Selfishness is often disguised as ambition. He can’t focus on you any longer, he’ll say, because at this time in his life he must be focusing on himself. On his projects. His “deals.” His work. On becoming significant and credible. Distinguished and ultimately, in some distant future, the reaper of accolades perched up on a platform high enough where he can be indefinitely charitable.
This is why that selfish heartthrob of yours can’t pay attention to you. Because, the thought process is, successful people must be selfish in their earlier years. Not emotionally or romantically selfish, of course not. That’s not why he is backing away. That’s not why he has pulled you in, nailed down your commitment to him—to “us”—and now, with deep consideration, is calling it off. Absolutely not. His selfishness is purely of the professional kind. It’s what a real man has got to do. It’s what a real man means when he says he’s got to take care of business. You should trust him. Because once he hits it big, you being the supportive woman you are will be so thankful you let him break your heart, or at least fluster it to death, and so thankful you let him let you go.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Do any of us really envy the man who plows ahead with idealism, his back turned to life the entire time, turned away from people? When will we all learn? It’s our bonds with others which make or break us, which build us up in life. The next time any selfish person talks of themselves and all their unparalleled ambitiousness, the next time they overlook you and use their selfishness to reason you away, remember what is really being confessed to you is the magnitude of one’s fear and compromise.
Remember that selfishness disguised as ambition is a prioritization of an upcoming triumph that no amount of time nor self-enclosed focus can ever actually promise a person.
The only thing selfishness guarantees us is separation. Because selfishness does not invite us into the world, it only ever secludes us. Why take that chance? And, anyway, who are we fooling? Selfishness has never been commendable. It’s always been fear-based. When I really think about it, the heroes of my life haven’t been selfish.
They haven’t been sloths or socialites either. All the greats whom I’ve admired have had to take their time to create themselves. Absolutely. And often, they were totally indulgent with that time. And equally famished for it, too. But, the beauty, if not heroism, was that they were never too consumed for matters of the heart, too bothered and important for it either.
In fact, their heroism—their greatness—was well evidenced in that quality of theirs, in the humbling juxtaposition between their investment in the creation process as well as their commitment to pressing pause just as easily so they could step away from themselves and give love and be loved by the people—the support system—laying in wait. Men of excellence juggle these two realities. But they juggle them in such a way that they run in tandem with each other. That’s what I admire most.
What’s so impressive and credible about any kind of man, whether a reaper of accolades or just an average Joe, is that they make the choice consistently to create great lives while being greatly involved in the lives of others, too.
What’s admirable is that they don’t wait till they become remarkable and recognized, in the paper or the head of some board, to give back. They don’t wait to be successful. Instead, they give themselves greatly and selflessly all along the way. They realize that importance and excellence is gained before the accolades, and not because of them.
As I’ve seen it, those who take great pride in their selfishness seem to forget that what stands just outside them is as valuable and necessary for their success and their significance, especially, too. In fact, beyond the hurt and feelings of inadequacy that can develop in the wake of any selfish man’s actions, the trouble also manifests in the life of the selfish, too. When we think and behave selfishly, when we cop out of investing our heart with others, we miss out on the deep bonds which are integral to any celebrated and compassionate existence.
This is the irony. Any selfish self-interest typically develops out of the want, if not need, to be great, to be important, and valued as well as the want and need to create a great, important, and valuable life.
Yet, to be experienced as important and to achieve a great life requires we stay present to both worlds: the one we are building towards and the one which keeps us in common, in communion, with people too.
Without this dual attention, a selfish person will not be celebrated as they so seek to be. They certainly won’t be heroic. At best, they may become legends, mysterious question marks, and one-dimensional unknowns.
To guard against regret, disappointment, and a life half lived, we must recommit ourselves each day to remembering where life’s importance really lies. And then, we must remember to go and be there, to give ourselves over to our work or personal projects and commit our time to getting honest and close to others also. Because life is either a precious choice or it is a decision toward nothingness. Maybe that selfish heartthrob of yours will come alive to this sooner than later—hopefully, before he loses you and your respect and trust in him for good.
And maybe, if he comes alive to this, he’ll tune into the reality of his choices and come to feel something for the world, for the people, that he often has been too selfish—and afraid—to acknowledge. Maybe you will be standing there, supporting him, just waiting for him to wake up. And maybe, you won’t be. Maybe you will have continued on, not held up by his own plans for you—for “us”—and maybe you will be successful in your way, in ways that matter to the heart.
Wherever you are, maybe that selfish man who did not do enough to care for you or, at the very least, did not let you go thoughtfully, maybe he will feel suddenly so alone
and maybe he will think of you, remember you in all your potential, remember you offering him something loving and selfless
something worthwhile and everlasting, something complete.
And, whether you are around for him or not, maybe he will long to embrace you and let down his defenses and excuses once and for all. Maybe he will have the ambition to allow himself into your heart.