On many occasions I have given thought to the term “being selfish” as it is commonly used by all of us. It is wrong to be selfish? Speaking purely on economic grounds, I think it is rational to work in our own self interest. This is a natural human instinct and trying to go against it will lead to unhappiness. If it is natural for all of us to work in such a way, that our activities will enhance our happiness and take us to a higher level of social order, then why is this term selfish so misunderstood? I think the answer lies in our inability to differentiate between selfishness and self-centeredness.
I believe that all of us work hard to promote our own interest or the collective interest of our family and its wellbeing. Rationality dictates that human beings should be selfish to acquire higher level of assets which leads to higher order of happiness. The most important aspect that we need to take care of is that in this process of being selfish and promoting our own self interest, we do not hurt anyone else or the interest of anyone else. For example, as long as we can continue to promote the welfare of self and our family without hurting the interest of anyone else we should be fine and not worry about anything. In this sense it is perfectly ok to be selfish. In fact some degree of such selfishness will take you closer to your goal faster than otherwise.
So at what point selfishness turns to self centeredness. We can all introspect and we will find that to some degree we have been self-centered in our ways to life and living. The concept of self centeredness comes into play when your action of profit will result in a loss to someone else. We do not need to take the term profit in the literal sense, what it mean is simply that when we benefit at the cost of someone else. In a way what ever we benefit is due to a sacrifice made by someone else. In this transaction where your gain is offset by loss to someone else, there is so value addition to the society as a whole. For example if you steal $100 from me, the society as a whole is still having the same amount of money. Only the hands that hold the money have changed. Similar is the case when people act in a self-centered manner. The net addition to the over all welfare of society is almost zero.
So the most important aspect is running our day-to-day life is to have an understanding that our actions can hurt the interest of other people around us. We may not feel the pain till it happens to us. So always try and promote you interest, whether within your organization, community, college, etc but remember that you do not hurt the interest of others in this process. It is important to enjoy your success but learn to enjoy the success of others around you as well. This is what makes you a person who is admired and people will always look up to you in life.