The Importance of Selflessness | Meaning, Practices, and Examples

Defining selflessness can be tricky. In fact, there are many people out there who will argue that true selflessness does not really exist because even if you’re doing something for somebody without expectations of a reward, you are still gaining something – that warm feeling, for example.

To act with selflessness is to forsake oneself for the benefit of another person.

People often say that most parents are a good example of this because parents have been known to always put their child’s interests and needs ahead of their own (obviously without expecting anything in return).


Of course, many people who aren’t parents live selflessly, but if you’re not one of those people and if you have been living in more of a self-centered mindset, fear not because the good news is that selflessness can be learned and incorporated into our day-to-day lives.

Read on to learn about the benefits of selfless behavior and how you can live more selflessly today.



What Does It Mean to Be Selflessness?

The dictionary defines selflessness as having little or no concern for oneself with regard to fame, position, money, etc..

Indeed, being selfless means to care about others and to act on the desire to help others, without expectation of or desire for compensation for helping.

To be selfless is to have a great love for others. It means to express that love and to not be judgmental of others.

Selflessness is giving – your time, money, donated items you no longer use or need.

Selflessness is focusing on others and expressing concern.

True selflessness means acting from a motivation to do the right thing.

Selflessness is compassion and empathy. Selflessness is love.


Why Selflessness Matters

One reason why is that it keeps us connected with each other as human beings.

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When we perform a selfless act to benefit someone else, we are showing love to that person, animal, etc..

Of course, we too can benefit from this because it teaches us mindfulness by taking our focus off of ourselves and putting it onto whoever it is we’re helping.

Furthermore, being more mindful also helps us to be more observant and receptive to the needs of others.

Truly, acting selflessly helps us to maintain an empathetic nature.


The Importance of Selflessness


Selflessness improves relationships.

This is true for every type of relationship, whether it’s friendship, parent-child, spousal, etc.

The reason is that when everyone is focused on helping and caring for each other, it’s more likely that everyone’s needs are going to be met.

Likewise, by committing selfless acts for those we care about, we are showing them that we really do care, because selflessness can only come from love.


Selflessness can keep you healthy.

Science suggests that selflessness is associated with inner-peace, and inner-peace is associated with a lower level of cortisol, which is the hormone known to be involved in cardiovascular disease.

By acting selflessly you can actually reduce your risk of a heart attack.

selflessness meaning


Selflessness Gives Us a New Perspective

Because of the many ways in which we can act selflessly, we are likely to find ourselves facing all sorts of different situations.

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These different encounters can actually help us to broaden the way we think about and perceive the world around us.


Selflessness Forms Connection

Acting selflessly can help us to connect with other people because helping others makes us feel good, and in turn, the other person experiences feelings of gratitude, and as a result, we bond with each other a little bit each time we help each other out.


Selflessness Gives You a Sense of Peace

The feelings of joy and satisfaction that you feel as a result of a selfless act can help to bring you a sense of inner peace (which relates to benefit number two above).


Selflessness Can Be a Form of Therapy

Performing selfless acts can be a form of therapy because by helping others and focusing on them, we are taking ourselves out of our own heads and away from our own troubles – even if only for a moment.

It helps us to bring the world into a more positive perspective.

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How to Practice Selflessness

There are a multitude of ways in which we can practice acting selflessly, and this may not come as a surprise but the number one way is to start with the goal of performing one random act of kindness per day.

It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day, and it can be anything from holding the door open for someone, to giving a hug to someone who really needs it, to helping a friend move their stuff to their new house.

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As long as you are helping for the sake of helping, you’re practicing selflessness.

Another way to practice selflessness can be to actively listen to the person you are speaking to.

Oftentimes we may find that our minds begin to wander mid-conversation.

This is normal, but rather than allowing yourself to entertain these drifting thoughts, brush them aside and pull yourself back into the moment and back into the focus of what the person is saying.

Really listen to them and hear what they’re saying. They will appreciate your undivided attention and know that you care.

Active listening also helps us to practice putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, so to speak, because we can get an understanding of what their perspective is.

Volunteering is another great way to practice selflessness because you are donating your most precious asset – your time.

There are many ways to volunteer your time and likewise many places in which you can do so, such as schools, shelters, churches, libraries, etc.

And if you haven’t really got time to donate, giving some of your hard-earned money to charity can be a great act of selflessness.


There’s no doubt that we live in a very fast-paced and selfish world.

We can get so caught up in worrying about ourselves that it’s easy to forget about other people.

This doesn’t mean that we are bad people, though.

Truthfully, even if we’ve been focused on ourselves, the good news is that we can learn how to live a more selfless lifestyle, and the best part is, we can start right now. How will you practice selflessness?


8 thoughts on “The Importance of Selflessness | Meaning, Practices, and Examples”

  1. Interesting view on selflessness. I do have to say that I have never heard the opinion that selflessness does not exist. I’ve been in the military for 9 years now and I see it regularly. I think it is something that would improve our lives though.

  2. Great article – especially amid all the fear and panic of the Corona virus. I liked the simple definition:

    "being selfless means to care about others and to act on the desire to help others, without expectation of or desire for compensation for helping."

    One thing though is to keep it balanced with self-love. Some people give so much to others, without consideration of self that they end up exhausted.

    A loving balance is what we need xoxo

  3. My sibling always helps others but then complains afterwards, saying it’s always her that has to help , and she gets no time for herself etc etc. I can’t understand why help if your going to complain about it . This is not selfless is it ?

    • Hi Ana,
      I would try having a conversation with her about this, and hopefully, she will understand your point of view.

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