If you want to be a "good person", just be selfish!

If you want to be a "good person", just be selfish!

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Peter Koijen and Ligia Koijen Ramos from In2Motivation, an Amsterdam-based personal and professional development company, say that to become more generous we need to be more selfish.

The Students’ Institute did a study where people were invited to donate money anonymously whilst investigators measured their brain activity. They found that every time that someone was donating something, the pleasure area of their brain was activated.

A lot of studies have been done to establish the impact of “soft behaviours”, such as generosity and empathy, on the brain and the general system of human society. Such behaviours can help us to develop better educational and social processes that will increase the well-being of human beings.

But of course, change starts within yourself, in every one of us. And it’s usually the small things that can make it happen!

Being selfish to become more emphatic?

The question we need to ask ourselves is: “How can we become more generous and emphatic?” The answer is simple: by being selfish.

Yes, we know that this word has gained a very bad reputation, and a lot of people are trying to sell the idea that we all need to think more about others than ourselves.

Well, not only is that impossible, because we cannot think outside of our own brain, but it would also not increase our emphatic system. Because if that was possible, it would mean we would be outside of ourselves, just looking at others without any emotional impact.

So, we need our selfish ways to be able to feel and connect with the outside world. In other words, being selfish is the ability to take care of ourselves.

“No one can give what one doesn’t have.”

We use this sentence a lot, to illustrate that we need to be able to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of others, be that family, friends, colleagues or someone on the streets.

What does it mean to be selfish?

This is what we mean when we say we have to be selfish:

Respect your own emotions

Emotions are a disturbance of the system and are like a radar for the state of the relationship between us and the outside world. So, if you are experiencing any kind of emotion, it either means that this relationship needs some attention, or is on a great track.

Not recognising or trying to fight your emotions will bring lots of frustration and emotional pain, which will be felt by everyone around you.

Talk to yourself as you would like people to talk to you

Use kind words. Be polite to yourself. How you talk to yourself should be the same as how you talk to others. Even when you change the words, the intention will be there.

Smile at yourself

Before you smile at anyone else, give yourself a smile, even when things are not going the way you want them to. Everyone can see the difference between an honest, internal smile and an external smile.

The ability to laugh about our own disasters and bad things happening in our lives will also make others more accepting of our failures.

Be kind to yourself

Normally, people are really good at saying “I’m not enough” or “I’m not good enough”. Sometimes people judge themselves even harder and more drastically than they do others.

This is the best way of putting yourself in a place from which you will not be able to help yourself or anyone else to improve or change your emotional and physical state.

Other people will love you only a little bit more than you love yourself. They will not love you more than you love yourself.

Be happy in your own skin

Remember: you don’t need to make an effort to be a “good person”; you just need to be happy in your own skin, so you can give the best of yourself to everyone else.

Co-authors Peter Koijen and Ligia Koijen Ramos are life coaches and motivational speakers at In2Motivation, offering personal and professional training courses to optimise individual and group motivation and performance.

Peter Koijen


Peter Koijen

owner of in2motivation

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