The Scam of Unselfishness

 The Scam of Unselfishness

You see, I’m here today to tell you that you’ve been hoodwinked. If you’re a woman, you were probably taught to be nice, to always think of others, to give unselfishly of yourself, and to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. And if you’re a man, we’ve all heard the saying that ‘nice guys finish last’. You’ve seen in your own life where you’ve been ‘too nice’, you’ve given and given and given, and you put others’ wants and needs before your own.

The Scam of Unselfishness

How is that working out for you??

I’m gonna guess probably not that well. These lessons are great ways to teach children how to interact with the world. Children by nature are very self-centered and pleasure-driven, so I can see where it is not safe or practical to raise a child that only knows how to satisfy his or her needs, without consideration of others or taking into account the consequences of their actions. But you’re not a child anymore.

You’re an adult with needs and desires of your own, and you’re probably tired of getting your feelings trampled, of others being inconsiderate toward you, of people ‘taking your kindness for weakness’. There are a few tactics you can use to get around this.


One thing that people don’t know about me, is that I’m not ‘nice’. Don’t get me wrong – I’m cordial, I’m respectful, and sometimes I’m considerate and sweet… but I am not nice just for the sake of being nice. With me, you have to earn the right for me to be nice to you. My definition of ‘nice’ is to go out of my way, to act how I normally wouldn’t act, to put another’s need(s) before mine, for the comfort of others. Now why would I do that to everyone? Every person you meet isn’t worthy of your niceness. Cultivate the habit of niceness only for those who deserve it from you.

I am nice to those who I’m close to, or who show that they are genuinely nice to me, without agenda or ulterior motive. And that’s the thing, I find that alot, if not most people, are not nice just because. I am not advocating that you change your personality, that you become a bitch on wheels or a jerk. What I’m saying is that you have to develop a barrier between other people and yourself, and being nice gets in the way of erecting that barrier. Its really a shame that we have to do so, but every person is not your true friend and every person doesn’t have your best interest at heart. In fact, most people put themselves first and have their own best interests at heart.


I’m not sure why putting yourself first is considered a bad thing. The way people react when you say that you put yourself first, reminds me of those safety cards on airplanes. They always have an illustration of a person putting on their own breathing mask and then assisting others. I always find it a little funny because if you fall out and can’t breathe, then you can’t possibly help someone else.

But that is what some people do. They give their time, emotions, financial assistance, and support until they’re drained, and then become frustrated and disillusioned when they have nothing left to give and the people in their lives don’t reciprocate. Honestly (and this may hurt your feelings a little bit), they have no reason to.

Let’s use a well as an example. Women usually go to a well with an empty bucket and dip out the water that they need. You never see or hear of someone going to a well with a bucket full of water and pouring it into the well. How often does someone stop and think about how much water is in a well? When the well is dry (my grandma used to say, ‘you never miss your water till your well runs dry‘… think about that for a second). And then when a well does run dry, what do people do? (I’m not a country girl so I kinda don’t know… just gonna guess here) They either find another source of water and dig a well there, or wait until the well fills back up from either rain or ground water.

You can get people to stop treating you like a bottomless well by doing two things: capping your metaphorical well of resources by either saying no to people or being unavailable. If you’re always open and available to the people in your life, you’ll drain yourself with no means of replenishing yourself. You’ll have to regenerate those resources over time, and then people will just come back, like a well that now has water.


I have a friend who is addicted to her smart phone. Its annoying sometimes because when we’re out, she’s texting or responding to emails, and frequently telling others about where she is or what she’s doing. Well how can she fully enjoy where she is and what she’s doing, if she’s not fully present in the moment?! I digress… but I often ask her why she just doesn’t answer at those times so she can fully enjoy herself. I’ve seen instances where, if she doesn’t answer immediately, people start blowing up her phone like “why aren’t you answering me?!” When you’re always available – whether it be a shoulder to cry on, financially or to communicate – people start devaluing your time. Its probably not even conscious, like not missing your water till your well is dry. If something is always there then you really don’t think about it as rare.

So sometimes take time out for yourself by being unavailable. Whatever problems or issues people need your help with will be right there when you resurface. And it’ll be even better if the person sees you’re unavailable and either figures out the solution on their own or asks someone who they don’t normally ask for help. You can use that time to work on those goals you feel like you don’t have time to work on and to refill your well of resources. Now if the person is still there, waiting for your help, sometimes you should say no so that they don’t take advantage of you and take you for granted.

Again, I don’t feel that you should change who you are at all. Just understand that its normal for a person to put themselves first – its self-preservation. Now its not right for other people to take you for granted and you have to put your foot down to prevent it from continuing. The very same people who taught you to be selfless are themselves very selfish – and will guilt you into letting them get what they want if you let them. Think about it like this too — people only call you selfish when you won’t give them something that they want, whether its time, attention, money or advice.

The best way to honor, serve and treat others well is to ensure that you’re happy, have enough resources to treat yourself well, and that you’re prosperous and reaching your own goals. When your well is full, its much easier to give from that overflow to others.

LT Garcia says:

I would even take it a step further and say that there is a weird dynamic that occurs with people who pride themselves on just how over-the-top nice they are all the time to everyone that is really downright passive aggressive. These people are really not being nice for altruistic reasons, though usually they have convinced themselves that they are. They are being nice because they expect everyone to admire them for how nice they are and to get something in return for their niceness. When no one admires them or gives anything back to them, they become bitter, resentful little people who wallow in their victimhood. 

Basically the whole niceness thing ends up being a ball and chain for them and everyone around them. True compassion, forgiveness and giving comes from the heart and is given toward the truly deserving. I try to be cordial to all unless they give me a reason not to be, but that is different than being gratuitously ‘nice’. If someone proves they have integrity to me, I will go out of my way for them if I feel they would do the same for me. That’s not selfish, it’s how to fill your life with decent people and become a decent person yourself. And ‘niceness’ has nothing to do with it. Putting everyone else before yourself and expecting a positive outcome is just plain stupid. Pick those worthy of your efforts carefully, it’s fine to be polite to others, but never be afraid to not answer the phone, not agree to rescue the person in a bind due to their own stupidity, or remember that the word ‘No’ in and of itself is a complete sentence.

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