Meaning, Importance, and Practice of Selflessness

By Ray Arya •  Updated: 12/21/20 •  10 min read


By definition, selflessness means:

“The quality of caring more about what other people need and want than about what you yourself need and want.”

In other words, selflessness is being less self-centered and selfish by focusing on the well-being of others, and without asking for anything in return.

By turning around the two words in selfless, we get less self – which says it all. 

Minimalism, at its core, is about finding out what we need and want to become happy people. 

However, to experience true happiness, we must learn to

I think selflessness is one of the most beautiful virtues.

And as virtue and happiness are like mother and daughter, I try to become a better and happier person by practicing selflessness.

And I want to help you to become a more selfless person, too. 

After all, in a world where we can be anything, why not be more kind and generous to others?


What is The Meaning of Selflessness and Being Selfless?

Books on Selflessness

Your Life Isn’t for You: A Selfish Person’s Guide to Being Selfless
(by Seth Adam Smith)

The Giving Tree
(by Sid Silverstein)

What Selflessness Is Not

Selflessness is not equals self-nothing!

Not every act has a selfish motive, like caring and loving yourself.

Being a selfless person does not imply that you should not take care of yourself.

To help others in the best way, we need to incorporate self-love and self-care as fundamental virtues into our life. 

So we should never neglect loving ourselves too.

If you don’t like yourself and take good care of your well-being, you will find it more challenging to help others with a clear mind and open heart.

So I don’t see being completely selfless as the goal. Just as owning nothing is not the goal of minimalism but keeping the right amount of things that matter to us. 

So we should be aiming for the balance of being less self-centered and helping others unconditionally, and keeping an eye on our physical and mental health.

Selfless giving does not mean that you let people walk all over you!

True selflessness implies helping others without anticipating anything in return.

However, you should also know when to hit the break on your generosity. 

For example, when the people you are willing to help don’t want your help, there is no need to insist.

Or when they just take advantage of your kindness and their sole intention is to use you.

There is no reason to feel selfish or guilty when backing off to save yourself from getting harmed.

The Importance Of Practicing Selflessness

When thinking about the importance of selflessness and the value of being selfless, the first thoughts that come into my mind are empathy, mindfulness, and human connection.

Here are a few reasons why being more selfless is very beneficial for all of us:

1. Selflessness brings happiness.

Acting selflessly is beneficial for everyone because it can boost our mood and make us feel good.

Several researchers found out that those who practice being kind and generous experience the same back from others. 

They get influenced to be helpful too and focus more on the desires and needs of others. 

And as a result, they are happier.

2. Selflessness gives us purpose.

In our fast-moving, self-centered, and material world, we often find ourselves unhappy and purposeless.

When we see that selfishness and materialism don’t lead us to fulfillment, we experience that the happiest are the helpers and givers, not the egocentrics and takers.

Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person. And that alone can help us to find purpose.

3. Selflessness benefits our relationships.

We start to live when we can live outside ourselves – when we love. And real love is about being selfless, not selfish. 

We express love by acting kind and showing that we care for each other. 

Chances are higher, that everyone becomes more content when we are focused on helping and caring for one another. That improves any kind of relationship.

4. Selflessness builds deeper connections.

Happiness doesn’t come through selfishness but through selflessness.

Everything you do comes back around.

When acting selflessly, we make others happy, and they express their gratitude by wanting to help us back.

As a result, we form deeper connections.

Simple Examples Of Selflessness

Some show selflessness by helping out financially or donating things.

Others are selfless by risking their lives daily to help people in their field of profession like police officers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, and soldiers.

But there are numerous little selfless acts that we can all do that don’t involve tons of money or any risk.

No matter how big or small your charitable deeds might be, those acts of kindness help you lead a happier and more fulfilled day-to-day existence.

36 Examples of everyday selfless acts:

  1. Smile at everyone you come across.

  2. Forgive others and yourself.

  3. Tell people you love how you feel about them.

  4. Give your shoulder to cry on.

  5. Hold the elevator.

  6. Give out free hugs.

  7. Be patient.

  8. Give someone your full attention.

  9. Don’t interrupt and hear your other one out.

  10. Give your seat on a bus.

  11. Call someone and ask if they are ok.

  12. Borrow someone your things.

  13. Give someone a book that changed your life.

  14. Be kind, no matter to whom.

  15. Make someone laugh.

  16. Help someone lift a heavy object.

  17. Let someone cut the line.

  18. Say please and thank you.

  19. Send a handwritten note or text message.

  20. Help someone fix something.

  21. Donate food, toys, books, and clothes.

  22. Let someone pass first at an intersection.

  23. Surprise someone with a little act of kindness.

  24. Encourage someone to pursue a goal.

  25. Pick up trash.

  26. Allow someone to walk in the room before you.

  27. Bring hot chocolate to a friend.

  28. Treat your coworkers with a pizza.

  29. Donate your blood.

  30. Help an elderly or weak person with their groceries.

  31. Let someone have the last bite of a meal.

  32. Share your knowledge and resources with others.

  33. Offer to babysit or take care of a pet.

  34. Give compliments, even to strangers.

  35. Take care of a sick person.

  36. Volunteer.

8 Ways To Become More Selfless Starting Today

There are simple ways to practice selflessness starting now. Here are seven of my favorite tips:

  1. Giving other people your full attention.

  2. Showing others that they deserve happiness and joy.

  3. Getting out of the way of your ego and putting your needs last.

  4. Keeping in mind that you never know what the other person might be going through.

  5. Not thinking of yourself to be better, more important, or more valuable than others in any way.

  6. Not dwelling on the past and forgiving others and yourself.

  7. Building a selfless mindset by believing that you can always do better to help.

  8. Enjoying some quotes on being selfless like the ones below.

15 Inspirational Selflessness Quotes

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”

– Mandy Hale

“It’s when you’re acting selflessly that you are at your bravest.”

– Veronica Roth

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

– James Keller

“Then give to the world the best you have. And the best will come back to you.”

– Madeline Bridges

“Selfless acts are a source of profound meaning for yourself and your life.” 

– Ron Kaufman

“If you think only of yourself if you forget the rights and well-being of others, or, worse still, if you exploit others, ultimately you will lose. You will have no friends who will show concern for your well-being. Moreover, if a tragedy befalls you, instead of feeling concerned, others might even secretly rejoice. By contrast, if an individual is compassionate and altruistic, and has the interests of others in mind, then irrespective of whether that person knows a lot of people, wherever that person moves, he or she will immediately make friends. And when that person faces a tragedy, there will be plenty of people who will come to help.” 

– Dalai Lama

“Selfless giving does not imply superiority. Selfless giving is about love.” 

– Frederick Lenz

“Day after day, ordinary people become heroes through extraordinary and selfless actions.”

– Sylvia Mathews Burwell

“Real living is living for others.” 

– Bruce Lee

“If selfishness is the key to being miserable, then selflessness must be the key to being happy!”

– Joyce Meyer

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act.” 

– Buddha

“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.” 

– Bernard Shaw

“Desire is the root of selfishness; clear your heart of desire and be selfless. Selflessness is the key to inner peace.”

– Christofer Drew

“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” 

– Tony Robbins

“Selfless giving unto others represents one’s true wealth.” 

– Jon M. Huntsman

Final Thoughts

Choosing to be less focused on ourselves is a meaningful character that expresses generosity, kindness, humility, and thoughtfulness.

By putting others first and getting out of our way, we can immerse ourselves in being helpful and improve our relationships.

Remember that you don’t need a reason to help people.

So let us all start becoming less selfish and incorporating selflessness in our daily life to strengthen the value that makes us all human – our love for others!

How do you practice selflessness?

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Ray Arya

Ray is a frugal minimalist who loves to travel and live in his self-converted camper van. He writes about the benefits of downsizing, decluttering, saving money, building wealth, and the freedom that results from the power of less. is for everyone who seeks a meaningful life and is committed to contentment.

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