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How to Stop Being Selfish: 20 Ways to Stop Hurting and Using Others

Being selfish is neither attractive nor admirable. Learn how to stop being selfish and start being a little more selfless with these lessons.

how to stop being selfish

Being selfish is a confusing thing. Everyone talks about self-care and putting yourself first, but how do you do that without becoming selfish? Is it possible to learn how to stop being selfish?

Oftentimes, you don’t even know when you’re selfish until someone tells you. And then you might get defensive about it. No one wants to be accused of being selfish.

Being selfish can sometimes feel like human nature. Your first thoughts are about you and what you want. How do you begin to change that? [Read: 12 signs you’re being selfish]

Why you should stop being selfish

Some people may think being selfish is good. And in some ways, it can be. For instance, when you are focusing on success or not settling in romance. Putting yourself first in some cases is beneficial to those around you. If you don’t care for yourself, how are you supposed to care for others?

You have to fill your own glass before being able to pour anything into others’. As true as this is, if someone is telling you that you’re selfish, you have a lot to think about and reflect on. If someone is telling you that you should stop being selfish, why is that?

Are you selfish when it is necessary? Or are you putting your interests before the needs of the most important people in your life?

If your selfishness is getting in the way of your relationships, you have some changing to do. [Read: How to spot selfish people before they can hurt you]

How to stop being selfish

If you are a selfish person, it can be hard to break that pattern, at least at first. But, you can learn how to stop being selfish.

You are used to putting yourself first. But once you start being a little more selfless, not only will you feel better, but your relationships will prosper as well.

Everything from a small act of kindness to a grand gesture can set you up to stop being selfish.

1. Ask for help

If you don’t know where to begin on your journey to learn how to stop being selfish, ask for some advice from a friend. The people that know you the best will be able to tell you where to begin. A true friend will also tell you exactly when you are being selfish and how to be aware of those moments.

Also, ask them why they are still friends with you even though you are often selfish. This will let you know your best qualities and how you can put a focus on them. [Read: 13 ways to grow into a kinder and better human being]

2. Do not buy people

A lot of selfish people think they are kind or selfless because they do something nice. But if that nice thing is buying an expensive gift, was it really for them? Was this something they wanted or something you wanted the credit for buying?

Did you want to give them the best gift or really show them you care? Buying gifts is all fine and good, but if that is how you show you care rather than being considerate, listening, and being there, you may have some self-reflection to do. Learning how to stop being selfish isn’t just about your actions but your thoughts as well. [Read: 11 behaviors that show you manipulate people]

3. Pay attention

Some selfish people are in their own world and don’t consider others. And although it may not be out of cruelty but ignorance, it is still selfish. So next time you are at work, with family, or on public transportation, look around.

Should you stand up so an elderly person can sit? Should you hold the door for someone behind you? Just glancing up from your phone and getting out of your own head can open your eyes to the opportunities for selfless behavior you never even thought about. Learning how to stop being selfish isn’t about ignoring yourself but paying attention to others.

4. Care

This seems obvious, right? But how do you start caring? Well, looking up this article on how to stop being selfish is a start. You may care deeply for the people in your life but haven’t been too great at showing that.

To do so, spend some time thinking about them when they aren’t around. What are all the things your closest friends and family have done for you? How can you show them you care that much too? [Read: 15 effortless ways to be nice and loved by all instantly]

5. Think about the impact of your actions

When you are being selfish, you tend to think about yourself the majority of the time. How will your actions affect you? Will you get a promotion? Do you get something out of it? Instead, think about how what you do will impact others.

Will tattling on a coworker’s mistake get you a promotion? Or will it get them fired? Will missing your niece’s school play give you time to go to a concert? Or will it disappoint her?

Sure, getting a vaccine might give you a couple of days of weakness, but will it do a lot to slow the spread of a deadly virus? You could protect others with your actions, even if you don’t want to care about yourself.

Learning how to stop being selfish means considering how you impact other people.

6. Take a step back

To learn how to stop being selfish, it is helpful to look at your life from someone else’s perspective. From your own, it probably looks great. You are happy. You do what you want when you want and answer to no one. But are you really happy? Or are you blissfully unaware of how lonely you are?

Are you fulfilled? Do you have people who would do anything for you and that you would do anything for? [Read: Am I a narcissist? 10 questions that will reveal the answer to you]

7. Volunteer

Sometimes, being aware of others is not easy. You follow your normal routine and live your life. But to really see how much you can give, you need to see what other people need. Being selfish is about your needs. Learning how to stop being selfish is about the needs of others.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen, at a homeless shelter, make some meals, and give them out to people on the street. Truly seeing those in need may open your eyes to what you can offer to others. 

8. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

Whether it be your assistant, your sister, or the guy you see at the convenience store begging for change, put yourself in their position. Knowing how to stop being selfish means you need to understand the people in your life.

If you were being treated horribly by your boss but working your ass off, wouldn’t you deserve some reassurance or at least respect? Have a sister who never asked for anything from you except some time to spend together? Wouldn’t that seem reasonable? If you were begging for spare change, wouldn’t you appreciate the smallest gesture? [Read: 12 clear signs you’re the selfish one in the relationship]

9. Who do you know that is selfish?

Look at your life. There must be someone that you think is selfish and never cares about you. Well, think about that. Is that how you want to be seen by the people in your life? When you think about that person and how you would prefer them to behave, focus those changes on yourself.

It is hard to see your worst qualities, but you can pinpoint them immediately when looking at someone else. You just have to see the similarities so you can make a change. Sometimes this learning how to stop being selfish requires a taste of your own medicine.

10. Think ahead

Think about the future, and not just yours. It is easy to think about how you want your life to turn out. But considering others in the decisions that lead you there is so important.

Maybe you want to be making six figures in the next five years, but does that mean you would be willing to put your job in front of your relationship? Maybe you want to travel the world, but will you be home to spend the holidays with your family? Perhaps you love the convenience of your life, but would taking time to waste less help the environment for everyone in the future? [Read: 11 sweet ways to show how much you care]

11. Be observant

When you are only paying attention to your own life, it is easy to overlook others. But who would watch a TV show and only pay attention to one character? Others around you make your life what it is.

Everyone from your mother to your best friend to your mailman. So look around and appreciate those people. You might even learn something about them.

12. It is your life, not your world

Yes, you are the star. It is your life. But no one wants to watch a movie starring one person. The supporting characters are just as important. They are what give a movie meaning and depth.

So stop talking about yourself. When you are with others, listen. Actually, absorb what people say to you and take an interest in it. They have lives too, and it is not all about you. [Read: How to grow into a kinder human and a better person]

13. Compromise

Learn how to compromise if you want to understand how to stop being selfish. When someone is selfish, they want to have control and to have things their way. In the same way, something is so important to you that might be equally as important to someone else, so meet halfway.

Being willing and open to taking others’ perspectives and options into account is a wonderful trait. And who knows, listening to others and trying things their way may open you up to more opportunities than you realized.

14. Consider the benefits of selflessness

Yes, selfless acts should be selfless. But there is selfishness in being kind to others. Consider that. As a selfish person doing a selfless act can be difficult, so don’t think of it like that.

When you go out of your way to put someone else first, it gives you a rush. It makes you happy. Volunteering your time and effort for someone else while getting nothing in return has value. It impacts your soul. Seeing someone else happy due to something you did has a priceless impact on the person you are.

Not to mention the kinder you are to others, the kinder they will be back to you. Sometimes learning how to stop being selfish can actually have benefits for you too. If you feel people are out to get you, that may be because they don’t trust you or think you aren’t a very nice person. But when you show kindness to others, they show it back. [Read: Selfish love versus selfless love]

15. Life is not a competition

You do not need to try to beat everyone all the time. You do not always have to come out first, and you do not have to be the best at everything. And the sooner you learn that, the better.

Those who are selfish have a hard time admitting defeat. But losing is a necessary part of life. You cannot always come in the first place. There is a humbling feeling to letting others take the lead.

16. Watch A Christmas Carol

This may seem cheesy, but for real. If you can’t see how your selfishness changes others’ lives, you need to watch A Christmas Carol or one of the many versions of it.

Seeing someone so cruel and spiteful can help you to learn from their mistakes. It may be exactly what you need to shake things up in your life. Yes, Scrooge may be a bit intense compared to you, but it is hard for selfish people to admit that their bad behavior impacts others.

Seeing someone *even a fictional someone* realize that, take responsibility for it, and work on fixing it is an ideal example for you to learn how to stop being selfish. [Read: 20 most inspirational movies to watch]

17. Enjoy making others happy

You will start to feel pride and joy when you see how your actions can positively affect other people. When you see how happy your nephew is that you came to his soccer game or how grateful your assistant is that you got her coffee for once, it changes something inside you.

Even the smallest act of picking up your partner’s favorite snack on your way home for no reason, even though you had to go out of your way to do so, can make you happy. [Read: 18 ways to cheer someone up and help them enjoy life]

18. Be thankful

Being actively grateful for all the good you have in your life makes you want to earn it that much more. Take some time when you wake up or before you go to bed to share your gratitude. That doesn’t mean you have to text everyone you’re thankful for, and you can just actively think about them.

Take a few minutes to think about how much love you have for your friends or how happy you are to have a pet, or that your mom still checks in every week to make sure you’re eating right.

19. Be there when it isn’t convenient

This can be hard for non-selfish people, so if you can do this, congratulations to you for working so hard on learning how to stop being selfish. It is one thing to do something for someone else when it is easy, but what really counts is when it is inconvenient for you.

If your friend needs a shoulder to cry on, or someone needs a ride home, or they need you to babysit last minute when you had plans, these are the things that mean the most. Putting someones else’s needs above your own shows how much you care. [Read: Unlock the truths of true happiness]

20. Reach out

Reach out without reason. We all call our moms when we need to know how to make a recipe or remove a stain. We call our friends when we want to make plans. But reaching out for no other reason than the fact that you were thinking about them is pure selflessness.

Yes, it might put your mind at ease to know they’re okay. But calling someone just to talk is something someone selfish wouldn’t do.

[Read: Why don’t people like you? The 20 most commonly overlooked reasons]

If you are wondering how to stop being selfish, you are one step closer to doing it. Admitting you are selfish is the first step, and these were the next 20.

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...