We all want friendship (even if we say we don’t). It is an instinctual part of being human. We are social animals. But why? Now that is a question with many answers. I believe, for many, it is to curb the fear that our existence has no meaning, and is ultimately absurd. I’m not saying that’s true; I’m saying it’s a common fear, but that is a subject for another post.
The point is that we do not want to be alone on this mysterious path called life. So we seek out others and eventually find meaning in another person’s story. When they in turn find meaning in ours, then we become friends. It is a beautiful event. Yet if we are to become close and true friends, it takes more than just a swapping of stories, and general commiseration. It takes patience, acceptance, compassion, and a healthy dose of selfishness.
Why selfishness? Because we are human. Contrary to popular belief, being selfish is a natural part of the human psyche. There are times when we must focus on ourselves in order to learn, grow, and protect ourselves. Understand, I’m not speaking about conceitedness, arrogance, or narcissism. I’m talking about placing concern on one’s own interests and needs above the needs or interests of others.
Does that sound horrible to you? Think about this: If we are to truly love others, we must first love ourselves. Many people understand this on the conceptual level, but do not practice it. Loving oneself, or rather, the path to loving oneself is inherently selfish. Only when we put the time and effort into cultivating love and presence for ourselves can we share that with others.
As such, if you are operating with a healthy does of selfish, you will be a better friend, and not only that, but you will know what you need from your friends. How many friends, significant others, or family members do you have that try to give you advice or lectures when you just want them to listen? I’ve been guilty of this more than a few times. Or what about those who incessantly talk about themselves and their own problems without asking about you and yours?
When you’re in touch with your selfish side, you will be able to speak candidly with your friends. You don’t have to judge them. You simply need to be clear about what you need, e.g. “I need you to listen to me for 5 minutes, without saying anything, because I’m feeling anxious, confused, etc.” If you want their advice, you’ll ask for it.
The beauty of it all is that this selfishness ultimately leads to selflessness. When you are aware of your own needs, you will be that friend who knows how to listen deeply, who waits to give advice until it’s desired, who loves your friends without judgment. You do this because you understand that just like you, your friends are complex human beings who seek an end to suffering and who deserve happiness and love.
I urge you to reorganize your thoughts surrounding the concept of selfishness. Realize that it does not need to be a negative habit. On the contrary, it can be quite useful to yourself and to others.
Wishing you some (healthy) self-indulgence this Thursday.
By Terence Stone
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.