24th September 2023

Am I Selfish?: 11 Actionable Steps to Overcome

Am I Selfish?: 11 Actionable Steps to Overcome

Is it wrong to prioritize yourself over others?

Imagine a close friend or your partner requests a favor from you, and deep down, you genuinely don’t feel compelled to fulfill it.

It’s definitely a moment you’ve likely experienced and can be quite frustrating. Are there times you’ve contemplated your actions and asked yourself, “Am I selfish?”

Have you ever felt guilty for prioritizing your needs first?

We’ll help you distinguish self-care and selfish behavior, so you can navigate the blurry lines that separate personal boundaries and acts of self-centeredness.

This article will help you understand whether you should try to be less selfish, and provide you with actionable steps to be less selfish.

Understanding Selfishness

Am I Selfish

Selfishness is a term often associated with negative judgments and moral implications. It refers to the tendency of people to prioritize their needs, desires, and interests above those of others.

F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W. in Psychology Today notes two defining characteristics of selfishness: “Being concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; Having no regard for the needs or feelings of others.”

  • It could be someone who frequently cancels plans at the last minute without regard for others’ time and effort.
  • They may make important decisions without consulting you or fail to show empathy during challenging times.

You should understand that selfishness is not bad until a certain degree. Therefore, it’s important to raise awareness that occasional self-interest is perfectly normal and necessary for our well-being.

However, pertinent selfishness creates an unhealthy environment when it becomes a recurring pattern.

7 Reasons for Selfishness

Selfishness can arise from various factors and can have many causes. Here are several characteristics that contribute to selfishness:

1. Lack of Empathy

Selfish people often exhibit a lack of empathy, making it difficult for them to understand or consider the feelings and needs of others.

A partner that lacks empathy will never prioritize your needs; their needs will always come first, even if it threatens your peace of mind.

They prioritize their desires and interests without considering how they affect those around them.

2. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Of course, classic narcissists are selfish people.

Their narcissistic personality makes them prioritize their needs and desires above others.

A narcissist’s selfish trait is rooted in their need for constant validation and an inflated sense of self-importance.

Barth on Hack Spirit says that dealing consistently with someone who is selfish can make your life miserable: “Books have been written about narcissism, “Generation Me,” even “healthy” selfishness. But when someone you have to deal with regularly is consistently self-involved and self-centered, they can make your life miserable.”

However, if you’re selfish, it might be hard to distinguish whether it’s egotism or narcissism.

3. Antisocial Personality Disorder

People with antisocial personality disorder may exhibit selfish behavior due to a disregard for social norms, rules, and the rights of others.

They often prioritize their interests and manipulate or exploit others for personal gain. Antisocial individuals may lack empathy and disregard the consequences of their actions.

4. Lack of Time or Prioritization

We’ve all done this. You have only two days to enjoy your weekend, and you have other stuff you want to do than meet that friend. You cancel your meet-up, but should you feel guilty about that?

Sometimes, selfishness may stem from individuals feeling overwhelmed by their commitments and responsibilities. When you have limited time or perceive yourself as too busy, you may prioritize your own needs and neglect the well-being of others.

However, the key is to communicate this clearly while keeping your friend’s feelings in mind. 

5. Materialistic Mindset

Materialistic individuals place a high value on material possessions and personal gain.

If you prioritize shopping sprees and lavish lifestyles over meaningful connections, and shared experiences, you would certainly come across as selfish.

You may prioritize acquiring wealth, status, or possessions, which is indirectly at the expense of relationships or the well-being of others.

6. Insecurity and Fear of Scarcity

In competitive environments, individuals can develop a fear of scarcity, believing that there isn’t enough success or resources to go around.

Choosing Therapy identifies fear of scarcity as a “mindset characterized by a belief that one has limited resources or cannot provide for themselves or others. This unhealthy mentality can lead to intense anxiety, which can cause significant problems in one’s life. A scarcity mindset may develop due to financial trauma, poverty, or societal expectations.”

It could be that your attachment style makes you portray this type of behavior.

Another explanation is that you might feel like there is not enough to do the things you want out of life. You’ll likely manifest this in spending the free time you have in your way instead of compromising with others.

7. Competitive Environments and Individualism

Societies and contexts that emphasize competition and individualism can inadvertently foster selfishness.

In work settings that emphasize individual achievements and reward competition, colleagues prioritize their goals over collective success.

The pressure to stand out and excel individually can inadvertently promote self-centeredness, hindering collaboration and teamwork.

8 Examples of How Selfishness Manifests In Relationships

In an intimate relationship, selfishness can manifest in various ways and harm the overall dynamics and well-being of both individuals involved.

According to myeablog, “Being around a selfish person can be draining, and over time it can become an unfulfilling friendship that you feel inclined to let go of.”

Here are some ways in which selfishness may play out in a relationship:

1. Lack of Consideration

Selfish individuals often display a lack of consideration for their partner’s feelings, needs, and desires. They prioritize their wants and expect their partner to accommodate them without reciprocation.

2. Disregard for Boundaries

Selfish people find it difficult to respect and honor their partner’s boundaries.

Rachel Boehm, NBC-HWC explains that “boundaries are part of self-care. Without boundaries, people can treat you however they want without consequences.”

Even worse, selfish people can go as far as ignoring these boundaries, invading people’s personal space or engaging in behaviors that make their partner uncomfortable.

However, it could also be a narcissistic tendency if you’re boundaries are constantly crossed or even ignored. It’s a thin line, but we tried to clarify the differences between egotists and narcissists in our article.

3. Emotional Manipulation

Am I Selfish

To get what they want, selfish people employ emotional manipulation tactics, like guilt-tripping or gaslighting, to get their way or gain control over their partner. 

Narcissistic people often engage in unintentional emotional manipulation due to their egotistical tendencies.

4. Imbalance in Effort

Selfishness can lead to an imbalance in effort and contribution within the relationship. One partner may consistently put in more time, energy, and effort to meet the needs of the other, while the selfish individual takes more than they give. 

If you feel like you are not contributing enough in your relationship, you should definitely read our post about 50/50 relationships, or codependency in relationships.

5. Lack of Empathy and Support

If you’re selfish, you’ll often struggle with empathy and providing emotional support to your partner.

You could, for example, be dismissive of your partner’s emotions, minimize their concerns, or fail to offer genuine support during difficult times.

This lack of empathy can leave your partner feeling invalidated and emotionally disconnected.

6. Competitive Relationship

Selfish individuals may view their relationship as a competition, always striving to come out on top or gain the upper hand. They prioritize their success and achievements, often at the expense of their partner’s well-being. 

If you’re in a relationship, you need to be supportive and see your growth as their growth. You’re in it for the long run and running the marathon together! 

7. Neglecting Relationship Maintenance

Selfishness can lead to a neglect of relationship maintenance tasks. Selfish people may prioritize their needs and interests over investing time and effort to nurture the relationship.

They may neglect communication, intimacy, and quality time, leading to emotional distance and relationship dissatisfaction.

8. Lack of Compromise

Selfish people often struggle with compromise, as they prioritize their desires and are unwilling to meet their partner halfway.

They may resist making concessions or finding mutually beneficial solutions, leading to frequent conflicts and a communication breakdown.

Am I Selfish

Am I Selfish: 11 Ways To Overcome

If you recognize that you have tendencies towards selfishness and want to make a positive change, here are some steps you can take to stop being selfish:

1. Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is anything but stupid.

Anybody who has ever taken up journalling will likely have developed emotionally in some form or another. 

Begin by honestly reflecting on your behavior in relationships.

Recognize signs of selfishness, such as consistently prioritizing your needs without considering your partner’s feelings or well-being.

Understand the difference between healthy self-care and self-centeredness. Consider if your actions align with being a compassionate partner.

2. Educate Yourself

You should learn more about the impact of selfishness on relationships.

To work on yourself, you’ll have to understand the difference between occasional selfish behavior and patterns associated with narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder.

3. Establish Healthy Boundaries

Set clear and healthy boundaries in your relationships. Communicate openly with your partner about your needs and actively listen to them.

Try to find a balance between prioritizing your well-being while being considerate of your partner’s feelings and desires. 

4. Practice Empathy

Empathy is hard, but you can get better at it.

Develop empathy towards your partner by putting yourself in their shoes and genuinely trying to understand their perspective.

Pay attention to their emotions, needs, and desires. Practice active listening and validate their experiences. Empathy fosters connection and helps counteract self-centeredness.

5. Communicate Openly

Improve your communication skills by expressing your thoughts, emotions, and desires openly and honestly.

Encourage your partner to do the same. Effective communication builds trust and understanding, reducing the likelihood of selfish behavior driven by miscommunication or unmet needs.

6. Cultivate Generosity

Ever heard that your career chances drastically improve if you leverage your professional network? 

Actively seek opportunities to be generous and considerate towards your partner. Practice acts of kindness, such as small gestures or thoughtful surprises, without expecting anything in return.

Generosity promotes a sense of reciprocity and nurtures a more selfless mindset.

The idea is to give, without expecting good to happen to you. However, in practice, you’ll notice people will go out of their way to help you as well. 

Life is hard enough, and together you’re stronger. Seems like a win-win situation to me! 

7. Acceptance and Compromise

Embrace the idea that relationships involve compromise and acceptance. Recognize that difficult situations, emergencies, or tough decisions require selflessness and flexibility. Learn to adapt and find solutions that prioritize the well-being of both yourself and your partner.

8. Seek Feedback and Professional Support

Request feedback from your partner and trusted friends to gain insights into your behavior and identify areas for improvement. Consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor who specializes in relationships.

Professional support can provide valuable tools and strategies tailored to your specific circumstances.

9. Foster Authentic Connections


Cultivate authentic and meaningful relationships that go beyond surface-level interactions. Surround yourself with compassionate people who model selflessness and inspire positive change. Authentic connections provide a supportive environment for personal growth and help challenge selfish tendencies.

10. Practice Self-Care

Prioritize your self-care and well-being. Understand that taking care of yourself is not inherently selfish as long as it is balanced with consideration for your partner.

Maintain a healthy physical and emotional lifestyle to enhance your ability to be a supportive and compassionate partner.

Considering therapy? We’ve assembled the benefits of individual therapy. Additionally, it doesn’t need to be that pricey nowadays. 

11. Reflect, Adjust, and Celebrate Progress

Continuously reflect on your journey and make adjustments as needed.

Don’t forget to celebrate your progress in overcoming selfish behaviors and acknowledge your positive impact on your relationships.

We’re all trying to improve in some areas of our lives.

Personal growth is a lifelong process, and each step towards selflessness strengthens your relationships and enriches your life.


Congrats! You’ve made a massive step toward being less selfish. 

You now understand that selfishness is a complex trait that exists within the human condition. You’re aware of the effects it has on your relationship, but you can be glad it’s not a fixed characteristic.

By understanding the reasons for selfishness and the various ways it manifests, you can embark on a journey of self-awareness and personal growth.

Did you like this article? Feel free to contact us and let us know if this article helped you on your way to becoming less selfish.


Is being selfish always bad?

Selfishness exists on a spectrum, and its moral evaluation depends on the context and extent of the behavior.

While excessive selfishness can harm relationships and societies, healthy self-interest is essential for self-preservation and personal well-being.

Can selfishness be unlearned?

Yes, selfishness can be unlearned through self-reflection, practicing empathy, and adopting behaviors that prioritize the needs of others alongside one’s own.

However, it requires a willingness to change and a commitment to personal growth.

Are there any benefits to being selfish?

In certain situations, acting in self-interest can protect one’s well-being and promote personal growth. However, a purely self-centered approach often hinders healthy relationships and can lead to societal consequences.

How can selfishness affect mental health?

Excessive selfishness can contribute to feelings of isolation, dissatisfaction, and strained relationships, negatively impacting mental health. Cultivating empathy and fostering meaningful connections with others can enhance mental well-being.

Can selfishness be justified in times of crisis?

During times of crisis, individuals may prioritize their survival and well-being. However, fostering a sense of collective responsibility and empathy can lead to more effective and compassionate responses to crises.

About Author

Johan Froentjes

A veteran writer for relationship content who uses academic research to write articles and provide expert insights.

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