Sunday, October 18, 2009

In which selfishness is selfless?

A smiley by Pumbaa, drawn using a text editor.Image via Wikipedia
OK, this is a concept I really struggle with.  I mean, I get the first part, but I have quite a bit of trouble grasping the second:

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
(Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project)

I can't quote pinpoint why, but it seems that going out opf my way to make myself and only myself happy is the very definition of selfish.  Seems like it's better to just make other people happy, and if whatever you're doing (whether it's volunteering at a shelter or going with a friend to his/her favorite restaurant) happens to make you happy, too, awesome -- keep doing that and everyone wins

Being selfish without considering the happiness of others seems like a surefire way to make others unhappy -- you take advantage of them, or neglect them, and then they're angry and resentful and don't love you anymore. 

Whoa.  Baggage much?

Now maybe this post from Happy Days at the New York Times is on to something:

You can see this as an internal battle between two individuals residing in the same body: one who wants to be thin, sober and chaste, the other who wants to eat, drink and fornicate. It’s the long-term self who is probably reading this now; this is the self that chooses to go to the therapist and read self-help books, working to thwart the short-term self when it comes to life in the presence of temptation.

We shouldn’t underestimate the short-term self, though. It is not necessarily evil and not necessarily stupid. Sometimes the long-term self should stay out of its way.

This doesn’t mean that we should be indulging in [short-term pleasures]—perhaps there are better things to do today than go to a horror movie. But it does suggest that we should hesitate before dismissing such desires as selfish or irrelevant. Perhaps the good life doesn’t require constant warfare. Perhaps people are better off if their multiple selves establish a truce, respecting one another’s different strengths, and working together to satisfy shared goals.

So, what do you think? Assuming it's true that making yourself happy makes others happy -- and while I don't understand it, I'll work with the premise -- how do you, personally, find a way to make yourself and just yourself happy without making others unhappy in the process?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

  © Blogger template 'Hypnoticat' by 2008

Back to TOP