There’s nothing like witnessing an act of kindness to restore your faith in humanity, but it’s even more powerful when you’re the one doing the good deed. The feeling we get from helping others is a kind of bliss that’s unmatchable. Of course, it’s easy to wonder whether the only reason we do seemingly altruistic deeds is that we expect benefits in return — those good feelings included. Thankfully, according to Elite Daily, psychologists like Dr. Michael Babula have been studying this very subject for decades and have determined that yes, true altruism does exist.
In his book Motivation, Altruism, Personality and Social Psychology: The Coming Age of Altruism, Babula examines the popular theory that humans are motivated solely by their own benefit, even when doing good deeds for others. He disagrees and instead suggests that we open ourselves to the possibility that people are more heavily motivated by altruism than past scientists ever thought possible. Babula considers that selfishness, illegal activity, and lack of empathy blossom when our needs aren’t met in life — when we don’t feel satisfied, engaged or validated. Today, claims Babula, is a “dark age” for Western society in which we’re encouraged to go against our natural instinct to help one another, and where selfishness is prized above all. To make matters worse, the high rate of dissatisfaction with life makes it easy for psychopaths take advantage of otherwise-ethical people whose needs are unmet by persuading them to hurt others.
It’s true that much of the Western world is built on individualism and protecting one’s own, often to the point that many of us feel that if we don’t put ourselves first, we’ll never move forward. Selfishness has become something of a defense mechanism, and it’s hard not to feel sometimes like it’s the only way to keep up with others who use a self-serving attitude to get ahead. Thankfully, this isn’t the only option. The easiest way to dissuade ourselves from this is to remember that there is enough success to go around for everyone. We are not all fighting over a finite pile of happiness or resources. Another person’s success is not our failure, and helping others achieve their goals or sharing our knowledge is far less likely to set us back than we might believe. Instead, it spreads positive feelings and sets us up to find even more success.
Thankfully, as Babula’s research shows, there are countless people in the world who’ve dedicated their lives to serving others despite this “dark age,” and they are leading successful, fulfilling lives. A 2007 study found that people who are generous are happier and less likely to suffer from depression or high stress. Research has also discovered that genuine kindness towards others creates a chain reaction. The recipients of your generosity become inspired to help someone else, who in turn become inspired to help another, and so on, until you’ve created a web of altruism that goes far beyond what you could ever have imagined. I’ve seen this happen in my own life, and I’m sure many of you can say the same. I can’t count how many times the kindness of a stranger shocked me and moved me to help out someone else. While the status quo may favor selfishness, humans still have a strong instinct to be kind to one another.
Your first step to getting ahead and feeling joy in this world is as simple as it gets: help others. Be kind. Of course, working hard and being great in life are important, but nothing is quite as impactful to your spirit and wellbeing as generosity. Next time you’re feeling selfish and angry, remember, it’s probably not some deeply buried evil instinct within you, it’s just the world wanting you to think it is.