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“I Want You to Be More Selfish,” He Says

·370 words·2 mins

“I want you to be more selfish,” he says.

“Really?” I say. And laugh.

“Really,” he replies.

And it seems like he thinks he’s telling the truth, but so many others have said similar things in the past and then when you do what they ask for, they’re incredibly unhappy. The trouble many times isn’t that people are liars; it’s that they don’t actually know what they want. So they’ll ask you to do things that they’ll later regret.

I’ve seen it so many times. In myself, in others. And because of all of those experiences of seeing it over and over again, I’ve gotten pretty decent at recognizing it — especially when it comes to others. (I am of course doomed, like anyone else, to have major blind spots when it comes to me. It’s the kind of bias that keeps us going, even if it causes problems.)

And every time I see it, I’m presented with a familiar choice: Do I tell them what I know to be true? What I will see come to pass?

Or do I presume that they’re right this time and that my intuition is wrong?

Many times, I take a middle path. A soft share. Lay out what my reservations are but in a levelheaded equal-toned way. No insisting. No escalating. And when I do this, then they reassure me and urge me to press on. And then I do, hoping it’ll go differently than I think it will. (Knowing I can deal with it if it goes just as I fear it will — as much as I don’t want to have to deal with it later, I know I can.)

This time is particularly paradoxical. Because he’s urging me to be selfish — but everything within me tells me he doesn’t want this. That it’s doomed. And following this suggestion feels like it’ll hurt both of us. So being selfish would be a bad move selfishly here. Because of circumstances, there is no truly selfish path forward. Or even one credibly more selfish than the past.

I’m not sure what I’m going to say even as I open my mouth. Not sure what is both true and will be believed.


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