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The Pros and Cons of Being Selfish

This article is the eighth in a 10-part series on the topic of overcoming career-limiting habits.

I’d like to admit something right off the bat: I’m a little selfish. Okay, maybe I’m a lot selfish. Sometimes, you have to be.

I’m making this bold statement today because the 8th career limiting habit we’re discussing is selfishness, and I may not be the best person to advise you on this topic. But I’ll share what I know and let you make that decision.

Here’s the deal: I believe there are two sides to this coin. Selfishness can be annoying and even dangerous in the workplace. It can also, at times, be a necessary evil.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

A selfish person tends to puts his own needs before the needs of others. As a professional, this doesn’t exactly make you the best team player. A strong team is made up of people who are willing to sacrifice their own glory for the sake of the group.

But there is a time and place for selfishness, my friends. You have to look out for yourself in this world. You deserve success. Your needs are just as important as the needs of others. You have to be willing to fight for them—or no one else will.

Finding the Balance

So it’s a delicate balance. I believe that selfishness, in the career-limiting sense, means that you’re so consumed in your own world that you’re unable to understand or work effectively within a bigger system.

But don’t confuse this for self-respect. It’s NOT selfish to know what you want from your career and go after it. It’s not selfish to be loyal to your own needs. Listen to your inner voice and do what’s right for you, even when others are pushing you in the opposite direction. Embrace your professional power.  Don’t give up on your own dreams simply because someone else got there first. Don’t be content with a supporting role if you’re dying to be a star. You can fight for the success you want and deserve while still being a strong team member.

All too often, I see professionals (especially women) who sacrifice everything because they’re afraid of being selfish. They stay in jobs they hate out of loyalty for bosses who don’t respect them and companies that don’t even know they exist. They refuse to stand up and demand credit for their work when others take it from them. They hesitate when asking for a raise because they don’t want to be greedy. They refuse to promote their own strengths because they don’t want to be arrogant.

They’re afraid of shining too brightly for fear that it will somehow create darkness for others.

I want you to stand up and take what’s yours. But I also want you to play nice in the sandbox. I think it’s possible to do both. I think there’s a way to love yourself, and do what’s best for you, while also working well inside the system. It’s a matter of respect—for yourself and for the team.

The world is full of abundance. Don’t play like it’s a zero-sum game. If you win, it doesn’t necessarily mean others lose. You deserve success as much as the next guy, if you’re willing to work for it.

Photo Credit: Wonderferret (Flickr)

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One Response to “The Pros and Cons of Being Selfish”

  1. […] with doing your own thing, watch out. You might not have anyone to lean on when you need it. I’m not saying being a little selfish is always bad. But remember that a team relationship is reciprocal. You give some; you get some. Take a good look […]

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