Often times the word “selfish” is used as a slanderous term to used against people, often people whose real problem is not selfishness, but actually general doucheness towards others. Said people have no idea what selfishness really is besides what they’re being spoon-fed by our culture and dominant morality. Because of this, we see selfishness and self-interest as a kind of bogeyman, and selflessness as like the ultimate good, or more over, truly existent. Hell, it’s in most religions today.
Selfishness is not inherently bad, or good, nor does it feel obliged to be inherently either. It is simply being oriented towards oneself or one’s own interests. If you really think about it, this applies to all of us, because every one of us thinks with our own interests at heart, and it’s totally natural and not a bad thing. We do things because we want something. The fruits of selfishness can be both good, bad, somewhere in between, or indifferent, but these are fruits, not the nature of selfishness itself.
We might want something specific, you might want someone to see your side, you might want to exert your will on something, you might want to be right, you might want to see something happen, you might want to feel loved, all these things relate to your own self-interest, as they have your own interests, feelings, and gratification in mind.
When you do or say something nice for a girl, or you’re really nice to your friends, it’s not out of some false selflessness. It’s out of your desire to feel loved, respected, and appreciated on a deep level, which is in itself a self-oriented desire because it relates to deep psychological and emotional gratification. The desire to not be alone, and thus the need for company and companionship, is also related to the same emotional gratification. When we do work, we do it because we’re rewarded with what is not just what we need to allow ourselves our survival, but also what allows us to elevate our lot in life. When we do things for others, deep down we want something in return, even if we don’t say it. Why else would we do it?
Self-interest, one’s own survival, gratification, the desire to enjoy, these are the things that drive each individual. The desire to live on is also related to that same self-interest. What some may call selflessness is actually the pursuit of a selfish or self-oriented drive for emotional gratification: the desire to affect something, the desire to be loved and appreciated. Those who equate selfishness with evil don’t realize what selfishness is, or how far it (or more aptly pursuing desires) has taken us and continues to take us, and ultimately deny a part of who they are.
A would also like to mention feelings of sympathy, and where they fit in. I don’t think sympathy has anything to do with selfishness or selflessness, because it is a feeling, much like happiness, sadness, and anger are feelings, and these feelings have little if not nothing to do with selfishness.