The good that’s bad

The good that’s bad
29 Nov 2018

The secret of human happiness is not in self-seeking but in self-forgetting

Theodor Reik - Psychoanalyst

We have all been selfish at some stage in life. At least we have been or seen selfish people at least a few times in our life. Hardly do we know there is something called self-seeking which is as close but significantly different and complicated than being selfishness. It does more harm to us we should not ignore the importance of dealing with it.

With selfish behaviour, one is preoccupied with their own needs and are not concerned about the needs of others. We have a lot of examples to cite from our daily lives. One may take a significant share of the food without considering the lack for the people who would eat next. You may not be willing to help others by offering your seat in the metro just because you don’t feel like it. Selfishness is also a lack of sympathy, which means you may not understand or be willing to recognise the pain of the sufferings of the others. Selfishness is apparent. We can quickly identify selfish people, and we generally dislike them. Selfishness usually does no good to others, if not any harm.

Self-seeking may sound synonymous to selfishness. It’s however different. The difference may be subtle. Yet, sufficiently important to be worthy of consideration. Unlike selfishness, you can do good and still be self-seeking.

A typical example would be of seeking praise for the service we offer. Imagine someone who is waiting for everyone else to finish a meal in a gathering. It looks good. It’s correct for the person to wait for everyone else to finish. Surely that person is not selfish. If the intention of the person was to be praised by others for his unselfish attitude, that’s self-seeking.

What's wrong?

So, what’s wrong here? He is doing something that is good anyway. Self-seeking may appear to be doing good. It may not harm others. It will inevitably hurt the one who is self-seeking. The simple reason being that it’s not easy to serve others when your motive is to be praised for the service. Imagine you were waiting for everyone to finish eating, only with an incentive to be appreciated. How hard will that be to wait? You’d actually have to force yourself into waiting. As you wait, you’d always try to figure out what’s expected out of you to be praised at the end. Even worse, what if even after so much struggle no one praised you? You end up feeling bitter, wouldn’t you?

If your goal is to be of service, then your service is enough. Unless we get out of our own head, you can’t serve a substantial purpose. Unless you stop seeking for yourself, you will only end up harming and hurting yourself.

Overcoming the character flaws

No one would honestly want to be self-seeking. However, there could be a few flaws in ourselves that cause this self-seeking behaviour. These flaws are easy to overcome once we have identified them.

One’s self-concept is a collection of beliefs about oneself. It’s generally the answer to “Who am I?”. It’s more of a descriptive component of one’s self. For example, “I am a seasoned programmer”. Low self-concept contributes to self-seeking.

Self-esteem is evaluative and opinionated. This is usually an answer to how good you feel about your self-concept. For example, “I feel good about being a programmer”. Low self-esteem also contributes to self-seeking.

Emptiness as human behaviour is a sense of boredom, social alienation and a lack of feeling, emotion, interest and concern about things of great importance. This is another character flaw that contributes to self-seeking.

Identify your character flaws and address them. By getting rid the self-seeking behaviours, we’d be free to think about the needs of others. The next time you want to do good, put the needs of others ahead of your own.


Abilash Praveen

I have over a decade of experience in technology and business. It is my passion for the development of the rural and the underprivileged in the society that has driven me towards contributing the wealth of my professional and personal experiences for the welfare of the society.