At a glance, there seems to be two dominant ways of living our lives on this planet: A self-centered approach, and others-first approach. But I believe there is a third way, which combines the best of both worlds.
When we look at self-centered people, their whole lives revolve around getting what they want, or increasing their own significance. This can be in the form of making riches, becoming famous, climbing the social hierarchy, etc. And I don’t think this is necessarily completely wrong. They do this because we humans inherently desire to feel more important, or to feel that they mean something to someone or to this world.
The problem with this way of living, is that it often leads to sacrificing things that are important (such as relationships, or their own virtues such as honesty or integrity) in order to achieve your goals. They often end up hurting others to get what they want. This will lead to unhappiness down the line, as they will sacrifice their social health, and therefore become unable to fulfill a vital human need which is required to make them happy.
What about the second way of living? Putting others first all the time? The people in this group are self-sacrificing, and have good intentions at heart. They do not live to get rich or famous, but to help others. And they often do feel happy and content with what they are doing.
However, there is a trap to this way of living. When the others-first mentality stems from the wrong reasons, such as wanting to fill a sense of inadequacy by doing what society would view as ‘good’ (or wanting external validation), you can end up being disappointed and despair when you come to a situation where you don’t receive any such thing. For example, you’ve been living to support your spouse and do everything for that person, but that person betrays you or does not acknowledge you at all – this could lead to self doubt and depression, or anxiety.
The third way of living is similar in some aspects to each of the previous ways of living. But the core is different. Someone living in this manner, has been fulfilled in all his own needs. They feels a sense of importance and significance, which is internal and not affected by external factors. They no longer need approval of others in any shape or form, and so they naturally turn to helping others, because the nature of humans when they are fully satisfied, is to love and help others. They overflow from their own spirit into helping others, rather than helping others to fill them selves.
So I guess what I’m getting at in this post, is that humans become selfish and self-centered or self-sacrificing and miserable when they lack a core sense of self worth. When they finally feel that they don’t need to prove something to the world, then their hearts will turn to others. So if you run into others who are selfish, or miserable despite being nice people, see what is missing, and try to help them gain it.