A lot of people know that it’s good to be “selfless”, but not as many know how important being selfless actually is.
This rings truer than ever today, where competition is high among complete strangers and most are so tightly wrapped in their own goings-on to help anyone but themselves. The blatant disregard for others’ wellness makes people walk past hungry, helpless, or even injured people without a thought.
Examples of Selflessness in Everyday Life
The state of the nation lacks compassion, and it promptly replaces those feelings with concerns of our own material wealth and pacification. But what would we miss by putting our phone away for three minutes to help that woman pick up her fallen groceries? Not a single thing, but a lot of people still wouldn’t do it.
Social media, the importance of material objects, and the grand significance that’s been placed on one’s monetary value have resulted in levels of self-obsession that border and pass into toxicity.
We have as much to gain from helping someone as the person being helped. The only difference is that what we gain from that experience isn’t tangible—at least not all the time. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary or right.
The Art of Enriching Others’ Lives
The COVID-19 pandemic, back-to-back tragedies, drastic inflation, and the general uncertainty of everyday life makes it more urgent than ever to be a beacon of light whenever and wherever you can.
Before the chaos of previous years, there were always people doing worse than you and, therefore, always a reason to help. Today, though, you can surely multiply that number of struggling people by hundreds of thousands. This isn’t solely in the context of financial struggles, either.
A study conducted by WHO found that within just the first year of the pandemic, rates of depression and anxiety across the world rose by an unbelievable 25%! If there was ever a time to, even subtly, wrap our arms around our fellow man, it would be now.
The state of the world has made it so that we have to share our resources, spaces, energy, and information for the sake of our lives. But really, that should’ve been the norm before now.
It would be, if people would take time to bask in the light inside them that shines energetically whenever they do something good for someone. Just because your good deed doesn’t manifest as something tangible doesn’t mean it’s not absolutely worth it!
We fall in and out of love with our possessions so rapidly that it can’t be the objects themselves that attract us. It’s the feeling that keeps us coming back to purchase more and more; the feeling and potential of having a new thing.
Little do people know, the feelings of wonder that you get from receiving a new gadget are just as blissful as the feelings you experience when you realize that you were somebody’s hero today!
How You Can Practice Selflessness Today
There’s no better time to start being selfless than the very present. Selflessness is a daily practice, until eventually it becomes a habit to help!
Giving up what we have, whether it’s time, money, or energy, to someone who needs it is the ultimate form of giving. You never know what difference you’re making to someone’s day. You helped that woman pick up her spilled groceries; now she’s able to hurry back home to cook a hearty soup for her ailing husband so that he gets well quickly and doesn’t lose his job.
People are experiencing things that you’ve never thought to imagine. You never know what cause you could be contributing to with just a single selfless act. Whether you make a big difference or a small one (like grabbing a balloon that’s floating away from an inconsolable child), that person couldn’t have done it without you!
Before we explore the power of selflessness, we have to establish the urgency of boundaries as well. You should strive to help as many people as you can, but within reason.
Know when the task is too big, and don’t do anything that would place yourself in a tough spot. You can’t help more people if you’re not at 100%—make sure you’re considerate of your own well-being too!
In the area of establishing boundaries, be wary of people who might attempt to take advantage of your selfless nature. Opportunists are an unfortunate reality, as they make showing kindness unappealing and costly.
But as long as you remain attentive and your boundaries are stone-set, advantage-takers are usually pretty easy to suss out; and usually easy to get rid of once you’ve mastered the word “no”.
A good rule to abide by that’ll help you circumvent opportunists is to give specifically according to what a person needs. If they need a ride to a particular location, provide them transportation to that location and nowhere else.
If they need a dress shirt for a job interview, buy them a dress shirt—don’t give them money for a dress shirt. If they really need it, they’ll appreciate the item instead of the money.
Let’s start giving to others as we’d want them to give to us. Let’s sacrifice for our neighbor. Let’s relinquish what we don’t need to others that do. Because as humans who are all connected, we should be taking action to make the lives of others better.
Not only does this enrich our lives as well, but it enriches the world by planting seeds of kindness and, if done on a large enough scale, can decrease those pandemic-issued global feelings of overwhelm and contribute to the overall happiness of the world.
5 Selfless Acts That You Can Do Today
There are no special requirements or hidden clauses, and you don’t need to buy anything! You have everything you need right within you: the energy, the heart, and the mind to do it. Don’t ever think you can’t be a selfless person because of lack of resources, disability, disease, mental state, etc.
There’s nothing stopping you; selflessness comes in all shapes and sizes, sometimes even in the form of just a few words or a small gesture. There are an inexhaustible number of ways we can better others’ lives, starting today!
(1) Give up your seat in the bus/train
Depending where you live, the morning bus commute to work can be hectic. With people jammed from front to back, others are usually resigned to standing and holding the guard rail for the duration of their trip.
If you do have a seat, intentionally keep an eye out for anyone you feel needs it more than you do. A mom with a small child, a tired homeless man, or an elderly person are good examples of people who would probably benefit from that restful chair more than you would.
Actively being more intentional and offering to help This is a great way to begin a day full of compassion and gratitude.
(2) Just listen
Sometimes, people really just need to talk. About their day, about their relationships, or about that embarrassing thing Aunt Mable did at Thanksgiving dinner. But did you know that by just actively listening, we’re being selfless and helpful.
We’ll stand there and listen to someone talk for the sake of not being rude, and spend the whole time wondering where you can cut in between sentences with an excuse to make a run for it (there’s no shame in it, we’ve all been there).
But you don’t derive any delight from it if you look at it as a chore—as with anything on this list you should do it because you want to.
View it as them taking a cup of warm water and pouring some into your glass of ice. It’s relieving them of some of that built up tension, and not costing you anything (but time)!
Even if you’re really not into it (unless they’re talking about something inappropriate, of course), try your best to be engaged. If you really don’t have the time to listen, politely and honestly express that instead of running off. If you really get along with this person, maybe you two can sit down and talk over coffee later that day when you’re free.
(3) Give someone something
It doesn’t have to be a physical gift—in fact, it shouldn’t be! It should be something that came from your hands or that you went out of your way to procure. Anyone can go to the store and buy a gift.
Would anyone search through a field for the perfect flower? Or think to say a silent prayer for the higher powers to bless your day? Or take the thought and effort to give you a compliment? The greatest gifts can’t be bought.
(4) Do things without having to be asked
If you know someone needs something, and it’s within your means to do it, get or do it for them without having to be asked. Grab your co-worker (the one that’s always nice to you) a coffee if she’s running late to work and you know she won’t be able to get one for herself.
Meet your partner at the front door and grab the groceries from them. Doing things without having to be asked is a very powerful gesture. It shows unprompted consideration of someone else’s needs. It also puts you in the mindset to always look out for people you can help.
Donating is the best way to make sure that the things you want to give get to people who really need them. How many of your things would you let go of if you knew they would make someone else happier?
To go out of your way to donate instead of just throwing it in the trash can—the exertion of extra effort for the sake of someone else—is in itself a wonderful act.
After downsizing your wardrobe, or as you come across things in your home that you don’t want, gather them up and at the end of the week or month take them to your nearest donation center/box.
You could also set a goal to donate at least 3 things every month, and treat yourself when you hit your mark.
Every person’s greatest resources are their time and energy. Many people would be tempted to say that our greatest resource is money. However, money is material, hence it takes time and energy to make.
Our time and the energy we put into something, unlike money, is irreplaceable; it’s priceless. Therefore, the ultimate form of selflessness is giving your time and energy to benefit something/someone other than yourself.
We should make sharing the best parts of ourselves—in real life instead of on social media—a daily habit. We can share as much of our “best” as social media allows, but that’s limited to what you can put in a picture or video.
We share our best with others in life by showing them our kindest selves, our most understanding selves, our most patient selves, our most selfless selves. When you put your best self out into the world, you witness the cyclical flow of giving constantly coming right back around to you!