How selfish are you?

Recently, I was reading an article on Digital Narcissism and it got me wondering about the idea of selflessness. Human beings, I believe, are inherently selfish. We thrive on self-love, self-pity and a general understanding of the world through our own perspectives. We are selfish and yet we cringe when someone labels us so.

A week back, a friend of merely four months, told me that I am selfish and self-obsessed. I was extremely hurt and stopped speaking to him. I dismissed his accusations as the blabberings of a man who did not even know me. A few days later, a friend of sixteen long years, off-handedly, commented that I am quite demanding. It was then that I was struck with the realisation that I, probably, am selfish and demanding. This is not to say that I am not a nice person, but one who is obsessed with having her own way, not accepting others’ spaces and prioritising her own convenience. Within a few hours, I found myself in the pits of hell, desperately trying to fathom threads of goodness that was left in me. I had always believed in being kind, generous, loyal and loving. Yet, after all these years, I was faced with an unsettling judgement of myself, something that I could not ignore, no matter how much I wanted to.

We do not live in a selfless world. We are not selfless, not one of us. But how selfish are we? Are we selfish enough to simply focus on our needs and their fulfilment or are we willing to make space for another person, his needs and whims? Are we stuck in a whirlpool of our own desires or do we believe in respecting another’s? And most significantly, what constitutes being selfish or selfless? Does being selfless necessitate being someone who gives himself/herself entirely up to the other, vanishes into the other’s shadow and value only the other’s needs? Or is it all about striking a balance between the two worlds, letting go and holding on just at the right moment?

I do not know. For I work in extremes and know no moderation. I can either care for you unflinchingly or I do not care to know you at all. That is an issue and I have, gradually, started to believe that it is this radical attitude that makes me selfish. I am willing to walk miles for you, I expect you will be willing too. I want to talk to you in the dead of the night, I expect you to reciprocate. I wish to communicate quite often, I expect responses. Do they make me selfish? Or do they make me a person who is interested in keeping in touch with people and fostering relationships?

Thinking about these in loops, I have, in some ways, realised that I am selfish in some ways indeed. I do demand a lot of attention but again, so does everyone. The problem with our world today is that everyone wants everything at their own convenience and the moment you become inconvenient to their scheme of things, you are handed the “selfish” placard. A person responds to you when it is convenient for him/her. A person, meets you, eats with you, spends time with you, at his/her convenience. It is only when this convenience clashes that people turn nasty. If I make space, I expect others to do the same. Therein lies my selfishness and their inconvenience.

With the changing times, one must change and adapt or one is likely to become extinct, quite like the dinosaurs. This change may be a very painful process, but again if one has to fit in, it becomes essential. I do not know how to change, in fact, I hate changes of any kind. I revel in continuum. I still do not understand what constitutes selfishness or maybe I now have come to believe that the very term, like many others, is relative in its nature.

My soul searching has not yielded desired remedies. What it has is a profound sense of the need to re-evaluate and look at the world differently, but through my very own eyes.