People Who Balance Selfishness and Selflessness Are the Happiest: Study
Mon, April 19, 2021

People Who Balance Selfishness and Selflessness Are the Happiest: Study

Being selfless helps us connect with other people. The feeling can be rewarding but it comes with drawbacks. In some cases, people will also take advantage of you. This is why it is important to find a balance between selfishness and selflessness.

James L. McQuivey, Ph.D., who taught at Boston University and Syracuse University, recently shared that people who prioritize others and themselves are the happiest. In 2019, he surveyed 1,001 US adults (500 men, 501 women) to study about adult sexual behaviors and attitudes. In the study, he presented a list of statements that participants may give to their friends on what would make them happy. He then asked these participants to disagree or agree with the statements. Advice includes, “making sacrifices for people you love brings joy” and “you have to live for yourself first.”

Partner-prioritizing and self-focused tests

McQuivey used his 2019 survey for his present study. He found that eight of those statements were either prioritizing sacrificing for others, including their life partner, or putting themself or their fulfillment first before others. After conducting factor analysis, he confirmed that people who scored high on both partner-prioritizing and self-focused tests seemed happier compared to others. When he asked how happy they feel in the present, 49% of these people said they were “very happy.” On a rate of 1 to 5, they would score 5 or the highest than everybody else.

On the other hand, only 26% of the participants who scored high on giving partner-prioritizing advice to their friends said they are “very happy,” 15% among those who preferred giving self-focused advised, and 13% among the study participants who scored low on both partner-prioritizing and self-focused advise.

The author also asked the participants how satisfied they were in life, 47% of those who are supposedly confused because of their contradictory views answered “very satisfied.” Their score indicates a scale of 5 for life satisfaction. Only 34% of the partner-prioritizing or the selfless individuals said they were “very satisfied,” 21% for the self-focused individuals, and 20% for people who are unwilling to give either of the advice to their friend.

Most satisfied and the happiest

In conclusion, those who have a high score on giving both partner-prioritizing and self-focused advice were most satisfied and the happiest in life compared to those who recommend focusing mostly on other people or themselves.

McQuivey further shares 68% of people who balance giving partner- and self-focused advice said they always feel loved in their marriage compared to 40% of self-focused individuals and 54% of partner-prioritizing people. Thee are also 45% of married people who prefer not giving any of the advice. The same pattern was also observed for other areas of marriage, such as how much fun they and their partner share and sexual satisfaction.

Just as being selfless improve our relationships, is contagious, and helps us let go of our ego to enjoy life, being selfish also improves our health and leadership, give us a boost of confidence, and leaves us feeling happier.

Young Entrepreneur Council, an organization comprised of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs 45 and younger, said that there are few ways people can do to take care of themselves. These include (1) setting certain time slots when they don’t work and instead spend time on themselves or their family, (2) starting their day with meditation to visualize things they’re most grateful for and minimize distractions and negativity, (3) getting enough sleep as it equates to better health, improved decision-making, and more happiness (4) working out, (5) keeping a journal to remember the little moments both professional and personal life, (6) waking up slowly and not setting a negative tone for the entire day, (7) doing yoga, (8) making time for play, and (9) listening to a podcast for mindfulness and health.

Selfishness vs. self-love

Acupuncture clinic The Yinova Center also mentioned some signs that a person is blocking their expression of self-love because of fear of selfishness. These include feeling bad saying “no” to a loved one, worrying what others will do rather than focusing on what they do themselves, saying yes to things they don’t want to do and running themselves down just to show up for others.

Meanwhile, there are ways to be less selfish, such as asking questions to better empathize with other individuals,  thanking people and acknowledging them for sharing their opinions even if you don’t agree with them, try to perform one act of selflessness a day no matter how simple it may be, keep practicing self-love because it is also selfless, stop the comparison, criticism, and unhealthy competition, and join a community to learn how far bigger a group’s contribution can bring to the world.

Countries with an average level of altruism

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shares the country-level averages of altruism. Countries that have average level (neither greater or less altruism score) of altruism include Argentina (0.03), Algeria (>-0.01), Russia (-0.07), Germany (-0.05), United Kingdom (0.03), Colombia (0.1), Venezuela (0.08), Suriname (0.09), Zimbabwe (-0.04), Malawi (-0.09), Austria (-0.04), Switzerland (0.09), and Portugal (0.05).

Nations with greater altruism score are China (0.5), Brazil (0.46), United States (0.41), Philippines (0.38), South Korea (0.39), Egypt (0.63), Italy (0.35), and Morocco (0.56), among others. Countries with less altruism score include Mexico (-0.81), Saudi Arabia (-0.37), Kenya (-0.32), South Africa (-0.32), and Tanzania (-0.46).

In America, the charitable causes that people care about or donate most includes youth and family (18%), animals (12%), medical research (12%), education (11%), disaster relief (7%), human rights (7%), environment (7%), and global health (3%). The survey was conducted by database company Statista involving 2,306 US adults. 

Although we grow up believing that we need to give to the world and the people we love, it is also important to look for ourselves. Achieving a balance between being selfish and selfless is necessary. Go ahead and offer something to everyone or serve others but be kind to yourself in the process. People, especially those who love you, will also understand if you set boundaries. In the end, it will be a win-win situation.