Writing this piece itself is a self-oriented activity – but then is it selfish, self-centered or self-satisfying?
We all juggle with the overwhelming presence of self in each one of our lives. At times we are forced to be aware of it through the joys, sorrows or extreme states of mind it brings in. At times by a process of observation that focuses inward.
Whichever the reason is, to look back or look forward to our self is inevitable. But then the tricky issue is not whether we are able to be aware of the self. The slippery corner is whether the self leaves a handle for us to hold it before we get mesmerised by its illusions.
Perhaps we get some moments everyday to touch that wand which the master illusionist leaves before we become part of the illusion. And these moments are portrayed by popular expressions, and philosophers such as: selfishness and self-centerdness.
There is a difference in the nature and goal of selfishness and self-centerdness. The goal of the first one is sheer gross, ruthless survival of the body, the mind and the individual, and nothing more profound than that. If there is only one plate of food, and I am with 10 other people eyeing at it, then definitely I will strategise to make much of that plate for myself.
Is self-centeredness the same?
No. One can be very self-centered without being selfish.
While selfishness is motivated by the sheer need to beat others and survive, self-centeredness comes from another motivation – the motivation to be noticed, recognised and accepted. Which means I have to talk more about myself, I have to direct all activities centering around myself, and I have to project myself as the progenitor in all my actions. So, I wouldnt mind sharing with that one plate of food with another person. But then there need to be recognition from others that I have done that noble deed.
In both selfishness and self-centeredness the range and space of the periphery is very less, since obviously the role of other in defining my experience is not any rich. The other is pushed, ignored or used.
Such a selfish and selfcentered self often sees the half side of the reality very clearly, but then the other half is either not seen at all (selfishness), or is not recognised (self-centeredness).
But then at the end of the day, does selfishness and self-centeredness give us that coveted experience of satisfaction and contentment? Often not, because in both cases there is fight or laboured thinking against the natural flow of things.
That feeling of lightness, of the independence from anything else to barter contentment with – doesnt happen for a selfish and self-centered person.
To let go, to let live and share, brings in joy of collective existence which is hardly known to the selfish and self-centerd self.
Is there a way out for the self from that illusion created by itself?
Yes! See beyond, see together, and increase the limits of ones (both yours and mine) self-concept.