Learning to Be Selfish to Live Selflessly

It’s just before 9AM on Columbus Day as I begin this. I’m sitting on a train, staring at the changing colors of leaves, riding through Rhode Island somewhere. I begin to feel guilt over the wonderful weekend I had with friends and family.

Maybe it’s because I’m a different person than I was before I left. I needed to go, the world was weighing me down. It was one selfless act after another and in the end, I wanted to know what it was like to positively live for myself.

Coming home with a new mindset allowed me to act selflessly to my family and friends again. It felt better than in the past. I think I was doing it with different intentions this time, the right ones.

My past selfless acts were done out of loyalty, not whether my support was helping the person grow. The selfish ones were typical youthful arrogance and usually didn’t bring many benefits.

This spectrum is difficult to master, 31 years in and I still have trouble balancing it. It’s knowing the right moments to be selfish or selfless to a point before it negatively affects you. Not knowing had me trying to balance it with extreme acts of both kinds which angered some people around me because they didn’t know which side of me they were going to get.

I didn’t know how to say no to the bad things and yes to the right ones. It’s those mistakes that teach us balance though. You learn to read the intentions of people when they approach with pleas for help and figure out how to get out of the wrong situations without suffering damage.

You learn how/when to positively invest in yourself instead of holding back due to imaginary fears (mine being that everyone would fall apart without me taking care of them).

Two girls just entered the train and were crying as they waved goodbye to their smiling friends on the platform. As the train sped away, the friends ran alongside it, with their smiles growing bigger as they chased, while the girls’ tears flowed more intensely.

Although they were sad and said they felt selfish, they were relieved in knowing that the decision they made was the right one. Otherwise why would their friends be excited for them moving on?

Sometimes the right decisions are painful ones and true friends will take pride and joy in your quest for self-improvement.

Getting off the train, I feel better after experiencing that moment. I may have left selfishly, but it’s a lesson that taught me how to live selflessly better for the people around me.