I, me, my


Have you ever encountered the word “selfism?” I looked it up consulted my good friend ChatGPT, and prompted it with the question, “What is the meaning of the word ‘selfism?’”

In less than five seconds, the response came: “Selfism refers to a philosophy or attitude that promotes selfishness or self-interest. It is usually used negatively to criticize people who are too focused on themselves and do not care about others.”

Hmmm! I thought to myself. This time, I looked up the word’s etymology. The word was coined by Paul Vitz, a psychologist and author, in his 1977 book Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship. He argued that modern psychology and culture have encouraged people to worship their selves and ignore God and morality. Some examples of selfist thinkers are Ayn Rand, who advocated for Objectivism, a philosophy that values rational self-interest and individualism, and Anton LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan and promoted a form of Satanism that glorifies the self as the highest authority. Selfism is also related to concepts such as egoism, hedonism, individualism and narcissism.

Oh my! If ChatGPT were a person, I would have charged “it” with being rude, insensitive and downright disrespectful. But suppose I were to hold my emotions back and think critically about “selfism” and its ubiquitous presence on social media posts or even with untrained bosses in the workplace. In that case, there is reason to be cautious and concerned.

Years ago, I shared the speaker’s platform with a speaker who, in the 45 minutes given to him, held up a book he authored, spoke about his achievements, and sold himself entirely about his accomplishments and achievements. Would this be selfism on display?

Years later, I spoke at a company that invited me to speak on leadership. After presenting leadership practices from business legends and heroes like Konosuke Matsushita, Jack Welch, Peter Drucker, etc. The newly hired CEO took the microphone and said, “I do not know why we have to waste all this time listening to foreign business heroes when all you need to know is that I will be your hero and lead you and this company to great success.” Would this be another form of selfism on display? By the way, this self-proclaimed hero was fired five and a half months later, as insiders would tell me.

I do not know why; when some people hold the microphone or post stuff on social media, they become somebody they are not and have to “sell” themselves as to how great they are. You see a sneak peek into their character when you look at their posts or listen to their everyday conversations.

“Me,” “my,” and “I” are words that speak loudly about the identity of a leader. The frequency of their use in a leader’s vocabulary can identify their leadership style. Pull out a pen and keep a tally sheet of the times the person used the words “me,” “my,” and “I.” It only took a few minutes for me to put the pen back in my pocket. I might need more ink. What do these words tell us about a person?

Insecure perhaps? Although the speaker held a position of power, they merely projected insecurity. They may feel the need to overcompensate for something.

What makes insecurities grow in a leader? Leaders gain criticism the higher they go. We can count on critics to meet us at every intersection of our leadership journeys. Excellent and secure leaders fight, resist, and overcome their insecurities. They do not succumb to the haters.

Self-promoting perhaps? The speaker or “self-proclaimed gurus” on social media spend their time promoting perceived personal achievements for selfish gain. They want to be admired. The digital gurus wish to get projects and invitations, so they are always at the center of their posts.

Grabbing credit, perhaps? The speaker’s comments were full of words that drew credit away from the team and others who contributed to his success.

When there is blame to be assigned, the leader steps out from amongst the team and steps forward into the spotlight. When there is credit to be assigned, the leader takes a step back and ushers the team into the spotlight. When we take credit, we are exclusive. When we redirect credit to the team, we are inclusive. Distance is created with exclusivity, and great teams are formed through inclusivity.

One more thing. It was easy for me to keep someone else’s score that day, but it was much harder to keep my personal score. But to do so, I must. Before pulling our tally sheet out, start with the person in the mirror.

The question you and I need to ask is: What do the words you constantly use say about you?


(Francis Kong’s “Inspiring Excellence” podcast is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms).

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with