Can you guess what I’m blogging about yet? …..
So I walk into the viewing area of a public swimming pool and look for a seat. I am with our eldest to watch our two younger children swim. I crane my neck round the corner to try to watch my youngest on a mission to see how many lengths she can swim.There are no seats with a decent view, so we stand in a central spot next to a table with a lady sitting at it.I am flabbergasted! This is the table with the best view in the whole building and the lady hogging it isn’t even watching anyone swim, she’s reading a book! That’s right! Her eyes are on the page, clearly not interested in the pool at all and she could clearly read her book at any of the other tables that don’t have a good view. She even saw that we had to stand up next to her table to watch because we we struggled to see, and she still didn’t even offer to move. One word- selfish.
Selfish (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure- Collins dictionary. Example: the above, all of my examples and my title for this blog!
This shocked me, but there are lots of things that happen on a daily basis that don’t.
Groups of people walking towards me on the pavement- 9 times out of 10 they make no attempt to step to one side and share the pavement. Quite often they maintain eye contact with each other to pretend they haven’t seen me until the sheer quantity of them forces me off.
Driving! I’m sure we can all think of lots of examples here! People not letting you out of a junction, even when their queue of traffic is at a stand still. Being face to face with another car at either end of a road that only fits one car. Seeing the other car driving, what looks like 100 miles per hour, down the road when you had started driving down the road first! Driving into a parking spot that you had been waiting for forever, but they managed to get there first just because their car was facing the right direction. Shoppers with no children parking in family parking bays or worse still, disabled ones. The list goes on and on.
People speaking all about themselves and not asking the other person one single question about them. This happens to me a lot. Some Mondays, I can ask a handful of people how their weekend was, or what they got up to, and quite often they don’t return the question or show any interest in me or what I’ve done at all. Other times, I can be trapped listening to a problem without so much as a ‘how are you?’ before offloading. For all they know, I could have my own problem and may not be in a position to listen or help anyone else!
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a good listener, or because I don’t sway the conversation to talk about myself. It does cause me to ask myself ‘should we just avoid people as selfish as this?’ There’s no denying they are incredibly annoying and frustrating to be around, but after researching the reasons why people are selfish, it has made me feel more sympathetic towards those that I’m normally annoyed by.
So why are some people selfish?
According to psychologist Lisa Marie Bobby, the reason some people can be more selfish than others may be due to varying levels of emotional intelligence within society. She states that “Emotional intelligence exists on a spectrum, and some individuals are higher in emotional intelligence than others.” “One symptom of low emotional intelligence is the tendency to be self-absorbed, or exclusively concerned about what you’re thinking, feeling, needing and wanting, instead of the thoughts, feelings, needs and desires of others.”
Bobby also suggests that it is a combination of inherited traits rooted in the brain and a result of a person’s upbringing.
“People who are ‘selfish’ tend to have been raised in environments in which their feelings, thoughts, and needs weren’t recognised or valued. “Knowing this, makes me view selfish people differently and more sympathetically, as there appears to have been an emotional deficiency in their childhood. Saying that, I’m still only willing to tolerate behaviour like this for a small amount of time before I will be planning my exit! Life is short and my time is precious. Now doesn’t that sound like a selfish statement?! Maybe. But perhaps we all need to be a little bit selfish in order to protect ourselves. In this case, from me being emotionally drained.
So given this, is being selfish always a bad thing?
Not always. It can be good to be a little bit selfish to protect our own well-being and to prevent us from being emotionally, physically and mentally drained. When relationships are one sided and one person is always give, give, give it can be tiring and stressful and so this person would feel better being a little bit selfish in order to protect their own health.
After reading about Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and ‘survival of the fittest’ it is not surprising that as a race we have a selfish attitude, as we have over time developed it, originally through necessity to survive. It is therefore feasible to think that this learnt behaviour has been passed on over the years. However, I would have thought that since the necessity to physically beat your neighbour to the food in order to survive no longer occurs, this learnt behaviour would have almost died out or at least been diluted to a greater degree. The fact that society remains selfish could be because what we inherit plays a bigger part than our upbringing.
Is being selfish due to Inherited traits rooted in the brain?
Research carried out by a team led by Leonardo Christov-Moore from UCLA in 2016/2017 states that altruistic (the opposite of selfish), selflessness behaviour may be the default option in our brains.
So if selflessness is rooted in the brain, why do some people have such a hard time caring about the needs of others?
The answer, it appears, is due to the fact that they found an area of the prefrontal cortex that can be specifically affected to make people less giving. So it seems it really is a combination of nature and nurture, or in other words, what we are born with and how we are nurtured and raised.
How should you treat a selfish person?
Be aware of what’s happening.
Limit the amount of time and energy you spend on them.
Make sure that giving to that other person isn’t at the expense of your own health.
Show them that sometimes you have to come first.