How much selfishness is too much selfishness?

We see a big part of every spiritual tradition, all these kind of teachings about wisdom and all this kind of thing, a big factor is this thing that might be called ego.
And you know, that’s a very modern kind of psychological term, and there’s so many different words that can be used for it that have different connotations.
But the idea seems to be about the focus on the self, on yourself.
Even the word ego means “I”.
It is the idea of myself, my individual nature, my individual existence as an individual, and that’s the ego.
And if we become too focused on this individual, on this who we are, then that tends to lead to certain kinds of might say limited kinds of thinking, maybe even into self-destructive ways of being.
It’s like overly focusing on ourselves as individuals.
Which when we think of it, naturally, OK, that seems to be perfectly normal and understandable.
I mean, if I am me, why not worry about myself and take care of myself? It’s very logical.
And so much about all these things with the ego, they’re very rational and logical, that I simply want to take care of myself because that’s me.
And it makes sense.
I want to do things that make me feel good and avoid things that make me feel bad.
So it’s all focused on the self.
But yet we see all these traditions, all these teachings around the world, keep coming back to this idea that if you focus too much on yourself, that somehow that leads to less than optimal results, to a more limited smaller life than we could have if we let go of this idea of the self.
But I’ve always had a hard time with this idea.
Maybe just because of my built-in natural selfishness that comes from having an ego and thinking about yourself.
But also it seems like becoming selfless and saying “OK, I don’t care about myself.
I’m just going to you know help others”: it so easily falls into so many traps of simply being taken advantage of.
Other people can simply walk all over you.
Coming in with this wonderful, idealistic sense of wanting to help others, and there will be others who will simply take everything that you’re offering and maybe say “Thank you”, maybe not, and then “See you later.” So we need to have some kind of ego, some kind of selfishness, it seems, just even as a protection for ourselves.
So the balance of how much do I think about myself versus how much do I take this expanded view that it’s not all about me, it’s about the bigger picture: that seems to be one of the big challenges that I’m thinking about now, working on now.
So I’m not sure exactly where to draw the line.
Like, where is it too much? How much is too much selfishness? I mean, if we have absolutely zero selfishness, and you know, don’t even eat because eating, well, you know, how can you- you know, somebody else worked for all that, to make all that food, and you know, why don’t you give that food to somebody else who’s more hungry than you? You know, even just like taking care of ourselves in a basic way, maybe that needs a certain kind of thought about ourselves.
So we need to have some level of selfishness, maybe.
Unless we could imagine even taking care of ourselves is somehow not about ourselves but still about the bigger picture.
Like I’m going to eat and wash and take care of myself so that I can better help people overall, the big picture.
But it seems to be going too far to just give up on this idea of the self and selfishness entirely.
You know, at some level, we have to look out for ourselves.
And yet, when it goes too far, it clearly leads to some unpleasant directions, and really doesn’t really make us happy.
You know, the people that are always thinking about themselves and trying to be happy usually are not.
So where is this line? Where is it too much? How much is a good level of “selfishness”, and where should we then limit it so that we can be focused on the bigger picture? So I’d be curious to hear what you think.

#selfishness #selflessness #ego

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