I’m not a fan of selflessness. According to Merriam Webster’s definition, it is defined as, “a tendency to regard the well-being of others as more important that one’s own well-being”. The example of it used in a sentence refers to one being admired for such a trait. The long list of synonyms are 100% applauding of it.
Selflessness is about denial of self.
This is the slippery slope to why we need so many articles about self-care, our wells running dry, etc. Why is this something we’re celebrating as a quality to strive for?
I’m equally not a fan of selfishness. Again, according to Merriam Webster, it is defined as, “a concern for one’s own welfare…at the expense of others”. And the example sentence as well as the list of synonyms are very condemning of this behavior.
Selfishness is just as bad as selflessness.
One denies everyone else, and the other denies yourself. Neither one is any good.
So what’s in the middle?
Self Among Others. There’s no good word for this that I could find. From my years in community organizing, we used the term “self-interest”, but extensive research on that one led to multiple sources agreeing that it’s more closely tied to selfishness.
I’d like to just use the phrase “Mutual Interests”.
Not fancy or particularly creative, I agree, but functional and accurately descriptive of where I’m going with all this.
Back to my title question—What makes you tick? In order to start thinking about where your interests might align with someone else’s, you have to first unpack your own. What motivates you? What’s important to you? Who do you admire? What do you read? What experiences in your life are responsible for shaping you into who you are today? Where do your values come from?
These are all examples of questions you might ask yourself to help you get clarity about what’s most important to you and what makes you tick. If that’s your stopping place and your focus remains on what’s most important you alone, you risk acting in selfishness. If you care only about others to the point of giving no thought to yourself, you are acting out of selflessness.
Neither one allows you to move forward with others.
When you understand what makes you tick first, and you seek to understand that about other people, you’ll begin to identify areas of mutual interest.
These are the places where you can collaborate, brainstorm, and create together. This understanding opens up all kinds of possibilities.
Spend some of that self-care time thinking about what’s most important to you. Then go out there and find some collaborators.