Selfishness: 6 Characteristics & 5 Tips For Selfish Behavior

How selfish are people? And how bad is it to be selfish? Is there also healthy egoism? We have investigated these and other questions about ...

How selfish are people? And how bad is it to be selfish? Is there also healthy egoism? We have investigated these and other questions about this important topic for you.

Egoism means selfishness and is considered a very unpleasant trait. Most people feel they know what that means. But the topic has many facets.

Definition: What selfishness means

The term egoism is a combination of the Latin word "ego" and the Greek suffix "-ism". "Ego" means "I" and this already indicates the basic meaning of the word egoism:

Selfishness means selfishness, self-interest, or selfishness. Those who are egoistic see their own advantage as particularly important. This is often associated with recklessness.

Synonyms or closely related terms are:

  • selfishness

  • selfishness

  • egoism

  • selfishness

  • self-interest

  • narcissism

The opposite of egoism is altruism, from the Latin "alter" meaning "the other". Those who act egoistically think primarily of themselves. Those who act altruistically think primarily of others.

In the narrower sense, behavior is considered selfish if only one's own advantages are important. Damage and disadvantages for others are consciously accepted.

In a broader sense, almost every human behavior could (also) be classified as selfish. Even altruistic actions always have personal benefits. For example, people value themselves with it. More on that in the next paragraph.

Note: This text is primarily about egoism in the narrower sense. This is also the meaning that most people associate with the term selfishness.

Are people inherently selfish?

Throughout history, there have always been philosophers who have described humans as selfish loners. Everyone thinks of themselves first.

In fact, this statement has a core of truth: it is innate in almost all people not to completely neglect their own advantage. However, that does not mean that it always has to be at the expense of others.

There are countless examples of people helping others for no benefit of their own. Or who forgo their own advantages because they would harm others.

With a cynical view of this altruism, one could say that there is always a certain egotism behind it. Anyone who helps others feels better afterward, values ​​themselves, and sees their actions as success.

However, that is by no means the only motivation for people to help others. Behind this are also moral and ethical convictions and a sense of solidarity.

So you could say that a certain egoism is inherent in human beings. But this is by no means always lived out to the detriment of others.

The distinction between egoism and egocentrism

Selfish behavior always involves a certain awareness. A selfish person therefore deliberately decides for their own advantage, even if it could bring disadvantages to others.

This is different from so-called egocentrism. This term is well-known in developmental psychology. So it refers to the development of children.

These behave egocentrically up to a certain level of development. They can only correctly perceive their own needs and for a long time cannot put themselves in the position of others.

That doesn't mean they don't value fairness or justice. On the contrary: many children have a good sense of these values ​​from a very early age.

Behind the egocentrism in children is the fact that they have no idea of ​​their own "I" in the first few years. As a result, they cannot differentiate between their perspective and that of others.

For example, a baby does not know that objects or people continue to exist if they cannot see them. Its own perception is the only worldview it knows.

Over the years, with healthy development, egocentrism gradually recedes. Children and young people are increasingly able to see other perspectives and act altruistically.

Distinguishing between egoism and narcissism

Selfishness is an important character trait that also characterizes narcissists. True, pathological narcissism, however, goes much further.

Narcissists have a great need for approval and validation. It is very important to them that others perceive their "greatness".

That can be different with pure egoists. If it gives them an advantage, they like to operate in secret. They are not primarily concerned with fame, but with very different interests.

What both groups of people have in common, however, is their self-centeredness and their lack of empathy. They are not good at empathizing with others and do not necessarily see this as a flaw.

A special form of institutional egoism

There is a form of selfishness that is not related to the individual but to a group. This can be, for example, a political party, a religious community, or a company.

Institutional selfishness is about gaining an advantage for that group or association. Disadvantages of other people or groups are consciously accepted.

What healthy selfishness is

In addition to harmful and ruthless egoism, there is another form: healthy egoism. This means respecting your own needs and limits.

Healthy egoism can also be summed up under the terms "self-care" or " self-love ". These issues are important.

Healthy or positive egoism helps you to protect yourself from exploitation. It is also important for staying healthy and happy.

The distinction between positive and negative egoism is not always easy. The most important factor is: With positive egoism, you think about the needs of others.

Your aim is to reconcile your own needs with those of others. So it's not about putting your own concerns above those of others. Instead, you want to create the best possible balance in which you and others can get their rights.

Individuals and societies decide differently where the boundaries between positive and negative egoism lie. It's always worth thinking about.

Characteristics of selfish behavior

How can you tell if a person is being selfish? The following features will help you. However, keep in mind that not all characteristics have to apply. Hardly anyone behaves selfishly in every situation.

No balance between give and take

When dealing with a pronounced egoist, the balance between giving and taking is not right. The selfish person will always try to tip the scales in their own favor.

In a partnership, this can mean, for example, that the selfish person tries to avoid common tasks. These then inevitably stick to the other person.

Or it can mean that a person in your circle of friends allows you to keep going without financial hardship, but rarely spends anything yourself.

This imbalance can also exist in terms of time and attention. A selfish person may demand significantly more time from others than he or she is willing to give.

Of course, there are always phases in a friendship or partnership when one person is needier than the other. Equilibrium does not mean adding up everything.

But overall there should be a balance, at least over the long term. Only then can a friendship or partnership develop on an equal footing. This can be very difficult with selfish people, depending on their characteristics.


Behavior is primarily selfish when it causes disadvantages for others. Anyone who is egoistic consciously accepts these disadvantages and may even find them justified. So he or she ruthlessly ignores the concerns of others.

The method can also be irrelevant. Some selfish people lie and cheat in order to take advantage of something. These are some examples of reckless and selfish behavior:

  • blaming others to avoid being blamed for a mistake

  • Feigning clumsiness and ignorance in order to reduce household chores

  • queue up at the checkout because you don't want to wait

  • Invent defects to get a product or service cheaper

  • venting your anger on others to make yourself feel better

  • Make hamster purchases, knowing that other people will no longer get important products

  • remain seated on the bus as a young and healthy person, although you can see that another person is dependent on a seat

  • Borrow money from friends and then hope it will be forgotten

Little interest in others

Selfish people may show little interest in others and their needs or issues. As long as it does not bring any advantages for the selfish person or even disadvantages him or her, it is rather unimportant to him or her.

This can be shown, for example, in the fact that conversations revolve very much around the egoistic person. When it comes to someone else, he or she seems distracted or disinterested.

Selfish people may know little about the habits, likes, or needs of those around them. This can even apply to close confidants.

selfishness in language

There can also be signs of selfishness in one's own language. These can be proverbs like "Everyone is their own neighbor" or "When two people argue, the third one is happy".

But there are also clues in everyday language. For example, some selfish people brag about how they have taken advantage of others. Or they think it's their own fault if they let themselves be taken advantage of.

Another clue can be if another person keeps interrupting you. She or he may then find their own part of the speech much more important than yours.

Different scales

Anyone who thinks egoistically wants to have the greatest possible degree of freedom and advantages for themselves. On the other hand, such a person grants others fewer rights.

So it can be that someone likes to "forget" small debts with others, but is very angry when others do the same. When something negative happens to the egoist himself, he or she can react very emotionally.

Own exaggeration

Selfish people often think very highly of themselves. Selfish people sometimes feel they deserve the benefits they take.

Many consider themselves smarter, more valuable, more interesting, or otherwise better than their peers. From this, they derive the right for themselves to put their own advantages in the foreground.

Tips for dealing with selfish people

Dealing with selfish people can be a real challenge. But it can't always be avoided. These tips will help you.

Bring selfish little things to light

Most egoists do not do big and flashy things, but rather enrich themselves with small things. This makes it not so easy to confront a person. A lot happens "under the radar".

This is exactly where you can start: Formulate openly what is happening. Point out to the person and others that you don't think the behavior is right.

That way you address the behavior and the selfish person doesn't get away with it as easily. This is sometimes very helpful, especially in the work environment.

Set clear boundaries

When dealing with egoists, you should know your personal limits well. Be careful not to overstep them. By clearly articulating your own boundaries, you set the rules of the game for both of you.

This makes it easier to get along with each other. If the person continues to overstep these boundaries, it is time to gain some distance or confront the person with it.

Strengthen your own self-confidence

Those who have little self-confidence and self-esteem are more easily exploited by selfish people. To fight back, you need some self-confidence.

Dealing with selfish people becomes easier when you believe in yourself and take your personal limits seriously. The good news: it can be learned.

Did you know? It is worth starting with yourself and strengthening your self-confidence. Then it will be easier for you to stand up to egoists and stand up for yourself.

Keep your distance from excessive selfishness

In the work or club environment, it is not always possible to avoid working with egoists. In your private life, however, you should think twice about whether you surround yourself with strong selfish people.

Those who often act selfishly find it difficult to form a friendship or partnership on an equal footing. That should be clear to you as a counterpart.

Egoists may choose friends and partners strategically. They serve the selfish person in some way, mostly without knowing it.

So ask yourself if you're really willing to put a lot of energy into being with a selfish person. Feel free to ask yourself what this contact brings you personally.

For example, you may secretly hope to help a person and "cure" selfishness. However, this is only possible in the rarest of cases.

Don't let yourself be labeled as selfish

Some egoists tend to accuse other people of egoism. People who care about the well-being of others often react very badly to this.

For example, imagine the following situation: a man comes home from work every evening and goes straight to his computer room for hours instead of taking care of the children that the woman has been taking care of all day.

If the woman wants to go out in the evening, he accuses her of selfishness. After all, he is exhausted from work and cannot take care of everything just because she wants to have fun.

It is quite possible that the woman in this example will give in and stay at home. And that, even though the man's behavior is actually selfish and not hers.

Of course, the roles could just as easily be reversed in the example. Women can also behave very selfishly, this is not a typical problem for men.

In any case, if the example sounds familiar to you, then realize that accusing yourself of being selfish is ultimately manipulation.

The other person is probably just upset because you're not "enough" to attend to his or her needs. Because you don't want to be selfish, you may then give in.

Try not to be fooled by this accusation. Realize that healthy selfishness is important, especially when dealing with a highly selfish person.



BeBro - Quality Contents: Selfishness: 6 Characteristics & 5 Tips For Selfish Behavior
Selfishness: 6 Characteristics & 5 Tips For Selfish Behavior
BeBro - Quality Contents
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