What is selfishness? What is self-centeredness? How about selflessness and “other”-centeredness? The ability to define these and learn to move from selfish to selfless can prove to be the difference between frustration and fulfillment.

In 12-Step recovery circles there is the promise that:

“We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows”

As children, it was natural for us to be egocentric. We believed that the world revolved around us and for some of us, it did. We expected the adults around us to do what we wished, and our needs were catered to most of the time. If it did not make us feel good we were not interested in it. This is a partial description of a normal childhood. It is a selfishness of innocence.

Now that we are adults, we understand the world does not exist simply to do our bidding and satisfy our wants and needs. This can be difficult at times. When we allow our focus to remain on our own desires and wants, we begin to look very much like the toddler who is stumbling and colliding with things and people. If  we see ourselves as the center of the universe we are apt to end up “lost in space”.

But we are not toddlers. In order to find true peace and happiness, we must shift our perspective to others and find ways in which we can be of service to them and contribute to their success and fulfillment. This requires humility on our part and the acceptance that it is not “all about me.”

This is especially true of our romantic partners. How often do you remember to include your romantic partner when you think of being of service to others? Initially this is a difficult challenge for most of us. When we are attempting to be of service to our partner we may fear that our efforts may not be accepted. We may doubt how fulfilling an experience it may be for ourselves. We become blindsided by our fear that our needs may not get met if we are working to be of service to our partners or others.

Although we can understand this fear, our experience has confirmed the time-tested recovery wisdom: “you cannot keep it unless you give it away”. Once we understand this concept, we are able to give unselfishly of ourselves to others, to be of service, especially to our partner, and feel the joy of the recovery promise, “we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows” being fulfilled.


This article was written by John and Elaine Leadem.