Don’t Call Me Selfish Or Else!

by | Mar 2, 2021 | Relationship Languages | 0 comments

Don’t Call Me Selfish… Or Else!

Welcome to Episode 25 of the Feel Good Superpower Podcast. I’m Dr. Dar, and it is my joy to help givers, people pleasers and service-oriented women thrive in life, work/business, and relationships. 

Today I’m talking about: 

The word selfish, why it triggers people-pleasers, givers, empaths, emotional, sensitives, and service providers… why we are accused of being selfish, how to overcome it, and what to say to people who call you selfish. 

Hence the appropriate title I gave this podcast is Don’t Call Me Selfish or Else!

Meaning, if you call me selfish, I am going to answer that with a logical, self-honoring response ?

Click the play button to listen to my podcast about the origins of the word selfish, what it really means, and what to say to someone who calls you selfish.

Listen to “Ep. 25 Don’t Call Me Selfish or Else – Dr. Dar Hawks” on Spreaker.

Don'T Call Me Selfish - Stop Being Selfish - Dr. Dar Hawks


First, I want to say that being a people pleaser is not a bad thing. 

I invite you to stop feeling bad about wanting others to be happy or wanting to have a feel good happy world. 

We need more of us in the world… and being the world’s exemplary role models for kindness, generosity, compassion, empathy, caring and giving.

Society cannot teach about altruism, giving, and servant leadership and then on the other side demean people for being that way. 

And, you have a choice whether to accept the label of being a people pleaser as a bad thing… or a good thing.

I believe that:

  • People pleasers make the world a better place.
  • People pleasers think about others through deep empathy, and we care about our world. 
  • Our world would be more loving, kind, and peaceful if people pleasers were not demeaned and instead the focus had been on healing the extreme competitive without consideration for others.

Side note:
The words codependence, narcissism or other mental and emotional health disorders are clinical terms that have now have become mainstream but only medical and mental health professionals are able to diagnose people with these disorders.  People pleasing is not an established medical or psychological disorder either.  Unfortunately, in our societies, these terms are being used frivolously without true understanding or training about what they are and are not. These disorders when a human being mostly operates that way.

Many humans are not selfish 100% of the time. 

Let me say that again, most humans are not selfish 100% of the time.

We all exhibit and have some selfish qualities and moments.  And… that is not a bad thing.  

Why can’t we have a balance of both? 

A harmonic balance of being self-less and selfish? 

Altruistic and selfish? 

Giving and Receiving? 

Self-Care and Giving?

These are all examples of a balance of both selfishness and people pleasing.

We do live in yin and yang world, where we need balance and harmony between the two. When there is an imbalance between self-care and giving, there is disruption, upset, and problems. When there is an imbalance of selfishness and people pleasing, there is an issue.

There has to be both.

There is a Universal Law of Polarity that states everything in the Universe has a dual nature.  That duality appears to be opposites of each other.

Selfishness alone, in its entirety creates an imbalance. 

People pleasing alone, in its entirety creates an imbalance.

But with the laws of polarity and duality, both must be present for harmonic balance.

The problem is that society has created a problem to fix mindset and approach… well in everything that gets created.

Which then creates unhealthy imbalance.

Which then creates more problems to fix.

Which is in and of itself an unhealthy imbalance.

Being selfish alone is unhealthy and results in a focus on self without any consideration for anything other than yourself.

Being selfless and altruistic without being selfish results in focusing on the outside world and giving without any consideration of your own needs and care to the detriment of self.

See what I mean.  We need a healthy balance of both. 

There can be a harmonic balance between self-care, selfishness… and giving. 

I call it reciprocity.  

Click the play button to listen to my podcast about the origins of the word selfish, what it really means, and what to say to someone who calls you selfish.

Listen to “Ep. 25 Don’t Call Me Selfish or Else – Dr. Dar Hawks” on Spreaker.

The #1 way to tell if you’re around givers and people pleasers is to start talking about how someone was being selfish or how someone called you selfish.  You will start a rant fest.  

We get triggered by it because we are such givers, and we’re always thinking about others and their perspectives and feelings.  It’s hard to comprehend how we can be called selfish as the givers of the world.

If we’re called selfish, oh my… does that create a churn of not feel good in us.

I want to share the origins of the word Selfish with you first.  Ready for a huge mindset shift?

The word was allegedly coined in the 17th century in a publication called Hacket’s Life of Archbishop Williams (circa 1693) in England. The timing of the creation of the word selfish is suspect to me as it happened in the midst of the patriarchy.  Not a healthy and harmonic balance between patriarchy and matriarchy.

This notion of human beings being one thing or another thing has created a robust medical, mental, and pharma industry to solve problems in humans… all created by not having a harmonic balance of duality or polarity.

That is another rant I could go on… I’ll stay focused on the word selfish for now.

I find it interesting the word selfish shows up in various religious contexts which made it mainstream… which I am not going to go into here either. 

In 1864, Charles Darwin coined the term ‘survival of the fittest’ from his observations in nature.  His observation was that only the strong or fittest survive.

Unfortunately, this survival of the fittest theory  started being applied to humans which created an unhealthy competitive environment in business and at home.  Lacking in the harmonic balance between competitiveness and collaboration.  Again, it had to be one or the other… and not a harmonic balance of both.  

Survival Of Fittest - Selfish - Selfless - Drdarhawks-Sharon-Mccutcheon-Unsplash

Being in unhealthy survival mode instead of thriving as a human is selfish (it has to be) because we’re doing all we can to make it one more day for food, shelter, safety, our family, etc.  Once we get out of survival mode, we shift into that giving space once again.

You are not a problem to be fixed. You are a delightful soul and human being.

The other thing I found interesting during my research on the word selfish and its origins… is it is riddled with masculine energy for those who have written and spoken about it… and not in a good way. 

Healthy selfishness is about self care, self appreciation, self esteem and self love… and taking care of your needs and requirements in your life, work, and relationships, but not primarily or constantly or consistently.

Unhealthy selfishness is only caring about yourself without consideration of others, lacking empathy, compassion, kindness, and care for others primarily or constantly. 

With the law of polarity, selfishness and people pleasing – put the 2 together, and you get a healthy functioning human.  You ensure you are self-caring and you also are a giver and people pleaser in a healthy harmonic balance. 

But… because the materialistic world needs problems to be fixed for profit… the focus becomes on just one or the other which creates a whole industry of solutions for profit.  But what results is more damaging with the labels that don’t consider the whole person, just some behaviors they exhibit at times or frequently. 

When we call someone selfish – are we saying they are 100% selfish?

No, we’re not.  We’re saying their choice or behavior in one specific situation or example is selfish. 

So let’s be honoring of that – with our words… instead of making grandiose claims about the whole being of a person, point to the example or situation… and say I think that is a selfish way of looking at it or behaving or thinking.


We’re taught to be altruistic and think about others… their family, community, etc. in their lives when we’re very young.  And when we don’t look out for our fellow student or sibling or do what our parents tell us to… we can be called selfish.  It is a damaging label and accusation.

But are they 100% selfish 100% of the time.


And the bottom line… is this… those accusations are lobbed because at the core of the issue are 3 things:

  • We are not wired the same way – we don’t think, act, feel, and behave exactly the same way or see the situation the same way – each person in the relationship is a unique being… and each person has free will to choose. Those differences create misunderstanding. Consequently, if one person cannot accept that another does not see or do it the way they see and do it, then it is considered selfish 
  • Wanting another person to do what you say or want or demand
  • Wanting to control what another person does or says to benefit themselves solely

Let me be clear… when you are called selfish and you are a giver, people pleaser, helper, or service oriented, it usually means that you’re not doing what that person wants… you are not serving their needs or requests or demands. That is when the giving and taking relationship becomes manipulative or controlling.  The harmonic balance is unsettled.

Let’s call it for what it is… people who call other people selfish are not getting what they want, demand, or request from that person.  That’s what it is about.

When we look at human behavior regardless of the year or generation, once a human is in survival mode, it is self-preservation mode.  And it is designed to be self-focused. 

We have to know and be clear about our own needs so that we can manage and handle them.

I also want to point out that…

When a people pleaser or giver accuses someone of being selfish… it’s because we don’t understand why that person cannot see, think, feel or do what we would do… the kind, compassionate, feeling rich, honoring, and caring thing.  We get triggered when others don’t do what we would do to be kind or compassionate to others. We set ourselves up for an upset… because many people are not givers, helpers, or people pleasers 100% of the time… and we all express giving in our unique ways…

Which creates problems to be fixed.  And that cycle goes on and on.

Here’s what unbounded spirit says about the anthropological roots of selfishness: “Looking at “Before the Neolithic Revolution — that is, the wide-scale transition of many human cultures from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement that took place some 12,000 years ago — humans lived mostly in nomadic, hunter-gatherer groups of up to 150 members.

Back then, the world was sparsely populated, food was abundant… it seems unlikely that they would fight against each other for resources, or for any other reason really. …this doesn’t mean that they never did fight, but it does suggest that, generally speaking, they peacefully coexisted, without the need for competition and organized violence. The case that prehistoric humans lived mostly at peace is also supported by anthropological research. Anthropologists who lived with and studied closely some of the world’s few remaining “immediate-return” hunter-gatherer groups — meaning, groups that don’t store food, but consume it soon after obtaining it, as prehistoric humans did — have found them to be highly egalitarian.

Such groups don’t accumulate property or possessions, they share resources, and have no hierarchical power structure. In such a social environment, humans don’t feel the need or desire to compete against or oppress each other. And when they do — which does happen, albeit rarely — the rest of the group fights against them or ostracizes them. As you might imagine, this defense mechanism makes it even less likely that someone would want to compete against or oppress other members of the group, for doing so would mean risking their very life.  

It doesn’t make sense that selfishness would have given humans an evolutionary advantage. Quite the contrary, altruism would. Helping, collaborating and sharing resources seems to have been the best way to keep oneself alive and safe. So, if that’s the case, then what could explain for the selfishness that pervades modern society? Well, to answer this question, we need to go back in time again and look at the conditions that turned humans selfish. As humans were settling in agricultural societies, they gradually started to behave very differently compared to hunter-gatherers. They began to privately own land (which, by the way, was inconceivable to hunter-gatherers, who saw the land as a sacred gift of nature to be shared by all), as well as animals and other resources. This, as you can understand, led to social and economic disparities between humans. Resources weren’t enough for everyone anymore, as they used to be until that point in time. Naturally, thrown into an increasing environment of scarcity, humans felt more and more compelled to act selfishly in order to survive and gain a competitive advantage.

Fast-forward a few thousand years and the same competitive ethic exists to this day — and arguably more than ever before. Modern humans — that is, humans like me and you — live in conditions of scarcity, where nearly everyone is forced to compete for money and resources. In this world, we’re taught from a very young age that there are winners and losers — and that if we want to be on the winners’ side, we need to be very competitive. Only this way, we’re conditioned to believe, can we find success in life. Add to this our materialistic culture wherein people are judged based on their possessions, and it becomes crystal clear why humans today behave mostly in selfish ways.

Of course, that doesn’t mean humans are inherently selfish, since as we’ve seen, for nearly the entire span of human history they had been mostly altruistic. Human nature is extremely malleable, and the environmental conditions humans live in largely shape how it’s expressed. Place people in a competitive environment, and they’ll most likely act selfishly. Place them in a collaborative one, and they’ll most likely act altruistically. Put differently, within each human lie two potential psychological aspects — a “selfish” and an “altruistic” one — and the side that becomes manifested is the one we cultivate through the environment we live in. It is in our hands, therefore, to design a social environment that helps us to develop the behavioral traits we want to see in ourselves and others, rather than those we don’t want.”

For me… the bottom line… the core issue… the core concern… is a lack of self-love, self-appreciation, and self-awareness in addition to scarcity mindsets that get generated in a world of competitiveness.  Creating problems to fix with products and services for profit.

Scott Barry Kaufman says this in his article on the taboo of selfishness: “Unhealthy selfishness is motivated by neuroticism and greed. For this person, his needs are insatiable, and he rarely receives any long-lasting satisfaction. When we look closely at people who are motivated by unhealthy selfishness, we see that that they do not really love themselves deep down, that that they do not have inner security and affirmation… the person with this form of selfishness is only interested in oneself, wants everything for oneself, is unable to give with any pleasure but is only anxious to take; the world outside himself is conceived only from the standpoint of what he can get out of it; he lacks interest in the needs of others, or respect for their dignity and integrity. He sees only himself, judges everyone and everything from the standpoint of its usefulness to him, is basically unable to love.

In today’s society, we are seriously lacking in self-love. If we want more peace, we need to think more seriously about creating the conditions that allow people to develop their unique intellectual, creative, and emotional capacities, the freedom to assert the totality of their being, and the opportunities to satisfy their basic needs. This will lead to a reduction in hatred, and a reduction in the drive to destruction– both to self and others.”

Words Have Power - Dr. Dar Hawks

 Let’s unpack the word selfish now:

The word self means the set of someone’s characteristics such as personality and that are not physical and make that person different from other people.

Now let’s look at what the prefix ish means: -ish is a suffix that is used to and nouns that indicate what country or area a  thing, or language comes from… like the words Spanish or English.  It is also used to form adjectives that say what a person thing, or action is like such as the words foolish or childish.  And it is used to form adjectives to give the meaning to some degree … we use it when we’re uncertain of an exact measure, degree or quantity…

We say 6ish to indicate a flexible time of day. 

Or oldish if we don’t know the person’s age exactly. Or Feverish if someone’s forehead or cheek feels warm but we don’t know the exact temperature.

Now let’s put the words self and ish together using what we’ve learned about the 2 words separately:

Given the word self means the set of someone’s characteristics, such as personality and that are not physical and make that different from other people. And ish is a suffix we add to words to create an adjective to describe what a person is like…

Then technically selfish means:

The person being called selfish is being different from the other person who is calling them selfish.

That is all selfish frigging means.

This word was created in the midst of religiousness, industrialism, and patriarchy… a world requiring conformity… and resulting in punishment or suffering if you were different.

Now, as promised, here’s what I suggest you say to someone who calls you selfish:

Thank you for noticing. I want you to know that I hear you call me selfish about this specific situation.

Then go into… I understand what you’re asking or wanting right now. However, I am unable to commit to that at this time.  (you don’t have to explain why, even if they ask why)

Instead ask this question:

What are some ways you can address getting that handled without my involvement for now?

You could also say this if they push wanting to know why you are not saying yes.

I am choosing what’s best for this situation for myself and ultimately it will be for you too.  I know it is not exactly what you prefer or want.  And what you want or are asking is out of alignment for what I want/need to do right now.

My final thought is this…

Words have meaning and energy.  They can be weapons of destruction or creation.  I invite you to be honoring of these words going forward… and educate people in your life about the word selfish.

Please share this podcast and blog post with them.

Oh and take my feel-good quiz because it’s all about the 5 ways humans interact with each other… and why conflicts happen when they interact.

Here is my disclaimer to be in integrity with my use of the clinical words:
What I am sharing here is not a replacement for licensed professionals.  As an Intuitive/Sensate Life, Relationship and Business Coach, I am not providing health care, medical or nutritional therapy services, or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental or emotional issue, disease or condition. The information provided in my podcast pertaining to any aspect of your life is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider, Clergy or Mental Health Provider.

Click the play button to listen to my podcast about the origins of the word selfish, what it really means, and what to say to someone who calls you selfish.

Listen to “Ep. 25 Don’t Call Me Selfish or Else – Dr. Dar Hawks” on Spreaker.

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Dr. Dar Hawks. Relationship Coach for Couples

Hello, I'm Dr. Dar

This is my little corner of the internet where I share simple, effective advice to help you have better, stronger, happier relationships.



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Hi, I’m Dr. Dar…

If I could share just one thing with you today, let it be this: you have the power to shape your relationship into what you want it to be.

I am Dar, the Relationship Healer. I help couples to solve the communication and relationship issues that could potentially tear them apart. 

Until I started on the coaching path that led to my formulation of the Relationship Languages, most of the problems in my life had been due to problematic relationships… relationships where I felt unable to communicate, where I was not being heard, where I was not feeling understood. 

I have learned that, to create happy, healthy, and harmonious relationships even when you have differences, you have to learn how to give and receive communication in a healthy way. You have to feel safe expressing how you feel and what you need. 

That’s the beauty of the Relationship Languages. Once understood, they are the key to safe, curious communication. 

I’m here to help you on your journey to understanding and being understood. 

From my heart to yours,

Dr. Dar - The Relationship Healer - The 5 Relationship Languages Quiz
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