Why You Should Try to Be More Selfish

Video Transcript:

The public story of selfishness tells us that we are – all of us – very guilty of the behaviour. We are apparently incurably addicted to our own satisfactions – and deserve to be compared unfavourably to pretty much any generation that ever walked the earth. It sounds compelling (self-flagellation usually does), but the reality may be somewhat different.

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Whatever the risks of excessive self-absorption and inordinate pleasure-seeking, the real danger for most people is not that they too often ignore society and other people in the name of their own needs, it’s precisely the opposite: that they constantly put aside self-exploration and authentic inner development for the whims of so-called respectable opinion and socially sanctioned duties and commitments.

The chief problem is not that we’re too selfish; we’re poor versions of what we might be because we’re not selfish enough.

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We spend our lives seeing people we have nothing in common with, working at jobs that don’t make sense to us, craving the approval of parental figures who have other priorities, going to parties we fear, sucking up to colleagues we hate, going to films that bore us, parroting opinions we’re suspicious of, taking holidays that we don’t enjoy and devoting ourselves to children who end up either indifferent or plain resentful about the care we’ve devoted to them.

Finally, in the last decade or so of life, we may try to ‘live for ourselves,’ but by then, it’s almost always too late. Our connections to our own tastes and centers of pleasure and interest have atrophied, we’ve forgotten how to be ambitious in our names, we have frittered ourselves away through millions of demands. We are alive, but we hardly exist any longer.

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We settle on golf. A priority, while time allows, is therefore to acquire the skill of being politely but energetically more selfish. We should – from today – simply stop seeing people we dislike and stop worrying to such an extent about the opinions of strangers. We should focus on what feels meaningful to us.

We should ask ourselves what we will wish we had done when we are on our deathbeds – and do it now. We should wonder what we would do next if we had blanket permission – and go ahead and do it anyway. We probably know the life we should be leading already, we have just been hoping – and should stop hoping – that someone or something would come down from the sky and give us a definitive seal of approval.

We should acquire the art of being difficult, of smiling less, of saying ‘no’ more often and of leaving the room when we want to. The world won’t fall apart if we neglect some of our commitments; perhaps we can afford to forget someone’s birthday or to let the house get in a mess, fail to prepare a meal or suggest that a grumpy relative make their own way back from the station. We have grown quietly ill, or at least dull of spirit, through constant acts of self-sacrifice.

We no longer have as many years ahead as we once did. We have been ‘good’ for an age. We have allowed our fear of boundless egoism to blind us to the importance of developing faith in ourselves. It may be time to take some baby steps towards intelligent selfishness. For more from the school of life you can subscribe to our channel and take a look at our range of products on our website.

Topics: The School Of Life, Schooloflife, Education, Relationships, Alain De Botton, Philosophy, Talk, Self, Improvement, Big Questions, Love, Wellness, Mindfullness, Psychology, How, To, Hack, Selfish, How To Be Selfish, How To Be Happy, Be More Selfish, Be More Self Confident, Be More Self Aware, Be More Self Assured, Be More Selfless, Be More Self Reliant, Be More Self Motivated, Por Qué Deberías Ser Más Egoísta.

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