includes an internal sense of well-being, it also includes how well we are connected to our loved ones, our goals, the environment, and our community.
Selfish individuals instead choose to focus on what they can personally gain out of any situation. This opportunistic approach is usually about what an individual can grab and have all for themselves.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships With Oneself and Others
Self-love and selfishness show up in very different ways in our relationships. When working on self-love, relationships are treated with compassion, respect, and understanding.
Selfish patterns lead to relationships filled with distrust, unhappiness, and manipulation.
Since selfish people often try to control others, it’s hard for them to form long-term meaningful relationships, since they’re always in competition with their community.
And people with selfish traits don’t have a great relationship with themselves either. They often feel inadequate, and ashamed of their behavior, and may even be suffering from depression or anxiety.
Self-Care vs. Self-Indulgence
When it comes to self-care vs self-indulgence, it’s a delicate balance.
Those who practice self-care give themselves a lot of support, but make sure that they choose healthy forms of support, such as eating well, maintaining happy relationships, and taking time for their favorite hobbies.
They also know when to pump the breaks and stop before they over-indulge, which would make them feel bad.
Since selfish people make choices without much regard to the consequences, it’s easy for them to overindulge, or engage in unhealthy activities like eating a poor diet, using drugs or alcohol to excess, and treating others badly.
Prioritizing Oneself vs. Disregard for Others
Self-love gives us permission to make ourselves a priority in a balanced and healthy manner. Selfishness, on the other hand, is a blatant disregard for others.
When prioritizing ourselves, we weigh out the pros and cons of a decision so that we can honor our needs while making sure we aren’t disrespecting others.
Instead, they only consider their personal needs, and consider themselves a priority above all else.
How to Avoid Selfishness
Here are my five helpful tips that will keep you in check if you’re ever wondering if you’re acting out of selfishness instead of self-love:
Consider Others’ Perspectives and Feelings
When making a decision, take a moment and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What are their circumstances? What are they feeling?
If you’re able to make a decision based on the perspective of others and align that choice with your own needs, you’re not acting selfish.
Set and Maintain Healthy Boundaries
Being clear about our boundaries, i.e. what we are and aren’t willing to do, helps manage expectations with others and communicates our needs without stepping on the toes of others.
Make sure to get clear on your boundaries in your own time, and share them with others in advance.
This means that everyone knows what to expect from you, and you can honor your self-love practice knowing that others support and respect your personal needs.
Practice Empathy and Active Listening
Selfish people haven’t developed the skill of empathy and active listening. So if you’re feeling like you’ve been a bit selfish lately, practice it yourself.
You can do this by working to improve your body language in conversations, asking more questions, and pausing before you respond when talking to someone else.
You can improve your empathy by setting aside time to reflect on the experiences of others. It can be hard to get out of our own heads when we’re busy, stressed, and tired.
So instead, spend a few moments meditating on someone else’s life, take a walk, or do some journaling.
This can provide powerful insights that will show you how to witness others along your self-love journey.
Show Appreciation for Others
It’s easy to forget to say thank you here and there, but acknowledging others for what they do is an important practice.
Make sure to show gratitude for others and make small comments or actions that will lift them up and make them feel better.
Prioritize Others’ Needs When Appropriate
It’s important to honor your needs as much as possible. But in an imperfect world with many twists and turns, this is also impractical.
On occasion, it’s important to be considerate and flexible with others. Sometimes this means compromising, and other times this means completely giving up what we want – at least for now.
How to Cultivate Self-Love While Avoiding Selfishness
As you work on living a more selfless life, invest in your self-love journey by following these tips:
Take it easy on yourself. Speak to yourself kindly, and offer yourself understanding and forgiveness when you don’t do as well in life. Self-compassion is related to self-acceptance, which is proven to help increase mental wellness.
No matter where you are on self-love, make sure to take a moment and express gratitude and pride for what you’ve achieved. It’s actually no small feat – you’ve had to work your whole life to get where you are!
Seek Constructive Feedback
You don’t need to focus on self-love all by yourself, even though the word “self” implies that you’re doing just that.
Having a loving and supportive community that you trust is a huge help when it comes to working on self-love and accepting who you are, flaws, and all.
People can provide you with their personal experiences, and perspectives you haven’t considered, and even provide feedback in a way that isn’t belittling or excessively critical.
Avoid Comparing Oneself to Others
Self-love looks like something completely different for each individual. Therefore, don’t focus on where other people at.
This only makes you feel worse about yourself and invites critical and harsh self-talk into your life.
It may even lead to you resenting others, since you may feel the need to compete with and “beat” others at their own game.
Instead of getting caught in a comparison loop, start cheering for others and cultivating gratitude that your loved ones are doing well.
Practice Empathy Towards Others
Understanding the feelings and perspectives of others can give you a lot of helpful information that helps you to decide how to connect to your community.
And a large part of why you’re practicing self-love is to find meaningful and joy-giving relationships.
So invest in the feelings of others, ask a lot of questions, and take the time to really listen.
Self-Love vs Selfish: Find Your Balance
It isn’t selfish to practice self-love, but selfish tendencies may sneak up on us if we aren’t being mindful of our actions and the people around us.
So take time to implement a few of the above suggestions to make sure you’re treating others with respect as you pursue your self-love goals.
This way, you can honor both yourself and the people around you, which will lead to a life of fulfillment and happiness.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I differentiate between self-love and selfishness?
Self-love primarily focuses on personal well-being, and selfishness is focused on self-gain.
Is it possible to practice self-love without being selfish?
Yes, you can practice self-love while avoiding selfishness by being mindful of and asking about the feelings and opinions of others. When you take their perspectives into account, you’re being considerate, not selfish.
Can practicing self-love actually benefit others?
Yes, by practicing self-love, you’re resourcing and supporting yourself, which gives you more energy and positivity for taking care of others.
What are some common signs of selfishness to be aware of?
Some common signs of selfishness include ignoring the feelings of others, trying to take control of others, overindulging in substances or experiences, and refusing to compromise with the people in your life.
How can I balance my own needs with the needs of others without being selfish?
Set boundaries for yourself, and respect and listen to the boundaries of others. Consider everyone’s perspective and try to find a happy medium that can satisfy others without disregarding your personal needs.