What makes people selfish

How to Deal with Them

If you have a relationship with a selfish person, practicing healthy communication and setting boundaries can help you protect your own well-being.

Do you have a selfish person in your life? People who exhibit selfishness tend to have a pattern of acting in their own self-interests with no regard for who they may hurt along the way.

It can be exhausting and painful to have a relationship with a selfish person who doesn’t seem to care about you or your needs.

Many different factors may lead people to behave in selfish ways. If you’re impacted by someone’s selfish behavior, there are certain ways you can approach the relationship to protect yourself.

Selfishness can be defined as the trait that leads people to frequently act in their own interests without any regard for how their actions could impact others.

In the American Psychological Association (APA) dictionary, the definition of “selfishness” is listed as:

the tendency to act excessively or solely in a manner that benefits oneself, even if others are disadvantaged.

Some signs of a selfish person include:

  1. having no regard for how their behavior impacts others
  2. consistently acting in their own self-interests instead of meeting the needs of others
  3. having no empathy for the suffering of other people
  4. showing no remorse when they’ve hurt other people
  5. using manipulation tactics to get what they want
  6. always asking for favors but never repaying them
  7. being unkind, or their kindness comes with a price
  8. using others to get what they want
  9. not giving back to others
  10. feeling entitled to always getting what they want, even if it means that others will be pushed down

Self-centered vs. selfish

Self-centeredness is similar to selfishness, but the two concepts might differ slightly in important ways.

People who are selfish often knowingly behave in ways that hurt other people so that they, themselves, can benefit.

Self-centered people are overly focused on themselves; the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines “self-centered” as preoccupied with oneself and one’s affairs.

Someone who is self-centered could be too absorbed in thoughts about themselves to even give a second thought to how their behaviors impact others. But self-centered people could be able to feel more remorse when they realize that they’ve hurt someone else.

Both selfish and self-centered people can be difficult to deal with for those around them.

If you have a selfish person in your life, you might feel overwhelmed or frustrated about not knowing how to communicate with them. It could feel like no matter what you say or do, this person continues to hurt you (either intentionally or unintentionally) to act in their own interests.

If you have a selfish person in your life, it’s likely that they’ve hurt you at some point — whether they realize it or not. Here are some tips you can use to deal with the selfish people you have in your life.

1. Don’t take it personally

Understand that selfish people behave in their own self-interest, regardless of how you behave. Their selfishness isn’t your fault. Try not to take their behavior personally or blame yourself.

2. Set clear boundaries

Setting, and sticking to, personal boundaries may help you be less affected by the selfish person’s behavior.

For example, you might have a selfish person in your life who manipulates you into loaning them money, but have no intention of paying it back even when you need it.

In this scenario, you might consider drawing a boundary that you will no longer support this person financially.

Setting boundaries can sometimes be more drastic — like leaving the relationship.

Only you know what’s right for your life. But many people find that they need to make the difficult decision to cut selfish people out of their lives for the sake of their own well-being.

3. Practice acceptance

Understand that, especially if they live with a mental health condition, there may not be anything you can do to change this person’s behavior.

The only person whose behavior you can control is yourself. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to confront the person about their selfish behavior.

But you might find that a confrontation doesn’t change the person’s behavior as you’d hoped. It’s difficult to practice acceptance in situations like this, but it may be necessary.

4. Get educated

Especially if the person behaves selfishly because of a mental health condition, it may be helpful to learn more about their condition.

Being educated on the root causes behind selfish behavior can help you to have empathy for the person as well as a deeper understanding that their behavior is not your fault.

Assertive communication is a skill that may take time to develop. Practicing assertive communication allows you to set clear boundaries and state how you feel to an individual.

When you’re able to communicate in a way that allows you to advocate for yourself this may help effectively communicate with a selfish person.

Assertive communication resources

All of us behave in selfish or self-centered ways sometimes. And behaving in “selfish” ways could even be a form of self-care, as long as it doesn’t become a tendency to continuously act in these ways.

For example, you might decide not to go to a friend’s birthday party because you’re feeling sick. In this instance, you’re putting your own health needs first, even though it could hurt your friend.

But most people wouldn’t call you a generally selfish person for doing so.

Experts say that most humans fall somewhere on a spectrum between pathological selfishness and extreme altruism. You could act in your own interests sometimes, but also show pro-social or altruistic behaviors at other times.

But some people are on the more extreme end of this spectrum. Research shows that people could end up on the selfish end of the spectrum due to a few different factors.

Cultural factors

Research has found that the culture you grow up in also plays a role in selfishness.

According to a large 2021 study, there’s a positive correlation between national culture and people who believe that selfishness is a source of inequality.

Research suggests people who believe rich people are richer due to selfishness are more likely to consider inequality as unfair and agree government should aim to reduce inequality in their country.

The study also indicates that people in countries with extensive corruption and weak political institutions are more likely to carry the same beliefs about those who are rich.

Beyond the national culture that you grew up in, family culture can also influence selfish behaviors. 2018 research states that children in families where the women contribute financially, and where children are assigned household chores tend to be less selfish.

Genetics and neurobiology

Some philosophers have theorized that all humans are inherently selfish due to our desire to preserve our genetic lineage.

For example, people are more likely to act in prosocial (unselfish) ways when the other person shares their own genes. Our species’ instinct for self-preservation could allow us to act in unselfish ways if it means that our genetic lineage will continue.

Certain gene variations could also contribute to prosocial vs. selfish behavior. The 2018 research mentioned above suggests that people with genetic variants of OXTR and AVPR1a genes are more likely to exhibit altruistic and compassionate behavior. But we need more research to be able to say for sure.

That same research also suggests that differences in people’s brains could also contribute to the likelihood that someone acts in a selfish way (as opposed to altruistically).

Parts of the brain that seem to be involved include the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex.

Personality disorders

Personality disorders are a category of mental health conditions that impact someone’s long-term functioning (rather than symptoms coming on in episodes, like major depressive disorder).

Personality disorders impact the person’s entire worldview, including how they perceive and relate to both others and themselves.

Antisocial personality disorder, also called psychopathy, is one personality disorder that could cause people to be selfish.

People with antisocial personality disorder have a diminished capacity for empathy. Since they don’t feel remorse for hurting other people, they could be more likely to hurt or violate others. For example, serial killers usually have antisocial personality disorder.

Other personality disorders could also contribute to self-centeredness and selfishness, albeit to a lesser degree. For example, people with narcissistic personality disorder often behave in ways that are self-centered and feel more important than others.

People with histrionic personality disorder have a need to call attention to themselves and exaggerate their emotional responses.

People can behave selfishly for different reasons, including but not limited to, having a personality disorder that affects their patterns of behavior.

If you’re affected by a selfish person in your life, then it’s important to remember that it isn’t your fault.

Setting strong personal boundaries can help you maintain a healthy relationship with this person while protecting your own well-being.

11 Insightful Characteristics of Selfish People

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We all know that the world is full of selfish people. They can make your life difficult, and they are often a drain on society as a whole. This blog post will explore 11 characteristics of selfish people in an effort to help you identify them more easily.

1. They are more concerned with their own needs than the well-being of others

Selfish people have a hard time caring about anyone but themselves. They’re not just being rude when they don’t care, it’s genuinely impossible for them to prioritize someone else’s needs over their own.

People who are selfish can be abrasive and uncomfortable to interact with because of this. If you find that your friends or family members are selfish, it’s important to make some space between you and those people.

2. They use manipulation to get what they want

Selfish people will do anything and everything in order to achieve their goals. Manipulation can take many forms, but no matter the form it takes, it’s always a sign of selfishness.

Selfish people are willing to say whatever is necessary when the situation calls for it; this means that they’ll often lie or change the truth, just to get what they want.

3. They value material acquisition

Selfish people are all about the pursuit of wealth and power. Material acquisition can mean different things for different people, but it’s always a sign that someone is looking out for themselves above everyone else.

They’ll take advantage of others in order to get what they want: this might be as simple as lying or taking something from someone without permission, but it might also be as complicated and dangerous as a criminal act.

4. They self-promote

Selfish people are always looking out for themselves, which means that they have to be in the spotlight. Self-promotion is a sign of selfishness because it’s all about getting attention and recognition without caring whether or not someone else has received any type of credit before them.

These types of people also want to receive all the praise for their accomplishments and will often take credit even when they didn’t do anything. Self-promotion is an easy way to spot a selfish person, but it’s not always obvious because these people might hide this characteristic from others.

5. They lack empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It’s important because it makes us more social beings, but selfish people are incapable of feeling this emotion for others.

This means that they’ll never miss their own interests over someone else’s; no matter what situation arises, you can be sure that they’ll prioritize their needs over someone else’s.

Selfish people are unable to feel the compassion for others that most of us can, which makes them completely intolerable in many social situations. They might not seem selfish all the time because they’re adept at hiding this characteristic from those around them, but don’t let yourself get fooled by a clever manipulator.

6. They’ll usually do anything to get what they want

Selfish people don’t care about doing anything that could be deemed morally wrong in order to gain some sort of personal benefit. This might mean lying or stealing; it also might involve more serious crimes like physical assault, theft and robbery, fraud, etc.

It’s important to note that selfish people will do whatever they can get away with as long as they get what they want. They’re not going to care about the consequences for anyone else, which means that it’s up to you if you want to continue interacting with a selfish person or cut them out of your life altogether.

7. They tend to be unkind

Selfish people don’t care about others’ feelings and needs, which means that they’ll often be inconsiderate of the emotions felt by an individual.

It might not always seem like someone is selfish because there are plenty of times when a person can act selflessly for others without being aware that they’re doing it, but those who are selfish don’t care about anyone else. This means that they’re not afraid to be unkind, rude, or disrespectful in order to get what they want.

Selfish people might also do things like insult someone’s intelligence or appearance just for fun because it makes them feel better than the other person; this is an especially dangerous characteristic because it makes them even more difficult to be around.

8. They tend to be self-absorbed

Selfish people are so focused on themselves that they become completely oblivious to what’s happening around them. Self-absorption is a hard characteristic for anyone, but it becomes especially dangerous when someone has power or authority over others.

When an individual with this personality trait holds any type of position where they have control over other’s lives, they’re likely to abuse their power and misuse it.

9. They don’t care about consequences

Selfish people are reckless and impulsive, which means that they’re not going to consider the possible outcomes of their actions.

This is one of the most dangerous characteristics because it’s difficult for anyone else to predict what a selfish person might do next; even if someone does know them well, there will still be times when they’re not sure what this person is capable of.

This means that it’s difficult for anyone to have any type of control over selfish people because if you try and assert your power, there’s no telling how the other person will react or respond. It might seem like some sort of balance can be established between a selfless individual and a selfish person, but it’s not something that will ever work.

10. They don’t feel sorry or remorseful

Selfish people don’t feel guilt, regret, or remorse for the bad things they’ve done. This means that if you apologize to them and try to make amends, there’s no guarantee that this person will accept your apology.

It also doesn’t mean that a selfish person won’t be able to understand why what they did was wrong or hurtful to you, but they won’t be sorry for the pain that they’ve caused.

11. They have a sense of entitlement and expect everything to go their way

Selfish people feel that they deserve anything and everything, which means that it’s difficult for them to accept when things don’t go their way.

They might be self-absorbed at the moment, but this doesn’t mean that a selfish person won’t take any responsibility or ownership of what happens if there are consequences; they’ll just make sure that they don’t get in trouble or suffer any negative consequences.

Final Thoughts

The list of characteristics that make up the personality of a selfish person is not exhaustive. However, it does give you a good idea of how to spot someone who only cares about themselves and will do anything necessary to get ahead without regard for others.

If you want your life or business to go well- consider following some of these tips for recognizing self-centered people so they don’t take advantage of you.

Why everyone around is selfish and what to do about it

March 6, 2019 Relationship Column

In fact, the reason is not in the actions of others, but in how we evaluate them.

Andrei Yakomaskin

Teacher and writer. Shares stories and writes about psychology in his group on the VKontakte social network.

What associations do you have with the word "egoism"? I'm sure they are bad. Despite this, there is a hypothesis in psychology that people build relationships and make other decisions in life, guided only by selfish motives.

I would like to tell you where the idea of ​​others seeking personal gain comes from and what can be done to improve interaction with society.

Why do we think that everyone around us is selfish

Each person at least once accused another of excessive selfishness. Mentally or out loud, it doesn't matter. The main thing is that we notice selfish behavior in others much more often than in ourselves.

There is a scientific explanation for this - naive cynicism. This is a distortion of thinking that each of us has to varying degrees. His definition from cognitive psychology sounds like this: a person naively expects others to behave more selfishly than they actually are.

This effect was proved in 1999 by American psychologists Justin Kruger and Thomas Gilovich. They carried out the following experiment.

Psychologists gathered groups of pairs of people: spouses, debaters, darts and video game players. The task of the participants was to assess the degree of responsibility for good and bad events in the couple. To do this, each person was asked two questions.

  1. What do you think is your contribution to good and bad events in a couple?” Most of the participants answered the same way. They said they were about equally equal in effort and/or success (winning a game or argument, maintaining a marriage) and equally equal in making mistakes.
  2. “How do you think your partner will evaluate his contribution to good and bad events?” And here the most interesting began. The participants claimed that their partners would necessarily exaggerate their contribution to a victory or a happy marriage and downplay their responsibility for mistakes.

This expectation of selfish behavior from others is called naive cynicism. He is naive because people do not look for evidence of what they attribute to others. They simply consider others to be selfish, especially those who disagree with them. Here is a classic description of the theory of naive cynicism:

  • I am not biased.
  • You are biased if you disagree with me.
  • Your intentions/actions reflect your egocentric prejudices.

It is naive to believe that only disagreement with you makes people selfish. This is how small children behave. When a mother doesn't give her son a chocolate bar before dinner, he thinks that the conniving mother wants to eat it herself and acts selfishly, when in fact she cares about the child's health.

Like most thought distortions, naïve cynicism is present in every person, but manifests itself in varying degrees. Someone labels everyone as selfish and surrounds himself with sycophants, while someone accuses others of greed only when he is captured by emotions.

Egoism is not that a person lives as he wants, but that he makes others live according to his principles.

Oscar Wilde

How to overcome naive cynicism

To begin with, we must admit that we are all naive cynics. There are no people who would not try at least once unfairly to call others egoists. You could blame a partner who did something for himself and didn't consult you. Or a stranger in the store who managed to run faster than you to the free checkout.

Manifestations of naive cynicism should be considered as a scale, on one end of which is a person who considers everyone to be egoists without exception (regardless of circumstances), and on the other end is a rational genius who always reasonably evaluates people's actions. Most of us are in the middle.

Do not try to objectively evaluate a person's contribution to this or that achievement. You still won't succeed. After all, the foundation of naive cynicism is comparing yourself with others. To shake it, three questions are enough:

  • Is this person really selfish?
  • Are there other explanations for his behavior?
  • Perhaps it is to my advantage to consider him an egoist in order to justify myself?

The more often you ask yourself these questions and take the time to give them complete answers, the less you will succumb to naive cynicism.

Another effective method was proposed by the authors of the above experiment, psychologists Kruger and Gilovich. In their study, they noted that the best strategy for dealing with naïve cynicism is to realize that there are more benefits to working together than to contributing alone.

Thus, a football team can win only if each football player interacts with other players, and a married couple will "live happily ever after" only if both partners strive for this.

Is a person selfish by nature? Scientists have not yet been able to give a definite answer. But of one thing I am sure: joint efforts bring more results than actions alone. And if we make these efforts, guided by the idea of ​​common good, and not selfishness, we will always achieve more.

Read also 🧐

  • "Toy" selfishness, or Why you should not help your child get what he wants
  • How to save a relationship if you are a hopeless egoist
  • What is healthy female selfishness and how to achieve it

Happiness makes people more selfish

Scientists have found that happy people are more selfish towards others - even if they are close friends.

Specialists from the University of New South Wales conducted several experiments to study how a person's happy state affects his behavior with others, writes New Scientist.

To begin with, scientists conducted a fake test of cognitive abilities among the experimental students. Afterwards, they were randomly told positive or negative test results and asked to complete a mood questionnaire. Then the subjects were given lottery tickets, telling them that they could keep them or share them with other participants in the experiment. It turned out that the happier the students were, the more tickets they kept for themselves.

The following experiment was carried out in laboratory conditions: the mood of the subjects was purposefully improved or worsened by showing certain videos, after which the participants of the experiment again filled out the questionnaires. The researchers then once again asked volunteers to share lottery tickets, but this time with a close friend. It turned out that even in this situation, happy ticket holders showed more selfishness compared to the unfortunate ones.

University of New South Wales research psychologist Joe Forgas believes that the reason for this effect is that a happy state makes people feel secure. This leads to the fact that a happy person is completely immersed in his own thoughts and experiences and behaves more selfishly and inattentively.

"A positive mood immerses us more in our own thoughts and desires and reduces the attention we pay to the outside world and social norms. Happiness is a kind of evolutionary signal that subconsciously tells us that the situation in which we are , safe and out of danger"
, Forgas added.

Irritation or distress, for its part, makes us more vigilant and attentive to the demands of the environment.

As YUGA.ru reported earlier, specialists from the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales proved that the worse the weather and mood, the better a person copes with memorization and the better his brain works.

It also turned out that in a sad mood people become less gullible, better understand others and have a good memory. In addition, sad participants were less likely to draw conclusions based on religious and racial prejudice. They were also able to more clearly argue in writing their position on a particular issue.

Researchers at New York University recently concluded that depression plays a positive role in a person's life.

Learn more