How To Tell If You’re Selfish

Justin Zack
2 min readFeb 11, 2024
Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

Every decision you make is for 1 of 2 reasons:

  • For yourself (selfishness)
  • For someone else (sacrifice)

There is no in-between.

For example:

Yesterday we went out to dinner.

As we pulled into the parking space, there was a man and woman standing on the sidewalk who appeared to be arguing. The man was waving his arms wildly. The woman like she was on the verge of tears. We pulled into a spot directly in from them.

My wife and I had two totally different reactions.

She wanted to help.

I wanted to avoid confrontation.

Now, my wife is a saint and she is one of the least selfish people I know, so I’m not surprised at her reaction. And I wasn’t surprised by my reaction either, as I am a conflict avoider by nature. But what I realized is that my decision to avoid was selfish.

I wanted to preserve my safety in case crazy arm man was packing heat.

For all I cared he could bop his girl on the head. As long as he didn’t shoot me! Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.

My wife on the other hand, she leaned into it. She made eye contact with the woman and mouthed, “Are you ok?”

To my luck, she was!

Crisis averted.

In fact when we got out of the car, the man was wishing her a good evening in a joyful tone. Quite the opposite of point number 1 above. (That’s a post for another time.)

Here’s what I realized (and I think this is true for any decision).

You are either seeking to preserve yourself or you are making a decision for yourself to help someone else — because it’s the right thing to do.



Justin Zack

Project leader. Product thinker. Write about human things. Find me at