Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote, “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
Uhm. He definitely had his priorities straight.
Seriously though – the quote is a great metaphor for what selfishness is all about. Selfish people think primarily about the self (which is where the etymology of the word comes from), which makes it very difficult for them to empathize with others.
Naturally, this can result in some not-so-good behavior.
These are the 10 things selfish people do without even realizing it.
1) They always prioritize their own needs
You might be lying ill in bed, sniffling and feverish, but if your selfish partner’s already agreed to go to the pub with friends, they won’t cancel their plans under any circumstances.
You might be having a mental breakdown because you’re going through a breakup, but your selfish friend will not pick up until the movie they’re watching is over because they don’t want you to ruin the vibe.
You might want to order fish and chips, but if your selfish sister’s decided to have Indian, there’s literally nothing you can do because it’s either her way or the highway.
I’m a firm believer that you should prioritize yourself and your needs – but there is a limit.
Sometimes, it’s very important to compare your needs to those of your loved ones and see which is stronger. And while selfless people have no issue making sacrifices on their end to show their love and devotion, a selfish person will always look out for themselves first and foremost, no matter how small their need is.
Sadly, this also means they struggle to empathize with others, which prevents them from experiencing the world in its fullness.
As the psychologist David Goleman said:
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
2) They love to receive, not give
When you lack the necessary empathy to make small sacrifices for the sake of boosting others’ well-being, it doesn’t come as a surprise that you’re also not big on giving.
Selfish people love receiving, be it in the form of gifts, compliments, emotions, time, or energy. They love it because it feels good, however, they don’t see a particular reason to return that favor.
You might shower them with love, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll put in the same effort to make sure you feel loved, too.
3) They avoid going the extra mile for others
I once had a friend who would always be there for me when things were going well, but the moment I needed help, she was too busy or simply didn’t feel like interacting with me.
What’s more, every time I wanted her to do anything even slightly inconvenient – such as print out something for me while she was in the library – she would decline.
Soon, I realized that her perception of friendships was inherently selfish.
If she wanted something from me and I did it, things were great. If no one wanted anything from each other, things were great, too. But the moment she was the one who had to go the extra mile, the friendship took a complete backseat.
Her comfort simply always came first.
4) They keep the focus of the conversation on themselves
The easiest way to clock a selfish person is to just…talk to them.
Do they ask you questions? Do they genuinely listen to what you have to say? Or do they always find a way to turn the attention back to themselves because listening to you seems a little bit too boring?
A selfish person is inherently self-absorbed. They aren’t looking for mutual connections – they’re looking for someone who will offer a mirror to themselves.
And speaking of mirrors…
5) They are reflection-seekers
“Oh, so they look into the mirror too much?”
Not necessarily. In my books, a reflection-seeker is someone who is only interested in things that speak to their ego.
Let me give you an example. I used to have a flatmate who would only ever show an interest in books, movies, and people that somehow reflected her own experiences of the world.
She loved being self-deprecating and sarcastic, so any character that didn’t have the same personality didn’t seem all that interesting to her. The same applied to her lifestyle and beliefs.
She essentially looked for herself in everything around her, unable to appreciate other experiences of life.
If something wasn’t reflecting her ego back at her, she just wasn’t that interested.
6) They think their opinion is the only correct perception of reality
The very same flatmate would often reject any kind of opinion that was contrary to hers. She went to great lengths to explain why what she thought was correct, why I should change my mind, and why any other opinion was completely out of the question.
When I offered counterarguments, the discussion would turn heated and emotional because she refused to change her beliefs under any circumstances.
Selfish people build their worlds around their own values and opinions, which makes political or philosophical discussions incredibly difficult.
They don’t want to expand their mindset. They only want to convince you why they are right and you are wrong.
7) They minimize their flaws and maximize yours
If you do something that upsets them, it’s the end of the world.
If they do something bad, though, they will act like it’s no big deal.
Someone who’s selfish always has their best interests at heart, so any attack on their identity or well-being is taken as seriously as possible.
And since they are rarely invested in other people as much as they are in themselves, sacrificing someone else’s happiness for their own gain doesn’t seem like such a bad trade.
8) They are Slytherin-y
In the Harry Potter series, the Sorting Hat says, “Or perhaps in Slytherin, you’ll make your real friends, those cunning folk use any means, to achieve their ends.”
Is there any better way to describe selfishness?
Didn’t think so.
Selfish people are determined to reach their goals – even if it means hurting someone else. Nothing will stop their desire to get everything they want.
If you’re standing in their way… you better move.
9) They feel entitled to anything they set their mind on
A selfish person will expect you to drop all your plans the second they ring you. They have a sense of entitlement that completely overshadows humility or respect.
If they want something, they believe they deserve to get it – even if they’ve put in zero effort.
Career success, other people’s love, academic achievements, whatever it is, a selfish person only ever thinks about how to get what they believe should be theirs.
10) They always try to one-up you
“My dog died yesterday.”
“Ugh, tell me about it. I’ve had such a rubbish day.”
Since selfish people are so preoccupied with their own struggles and worries, they rarely invest their emotional energy in someone else’s problems. On the contrary, they will try to magnify their issues to bring the attention back to themselves – often without realizing it.
A selfish person is always the main character of the movie. You are a sidekick. If you want more screen time, too bad. This is their world and you’re just living in it.
Well, unless you choose to prioritize genuine relationships and invest your energy into people who truly value you and return that effort in full.
Life is too short to be someone else’s sidekick.