This is part of a 3 part series on why the present is better- in some ways. It follows up the previous 3 part series on why the past is better- just to keep it equally confusing for all. That’s democracy.
Selfishness is a double-edged sword, but it does have its advantages, the least of which is the fact that it's better for you. Seriously, being selfish at the right time is not only a good thing for the person directly involved, it is actually better for the whole of society.
This might sound like a line straight from the conservative mouth, but backtracking a bit on the C word, let's consider the context of how selfishness helps. In the past, we've been taught to be the kind of people we should be and not necessarily the kind of person we are. On the whole, this has meant obedient, diligent, careful, conformist and nice. Nice hasn't always gotten us very far. Nice has made us follow our parents career paths instead of our own, marry the person who everyone else likes, buy the house in the up and coming neighbourhood that is still a bit rough on the edges and be decent, law-abiding upstanding (yawn!)- citizens.
This kind of nice happens to a lot of people, without them even knowing it. But a bit of selfish can pull people out of these life situations once the person is brave enough to stop and ask themselves: What do I want? and then finding out what needs to be done to get that.
Now, selfishness has taken off recently as a concept and is probably on the verge of disastrous as far as the next generation is concerned. This is not the kind of dialogue that you should be having with a five year old child who wants to constantly express their desire for ice cream. Selfishness is the right of the grown adult individual who has taken the time to consider their dreams and knows themselves to the extent where happiness and self-fulfillment are possible.
It's become completely normal for people to talk about 'me' time. It's that precious hour or so a day (depending on if they can get it!) where a person can do as they please. In a life that is constrained by obligations and responsibilities like work and bills, that 'me' time is precious and some experts even claim it's essential for our mental health. It can be as simple as taking a bath, a walk or a few minutes of silence with a glass of wine. The growing acceptance of the importance and value of me time is a sure testament to how far we've come in letting ourselves be a little selfish to make us better. Because a lot of people don't like the foul-tempered, impatient version of 'me' and a lot less are willing to become the bitter, unfulfilled version of 'me' that less inward people might have become.
Letting ourselves be a little bit selfish when our happiness is at stake is part of how we make ourselves and our world a bit better. And remember that I said 'a little' and that I put it in the context of self-fulfillment and happiness, not a desire for material things or the trampling of others in the pursuit of material wealth. Even though it can be a good thing, this is definitely a case of less is more.