Putting the ‘self’ in ‘selflessness’

Kate Turner has a dark addiction where she helps out others purely for self-gratification.  Don’t worry, she’s decided to get help.


Ideally we’d all like to think, at the end of our lives, that we’d made a positive difference in this world: that we’d been some kind of saving light in someone’s cloudy day. Being kind and selfless to others is what we as humans should strive for. That is, unless you take the route I did and make it all about you.

Let me steer you off this good doing shiz and into the underbelly of the feel good shiz of doing good shiz. Stick with me chums. I’ll share an example of a self-realisation that made me go “Oh man!” and not in a good way…in a scrunched up faced, I’m a piece of shit way.

I was walking down Church Street in Parramatta, on my way to gobble up some NomNoms, when I saw an old lady in the middle of the road during heavy traffic. She’d dropped her grocery bags and was struggling to pick them back up.

I thought I’d be a Good Samaritan, to help her collect her things and cross the road. I linked my arm under her tiny frail one and helped her hobbled over. Once we were safely on the footpath she looked up at me with her wrinkled face and thanked me kindly for helping an old timer out. I got that warm fuzzy feeling when you truly do something nice for someone.

That felt great in itself: the idea that I could so easily make someone else’s day that much easier.

I said you’re welcome and started back across the road. Then it happened: the moment when I would find the ultimate selfish high in acts of selflessness.

Whilst crossing the road I realised I was getting the nod of approval from passers-by. I felt like Mother Teresa, an angel that came to save the day. I nodded back like some noob, smiled at them like “Yeah, I just did that,” and let me tell you, this high felt even better than helping the old woman, because my good deed had an audience.

I wouldn’t only get praise from the recipient, but from complete strangers too. I now had the thirst to help strangers, and it was all for me. In the end I was just being a complete selfish son of a B, ultimately pretending to be a good person for pick me ups.

But no one needed to know that.

It felt awesome…’til it really didn’t.

Every good deed I was doing only felt important to me when others saw me do it, or at least heard about it. I think sometimes we may not always feel the push to help someone out, but we can feel compelled to do better if other people are around, because we care what people think about us. Even if they’re strangers, we need to have approval.

The thought of this started to make me feel sick. I mean what was I becoming?

It reminds me of Facebook; you know, when someone posts a story and picture of some child in need. Or some Dad asking you to like his post so his special needs son can know people care about him. Yes, there is nothing wrong with this, but it makes me go…hmm? There’s the line that’s always at the bottom of these posts that reads “If you don’t share this you’re heartless!” We share it, in order to show others we’re not heartless and it shows on our timeline that we care. It’s the same kind of deal with charities, you can decide if you want your good deed seen by others, to have your name printed up, because if we don’t do that, others won’t know what good people we are.

Helping, it all stems from a good heart, but there’s kind of a sick pattern here, right?

We’re such a me, myself and I world that even our acts of kindness have to come with praise. I think maybe that’s why charity organisations offer that our contributions may be made public, because they know we need self-gratification.

Well…fuck. There is a problem here!

I couldn’t live with myself one day more in this “me” bubble, so I thought I’d take the test, and do some acts of selflessness without all the selfishness.

I mean, I didn’t tell a soul. I would receive no gratitude, I would not get the nod of approval. It would go unnoticed by all and still ultimately do its job…the one it was intended for in the first place: to make others feel better.

So I went ahead and did some good shit on the down-low!

And you know what, it felt pure, and in the end I wasn’t pointing the greatness back at me.

To sum up this ramble, I’ve discovered that good deeds need to go unnoticed. When you stand back and take a look at what the good deed is really about, you only find that it’s not about you…and that can be rewarding in itself.


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