Explore the benefits and importance of selflessness. Learn to be more selfless through examples and reasoning.
Taking care of your own needs and well-being is important but considering the needs of others can also be beneficial to you. The consideration of others' needs and feelings above your own is called being selfless. People who walk through life with a selfless attitude are emotionally stable, feel in harmony, and experience “authentic, durable happiness” (Dambrun, 2017).
Selflessness is important because it can play an important role in our well-being. A 2017 study found that people who demonstrated selfishness had fluctuating levels of happiness while those who demonstrated selflessness enjoyed “authentic, durable happiness” (Dambrum, 2017). Making an effort to shift towards this state of mind could increase the amount—in addition to enhancing the quality—of your happiness.
Volunteering may be the first idea that comes to mind when you think about selflessness, and while this is a wonderful practice, it is only one of many ways we can be giving with our time, energy, and love. For example, learning to be more considerate of others can be helpful for many areas of your life including work, marriage, and everyday happiness.
Selflessness literally means placing less importance on yourself than on others. It is a state of mind in which you put an equal, or more, amount of consideration towards other people's interests rather than towards your own. Selfless people recognize the needs and feelings of others and try to show kindness in their actions.
A selfless person can be described as:
Respectful (Neff, 2003)
If anyone has ever said that you are a selfless person, consider it a compliment. Many great people throughout history have been described as selfless—people such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. These two pillars of history completely put the well-being of others above their own personal interests.
It’s okay if you feel like you need more practice being selfless. Keep reading if you would like to try to learn how to be more considerate of others.
Acts of selflessness can range from small everyday gestures of kindness to large donations of time or money.
The following are some examples of selflessness in everyday life that you may have performed or experienced before:
Holding the door open for the person behind you.
Someone allowing you to merge on a busy freeway.
Volunteering for an activity at your child’s school.
Allowing the person with one item to go ahead of your full cart at the store.
Giving up your seat on public transportation to someone who needs it more than you.
A large financial donation from a wealthy person to build a children’s hospital.
Someone who volunteers for twenty years at the same organization.
A person who donates a kidney to a family member.
Whether large or small, any gesture of selflessness has a positive ripple effect outwards. I know that when I experience or perform a small gesture of kindness, my day immediately brightens up. Are there ways you could incorporate more small acts of everyday kindness into your life?
How to Be More Selfless
Would you like to try to be more selfless? We could all benefit from showing and receiving a little more kindness in our everyday interactions. Here is how you can get started:
Try to recognize that other people have their own ideas, beliefs, and feelings separate from your own.
Try to celebrate the fact that we are all so unique and different.
Before you speak or take action, think about how what you say might affect the people it is directed towards.
Try to act from a place of kindness and consideration towards others.
Attempt some of the selfless activities described in the next section.
Learning to be more selfless is not an overnight process. The more you practice recognizing when you are acting with selfish motivation, the easier it can become to change that to selfless action. No one is perfect but we do have the power to build new skills and develop new traits if we put effort into it.
Final Thoughts on Selflessness
Selflessness is a state of mind that can help you achieve “authentic, durable happiness” (Dambrun, 2017). Being kind by considering the needs and feelings of others is how you selflessly move through the world. Acts of selflessness do not have to be large gestures—small, everyday acts of kindness have a similar ripple effect throughout the world. Try to learn to celebrate the differences we all share and appreciate other people’s points of view to act more selflessly and you just might see an increase in the quality of your happiness and relationships.
Dambrun, M. (2017). Self-centeredness and selflessness: Happiness correlates with and mediating psychological processes. PeerJ, 5.
Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85–101.