10 Reasons Why People Are Selfish & Only Care About Themselves

Selfishness is emotional abuse.

woman looking out the window Rido / Shutterstock

Selfishness is one of the ugliest traits a person can have.

If you happen to find yourself dealing with a selfish person, it's important to recognize the traits and do what you can to protect your peace in their presence or distance yourself from their selfish behavior.

Why are people selfish?

It is almost impossible to have a healthy relationship with a selfish person. Self-centered people usually attach themselves to people-pleasers, so they remain in control.


Selfish individuals don't have any boundaries when it comes to taking whatever it is that you are willing to give them.

But before you can figure out how to deal with selfish people, you must first understand the characteristics of a selfish person and how they got that way.

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1. They learned it during childhood.

Good habits start at home. Selfish people don't just get that way overnight. They are conditioned to look out for themselves at all costs over time.

Many have been raised in a toxic family environment where they were treated in the same way that they choose to treat others. Perhaps they came from a family that neglected them emotionally. Or their parents showed them that spending time with them was a burden.

They weren't cared for so they have decided they don’t care either. Remember that hurt people hurt people.

2. They lack emotional intelligence.

Children who don't feel loved usually grow up to be adults who have a lack of empathy for others.


Emotional intelligence is learned through action and observation. If it has not been exhibited to them, selfish people will have none.

When people lack the ability to show their emotions in a healthy, functional manner, things like feeling guilty show up in the form of dismissiveness. Rather than take accountability for their own actions, people who are selfish are quick to pass blame in order to avoid feelings of inadequacy.

3. Selfishness comes naturally.

Let's face it, being selfless can be difficult. It's much easier to covet all of your niceties and gifts for yourself.

It takes time, energy, and effort to invest and pour into others. You have to be willing to put your needs aside in order to be a kind and generous person.


Some of us simply find it much easier to look out for ourselves than to take a step back and do something that would serve others.

4. They have a scarcity mindset.

People either have an attitude of abundance, believing that there is enough money and success to go around, or a scarcity mindset, thinking they must scratch and claw to survive and thrive.

One of the biggest reasons people tend to be selfish is that they believe there is not enough room at the table for everyone to eat. With that thought process, it's no wonder that they are always fighting for their position and holding onto possessions and power to make sure they are not left out.

5. They think selflessness is weak.

Some people consider givers weak. They believe that if they cater to the needs of others, they will be seen as a grunt or a brown-noser.


That way of thinking causes them to show their power and strength by bulldozing everyone around them.

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6. They are insecure and scared of not belonging.

Earlier we talked about emotional intelligence and part of it is feeling secure about who you are.

Selfish people are generally insecure about who they truly are and whether or not they belong. Their greatest fear is that their faults and flaws will be uncovered, and they will be exposed for the failure that they are.

So, they become control freaks, doing anything and everything they can to protect their fragile reputations.

7. They have abandonment issues.

Again, going back to childhood, selfish people have an intense fear of being abandoned. Not only do they hang on tight to belongings and authority, they hoard friends and family members to keep around them in order to feel important.


A selfish person would rather exclude you for fear that others will love you more than them, than welcome you into their circle with open arms.

8. They gravitate toward 'useful' people.

Many people who are selfish have a sense of entitlement and only care about people who they see as valuable. They believe they have a God-given right to be surrounded by those who are seen as important and influential.

If you happen to be a person they see as unimportant, you can rest assured that they will treat you unfavorably and take you for granted.

9. They mistake selfishness for self-love.

Self-love is a necessary attribute that everyone should have to ensure they have balance, wellness, and peace in their lives.


People who are selfish truly believe that they are just protecting their peace and filling their cup before they can pour into others. The problem is that their cup is overflowing, and they are unwilling to share.

If you are truly practicing self-love and self-care, it is done in anticipation of keeping your mind, body, and soul in a healthy state so you can be a resource to other people.

You still take care of yourself, but any extra that you have to give is for others. Selfish people will look for a way to keep what they need and more.

10. They are conditioned by the culture or environment.

A culture or environment of selfishness is the catalyst for turning everyone who is forced to live under those conditions into people who only care about themselves.


If your community, workplace, or home is rife with toxicity and dysfunction, sooner or later you will assimilate and become just like everyone else. An unhealthy environment can turn a good person into a selfish person who is willing to get ahead by any means necessary.

How To Deal With Selfish People

Once you know why a person is selfish, you can create a plan of action on addressing it or remove them from your life if they are unwilling to change.

Just say no.

If you are dealing with a person who expects a lot from you and is unwilling to reciprocate, simply put your foot down and let them know that you will no longer participate in the unbalanced relationship.


Care less.

Sometimes it's absolutely necessary to reduce the amount of concern and emotion you are investing in someone. Focus on yourself and, if they change, let them back into your life. If not, you’ve already adjusted to their absence.

Change your social circle.

You might need new friends. If you are dependent on a person who has shown you that they are selfish, it is time to change the people you hang out with. Raise your standards and find friends that meet those requirements.

Confront them.

Tell the person who is being selfish exactly what you think about their behavior. They may not be able to take constructive criticism and if that is the case, you know where you stand and should move on.

Find your self-worth.

People who are abused in any way are hand-picked because they may not see their own value or self-worth. Be introspective and understand why you are allowing yourself to be this way.


If you find that you are undervaluing yourself or failing to see your own worth, it is time to do the work needed to understand that you deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and consideration.

Emotional or psychological abuse is just as harmful as physical abuse. If you are struggling with mistreatment, contact The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.