Being Selfish Doesn’t Mean Being A Backstabber


I was at a nice restaurant with four of my closest friends from college. It had been years since the last time we gathered.

Everything was running well, at least until we came upon a topic about someone.

As architecture students, a friend of mine and I were tasked with designing a small religious building, which would be built on a remote area in the country. I was delighted to know that I could contribute something to the society.

But, I was soon to be disappointed as I was excluded from the project. She ran the project with some of my best friends. I knew they were doing THAT project! I came over to their desks and ask how they were doing. Yet she didn’t mention anything about why she went at it alone, leaving me out.

It was at the college, 6 years ago. But it feels as if my burning emotion has not calmed down. I never regarded her as friend from that day on. I don’t hate her, but I don’t care about her as well.

“Have you ever asked her why she did that?” one of my friends, M, responded.

I, dumbfounded, drew a blank expression and said, “No, I don’t. Why would I? She had also excluded me from being a tutor in one of my ‘A-list’ subjects at college. She must have underestimated me the whole time.“

“Well, maybe she’s just not comfortable working with you?” M replied.

And I changed the topic right away!

Reflecting into it, there would always be people who leave you out, either intentionally or not. Some could have taken over the project you have been doing for the last year without even discussing it with you. Some would forget to include you in their up-and-coming next big thing.

Well, the truth is people are selfish. I was selfish in thinking that I should have the privilege to contribute in the projects above. She was selfish in her own way. Some others want credits to themselves.

But, what can we do to be selfish in a good way?

Let’s say you are the one being kept in the dark:

  1. Opt-in. If it’s something that you care about, offer your help.

It cost you nothing. What is the worst thing that could happen? Would you be ashamed if they turn you down? Would you self-doubt your competences? We should know that we are enough. Proving our self to others is a vain journey. (Wait. Who knows that they might actually want your help.)

By the way, one of the good things we would get out of being turned down (if it happens) is we would know how to be better in rejecting offers (but not the person offering).

  1. Ask them, “why do you exclude me from this thing?” Sometimes, their reasoning makes sense. Be prepared to receive honest feedback, though.
  2. Let go, if it is more beneficial for you. Sometimes, it’s exhaustive to always opting in or to ask for clarification. If it’s not that important, or if you have other things you can switch to, let go might be a good idea.

Let’s say you are the one keeping others out (for any reasons):

  1. Include them in the discussion.

This is the least you could do. Failing to inform would make you a backstabber, especially if the person you are leaving out heard it from third person.

If you think they would not be able to help much on the projects, discuss it openly with them. Offer other ways they could contribute to the project, on how their skills would be able to help at some of the tasks, but not all tasks.

The fact that they are doing the project from the start means something. They actually care about that damn project.

They say transparency breed trust. And I think to myself, “Then people don’t want trust.”

P.S. Choose whichever you want, or none if it’s irrelevant to you. Everyone’s condition is different. There is no one tactical way that will work for all of us.

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