How to Be Less Selfish?

We all know that selfishness is a negative trait. However, from time to time, we often find ourselves thinking that we are being a little self-centered.

While putting ourselves first is not entirely bad, sometimes we also have to step back and reflect if we are still doing it for self-love (which is very important), or if we’re already stepping or hurting other people just to get what we want.

When it reaches to that level, then it can be a toxic behavior. So, how do we change that?

We asked 9 experts “How to be less selfish?

Read their insights below.

Ali Zabel

Ali Zabel

Business Coach

You need to consider what exactly makes you the best version of yourself

Being selfish is not necessarily a bad thing. People look at life as needing to take care of others first, but if we do not put our best versions out there then we are not able to be there for those people the way they need us to be.

In order to put your best foot forward, you need to consider what exactly makes you the best version of yourself and do that.

Taking care of yourself so you can be there for your loved ones will, in turn, make you less selfish.

Read Related Article: Why Is Self Love Important?

Kirsten McTernan

Kirsten McTernan

Author | Speaker | Wife | Mom of Four

Take the focus off of yourself

The best way to be less selfish is to take the focus off of yourself (your feelings, your desires, your needs, etc.) and focus on someone else. Try to imagine life as it is for them.

It’s important to create a daily habit of thinking about others, and then actively helping others through giving gifts, spending time, giving a hug, helping meet a need by serving in some way, or encouraging someone with your words.

When we create the habit of thinking of others, our perspective shifts from selfish to selfless. The amazing part of being selfless is you will become more thankful and feel more fulfilled through helping others!

Scott Crabtree

Scott Crabtree

Chief Happiness Officer, Happy Brain Science

Solid science suggests that, ironically, being less selfish makes you happier. When scientists look at journals of those who sadly are suicidal, those journals are filled with ‘I‘. When scientists compare those to journals of happier people, they talk about themselves a lot less.

Furthermore, research shows that being a kind, generous person focused on others makes us happy. And that happiness brings health, longevity, productivity, creativity, resilience, and many other benefits.

Those who are kind to others end up happier.

Those who are generous thrive more.

Those who forgive end up finding more joy.

Being less focused on yourself, and more concerned with others, ironically, ends up boosting our own well-being significantly.

Caleb Backe


Health & Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics

Listen to what a person says and react accordingly

If you’re looking for motivation to be less selfish, just think of the likeability factor. People want to be around other people who are nice to them and willing to help, so if you’re known as being self-absorbed you will inevitably push others away.

How to not be selfish?

Now in order to achieve not being selfish, practice empathy- imagining and understanding what others are going through.

The best way to do this is to listen to what a person says and react accordingly. This will give you all of the information necessary to address what the other person needs, and through this, it will be simple to be less selfish.

Paul Christoffersen

Paul Christoffersen

Thought Engineer | Interventionist | Provocateur | Neat Guy | Life Coach

Shift your state of expectation to one of appreciation

Relax your rules and live in a state of appreciation. Being selfish means you are overly concerned with an expectation of the way you think things should be.

You expect, and desire, certain outcomes to work out in your favor on a consistent basis. This is an exhausting and frustrating state to be in on a daily basis.

Expectations are often built on a set of rules a person has created over time. When others are not following your rules, you become irritated. The problem here is that everyone else has their rules that most likely do not consider your rules. It is impossible for all of your rules to be followed by others, and it is rather foolish to expect that.

Shift your state of expectation to one of appreciation. The next time you find that you are not getting your way, pause and consider what rule of yours is being violated.

Examine that rule and consider it from someone else’s perspective. Finally, ask yourself, “How can I appreciate this moment, or person, or situation?

Alexis Davis

Alexis Davis

Founder/CEO of H.K. Productions Inc.

You need to do some inner work before you’re able to help others

When you enter a situation with the intentions of wanting to add value, then you come from a space of giving and selflessness.

Often times people are looking for what they can gain, what they can take, what is in it for them.

However, there are still many people who are givers in this world and genuinely want to add value to the lives of others selflessly. The key to being less selfish is to have the perspective of what can I give, how can I help and what can I do for you.

For those who find being less selfish challenging, check to see if your metaphorical cup is full (mentally, spiritually, emotionally) so that you’re able to decipher if you’re feeling depleted yourself. You may find that you need to do some inner work before you’re able to help others. Because the truth is we can’t give what we don’t have. Generosity is wealth.

I also believe in giving the help I’ve had or giving the help I wish I had. Emotional intelligence plays a large role in how you relate and empathize with others.

Monica Eaton-Cardone

Monica Eaton-Cardone

Co-founder and COO, Chargebacks911

For me–as a woman, as a parent, as an entrepreneur–the one thing I have found that consistently gets me beyond myself is connecting with other people. That sounds obvious, but let’s face it: our lives are already packed, we’re already exhausted, and everything in our popular culture is screaming that we deserve to GET more–not give more.

But that thinking is short-sighted, at best.

Truly connecting with others requires us to step outside of our own thoughts, needs, and beliefs. It helps us realize that the world is a massive and highly diverse place and that it doesn’t revolve around our work schedules or retirement plans.

More than anything, it helps kill the cancerous belief that somehow we deserve more than someone else, just because of who we are.

Connecting with others can be humbling. But it’s uplifting, too. The more I get involved with other people–either one-on-one or by participating in social activities–the more I appreciate their struggles, the more grateful I am for what I have … and the more I want to share it.

Steven Libman

Steven Libman

Partner, Integrity Capital Group

The idea of being less selfish sounds good to us, but what are some practical steps we can take to ensure we are doing so?

CS Lewis once wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

Putting others’ needs above your own, or serving others, is an important step to becoming less selfish.

The best leaders know that a sure fire way to success is by serving others and helping them succeed. Looking out for another person’s highest and best good puts the spotlight on them, and takes it off of you.

Start today, practice with those closest to you, put them first, and see what happens!

Roberta Perry

Roberta Perry

Owner, Scrubz Body

Self-loving and self-caring aside, it is very easy to get lost in the day to day minutia of our own needs. That’s where gratitude meditation comes in for me.

Before I get out of bed, I repeat a list in my head of all the people I am grateful for and the contributions they make to my life and to my business. I remind myself that I am only one person and that these people contribute daily to my well-being and success.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I’m too selfish?

Selfishness is when you prioritize your own needs and wants over others, and it can impact your relationships and the people around you. Here are a few signs that might indicate you’re being too selfish:

• You often put your own interests ahead of others, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings or causing inconvenience.
• You have trouble compromising or considering other people’s perspectives.
• You have a sense of entitlement and believe that you deserve special treatment.
• You have difficulty expressing empathy and understanding other people’s emotions.
• You have difficulty giving compliments or acknowledging others’ achievements.
• You are often confrontational or argumentative in your relationships.
• You don’t show gratitude or appreciation for what people do for you.
• You tend to dominate conversations and make them all about you.

If you recognize any of these tendencies in yourself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a terrible person. However, being self-aware and developing a more balanced and considerate approach toward others is important.

Is selfishness a learned behavior?

Some experts argue that selfishness is a natural human tendency, present from birth and shaped by evolution as a survival mechanism. On the other hand, others believe that selfish behavior is learned through our experiences, interactions, and exposure to cultural and societal norms and values.

Many experts believe that it’s a combination of both nature and nurture, with genetics and biology playing a role in shaping our tendencies towards selfishness, while our experiences, relationships, and environment also play a crucial role in shaping our behavior.

What causes selfishness?

Selfishness is a complex trait that can stem from a variety of factors. Here are some of the most common causes:

Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem may be more likely to prioritize their needs and wants because they feel they need to prove their worth to themselves and others.

Narcissism: Narcissistic individuals are often preoccupied with their own needs and desires and may not have much empathy or consideration for others.

Lack of empathy: People who struggle to understand and share the emotions of others may be more likely to act selfishly because they don’t fully comprehend their actions’ impact on others.

Childhood experiences and upbringing: Children who grow up in environments where they are neglected or mistreated may develop a more self-centered perspective for survival.

Living in a highly individualistic society: In societies where success and personal achievement are highly valued, people may be more likely to prioritize their own interests over those of others.

Being exposed to media: The media can have a powerful influence on our beliefs and behaviors, and exposure to content that glorifies selfishness may make it seem more acceptable or desirable.

Influence from peers and significant others: The people we interact with on a regular basis can also shape our attitudes and behaviors, and being around individuals who exhibit selfish behavior may make it more likely that we will do the same.

It’s important to note that no one is purely selfish, and everyone can act selflessly at times. Additionally, many people who exhibit selfish behavior may not realize the impact their actions are having on others or may not know how to behave differently.

Can being less selfish lead to personal growth?

Yes, being less selfish can lead to personal growth in several ways. Here are a few key points:

Improved relationships: You can build stronger, healthier relationships with the people around you. This can help you feel more connected and fulfilled in your personal and professional life.

Increased empathy: When you focus less on yourself and more on others, you develop a greater ability to understand and relate to their experiences and perspectives. This can lead to a deeper sense of empathy and compassion.

Improved self-awareness: You may also better understand your motivations, values, and priorities. This can help you grow as a person and make more informed decisions about how you want to live your life.

Enhanced sense of purpose: When you shift your focus from your own needs and wants to those of others, you may find that you have a greater sense of purpose and meaning in your life. This can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Improved conflict resolution skills: You are more likely to approach conflicts with a spirit of cooperation and understanding rather than with a self-centered or competitive attitude. This can help you resolve conflicts more effectively and build stronger relationships with others.

Increased selflessness: You may find that you are more willing to help others, even if it means sacrificing your own time, energy, or resources. This can lead to a greater sense of altruism and a more fulfilling life.

Greater sense of gratitude: When you focus less on yourself and more on others, you may find that you become more appreciative of the people, experiences, and things you have in your life. This can lead to a greater sense of gratitude and a more positive outlook on life.

When is selfishness good and bad?

Selfishness can positively and negatively affect an individual and those around them. Here are some examples of when selfishness is good and bad:

When selfishness is good:
• When we prioritize our own needs and well-being, we can lead healthier, happier life.
• It can also lead to healthy boundaries and help you say “no” to things that aren’t good for you.
• In some cases, selfishness can increase confidence and self-esteem.

When selfishness is bad:
• When it becomes excessive, it can harm relationships and • lead to loneliness and isolation.
• Being too selfish can also lead to a lack of empathy and disregard for the needs of others.
• In some cases, excessive selfishness can lead to unethical or even illegal behavior.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to be less selfish?

Some common mistakes people make when trying to be less selfish include:

Being a people pleaser: While it’s important to consider others, it’s also important to maintain your own well-being.

Thinking it’s all or nothing: You don’t have to become completely selfless overnight. Making small changes and gradually shifting your focus can be just as effective.

Not setting boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries and prioritize your own needs as well.

Not understanding what selfishness is: People often mistake being assertive or self-protective for being selfish. It’s important to understand that being selfish means putting your own interests ahead of others without regard for their feelings or needs.

Failing to recognize their selfish behaviors: People can be blind to their own selfishness, especially if it has been a long-standing habit. Be honest with yourself and look for patterns of behavior that put your own interests at the expense of others.

Assuming that being less selfish means being a doormat: People often believe that being less selfish means letting others walk all over them and not standing up for themselves. However, being less selfish doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover; it just means finding a balance between your own needs and the needs of others.

Not making a conscious effort: Change requires effort and intentional action. To be less selfish, you need to actively work on it, whether changing your thought patterns, reevaluating your priorities, or seeking opportunities to help others.

Not practicing empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To be less selfish, it’s important to practice empathy and try to see things from other people’s perspectives.

Can therapy help me become less selfish?

Yes, therapy can be a helpful tool in overcoming selfish tendencies. A therapist can help you identify the underlying causes of your selfish behavior and provide you with strategies to change it.

They can also help you develop a more compassionate and understanding outlook, leading to greater personal growth and improved relationships with others.

How can I overcome the fear of being seen as selfish?

It’s normal to feel afraid of being seen as selfish, but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs and wants. Here are some tips to help overcome this fear:

Reframe your thoughts: Instead of thinking of it as being selfish, think of it as taking care of yourself.

Communicate openly: Let others know why you need to prioritize your own needs and how it will benefit both you and them in the long run.

Practice self-care: Make time for yourself and do things that make you happy. This will help you feel more confident and secure in your decisions.

Surround yourself with supportive people: People who understand and support you can make it easier to prioritize your needs.

Get to know yourself: Take time to understand what drives your actions and what is important to you. 

Practice empathy: Try to see things from others’ perspectives and consider their feelings and needs. This can help you make decisions that are good for you and considerate of others.

Communicate openly: If you’re worried about coming across as selfish, it’s important to be transparent about your motivations and intentions. Clear and open communication can help build trust and understanding with those around you.

Seek feedback: This can give you valuable insights and help you adjust your behavior if needed.

Let go of perfectionism: Perfectionism can be a major source of anxiety and make you overly concerned with how others perceive you. Try to let go of this mindset and embrace the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes and be imperfect.

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