[Disclaimers: The following is my own opinion, not a universal truth. Simply my truth at this very moment]
By nature, human beings are driven by self-interest. At its core, this is the fundamental truth.
I believe even the most selfless avatars throughout human history were driven by self-interest – they gave themselves away because that was the only way they could fill a void inside of them (self-interest).
I’ve heard many people say things like “Put the mask on yourself first – then help others” or “Fill up your own cup first – then share from the overflow.”
While I believe statements like these to be true, I also doubt that a great majority of those using them truly know why they resonate at their core with what they are saying.
At the same time – and oftentimes the same people – talk about giving, sharing, taking care of others, selflessness, oneness, etc.
But, deep on the inside they feel conflicted (myself until recently included).
Why is that?
This is what I think:
Societal beliefs, group thinking, heard mentality decree that you must be selfless and giving. Your reason for existing should be Contribution. Your life cause should be giving yourself away to the community.
(Perhaps true… but not as the No.1 core need and drive.)
And, so most people conform. Why? Because they are conditioned to be drones, robots.
How? By outsourcing independent thinking to others and by blindly adopting other people’s thinking results (dogma).
Truly self-authorized individuals who do their own independent thinking know that they are driven by self-interest first and that they must continuously keep satisfying this primal need first.
Yet, this world is full of “spiritual” people running around trying to make themselves conform to the selflessness and contribution narrative while feeling a deep (oftentimes unacknowledged) sense of disharmony and discontent on the inside.
But, why are we driven by self-interest? Why not selflessness?
Because in this dualistic world self-interest is the only way to survive – physically.Because self-interest is biologically a part of us. It’s called the Default Mode Network – our sense of Self / Ego. It’s not just the “mind” as an activity, it’s our biology – it’s a part (or rather many regions) of the human brain.
Self-interest is also a part of the body. How so? That’s where most emotions (traumas, residual fears, anger) are stored – and that’s how we habitually cause or avoid stuff (self-interest).
We can’t get around biology – at least not until we run around in these biological suits we call our bodies which come with these biological super-machines that we call “brains”.
But there’s more (I think)… Reality… or rather Multiple (Countless) Realities.
What we call a Reality is simply a perception of what we think – and believe – the world around us is like.
But think about this:
Your reality is the concept of the outside world that’s constructed only by what your specific and unique set of senses can perceive.
Can you imagine what Reality looks and feels like for a worm? No eyes, no senses like ours. What is the reality of a worm? Totally different than yours, no? Unimaginably different I’d say.
How about a bee? A bee can sense electromagnetic impulses through the hairs on its legs. That’s how it knows where to land or not. A completely different vision, too. What’s a reality for a bee?
Completely different than what you (and I) would call “Reality”.
Furthermore – and this gets a bit hairy…It looks like what I call Reality is totally different than what you call Reality.
Science tells us that if I could perceive through your senses and could compute reality the way you do – your Reality would feel to me as if I’m tripping (plant medicine anybody?).
What does that tell you? Our Realities, our perceptions of the world around us are vastly different.
(In fact, there isn’t one Reality. There are 7.5 billion different Realities just counting the human animal’s Realities!)
So, then, if we all live in different realities, how can one individual know what’s good for everybody (ideas, ideologies, dogmas, herd mentality narratives)?
When we get down to it, you cannot possibly know that what’s good for you is also good for someone else. You don’t. We all perceive reality differently. We all have different journeys.
So, self-interest or selfless giving and contribution.
I believe – both.
But, self-interest is and must always be first.
Know that you can’t pour out of an empty glass. And, you cannot pour out more than you pour in. Or you’ll eventually run out of stuff to pour out.
So, acknowledge and accept that you are driven by self-interest. You are! That’s how you make space for contribution from a healthy and sustainable place.
If you want to give and contribute because it’s in alignment with who you are at our core then fill your glass first (self-interest) and keep it always full – so you have a constantly replenished and renewed source for giving and contribution.
To wrap this up and to make it simple, the best you (and I) can do is this: