Consider all of the big crimes that a person might commit. Murder is due to the selfish belief that something they value is more important than another person's life. Robbery is due to a person's selfish belief that they deserve to have something that belongs to someone else. Rape is due to a selfish belief that a person should be able to force someone to do what they want. Consider also things like poverty where people are suffering because others are unwilling to help. It is hard to find something that we consider wrong that is not due to selfishness and equally hard to find something that we consider to be right that is a result of selfishness. If for no other reason than association alone, selfishness is wrong.
I think a lot of confusion comes from the construct of "selfish" which would suggest that if you focus on yourself first that is selfish but that is not how the word is used. The word is used to suggest a person is indifferent to harming others in pursuit of their self-interest.
Some of this confusion comes from a certain Russian-American woman who called selfishness a virtue. Remember English wasn't Rand's first language. I have a hunch that the Russian word for "self-ish" more accurately translates into "self-supporting".
It is not good to be selfish because all of your actions, emotions, gains, etc. will be centered around you and what you want. In the likely event that those actions would be of the poorest judgement, it could cause harm to not only you, but those around you. The Bible speaks about a liberal soul abounding with blessings; along with think not every man on his own things, but on the things of others. These practices, followed by a vast majority, would benefit everyone involved and result in a supportive thriving community of people. Being unselfish means you have a conscience and are considerate of others' needs and wants, thus creating friendships. In the time of despair, a friend is worth more than a mere selfish desire or commodity, and will stick around a lot longer.
People should work for their own benefit, but, they should also work for the benefit of society. By doing good for society they will also ultimately benefit themselves. I think that being 'selfish' has a more negative connotation-- it is one of greed, and an unenlightened self interest that puts one's own gain ahead of everyone else. This is ultimately a destructive force.
I would help someone if they were in danger or a very bad situation or if they were a stranger and they'd dropped something I might even help. In fact I'm more prone to help those I don't know than I am to help those I do. But it's your life, if you don't want to do something, don't . I sometimes do ask others for help and don't ever help them back. Oh well, they've served their purpose, now continue. We are selfish to survive, if you don't help yourself then maybe no one else ever will.
I have done this too many times. I put others happiness before my own and it just made me miserable. It's nice to help others first but don't let it get out hand like I did. I learned this lesson the hard way. From now on I'm looking out for myself first.
It is not wrong to be selfish, selfish maybe, but not wrong. Sometimes you have to look out for yourself and your own needs, that does not mean you are a bad person it just makes you human. It is good to try and help others, but bad when you put yourself at risk to do so.
Being unselfish at ones own impediment is rather foolish, and I've seen people who display extremely unselfish behaviour at the cost of their own success. I find it impossible to believe such people are happy - a few might be, but never can I.
Circumstances where people can be unselfish yet follow their own path to success seldom occur in the competitive nature of the 21st century. Note, I'm not talking about things like charity, helping orphans or feeding the poor which we can all do if we have the resources. I'm referring to the practical activities of our lives like education and in the workplace. For example taking time out to help someone during exam season at the cost of your own preparation, or helping your fellow interview candidate, is not a good idea at all. If I did such a thing and it affected my own success (which in the past it has) I'd feel miserable and regretful.
There might be genuinely good people out there who don't, but I refuse to believe they're the majority.
The correct question would be: Is it wrong to help yourself first before others? Of course, I believe people should be generous because we are able to live in this wonderful world full of flowers and unicorns (okay, maybe not the unicorns), but this still does not take away from the belief that it is not wrong to prioritize yourself over others. For example, we would say that a "selfish" person helps himself/herself before helping others. Would we believe that it is wrong for a starving person to eat a whole loaf of bread without sharing it with his/her friends? No. In fact, we would probably have pity upon this "selfish" person and give him/her more. Using the correct definition of "selfish" and taking away the negative connotation makes this entirely different.
We are the only animals that think it's wrong to look out for oneself more than others. A lion will never give up a meal to another lion, does that make it a selfish lion? No, that makes it a lion who wants to survive. We are no different, just animals trying to survive.
It's only evolutionary that we try to give more to ourselves; isolated survival. We do this so we can wake up, survive, and sleep. If every person were to join a pristine, pacifist society; which is highly unlikely to come around, but bares the element of hope, which is derogatory to human existence and survival. We must remain this way to exist as a species.
It is both natural and normal for human beings to be selfish creatures who seek to maximize their own gain. There is nothing wrong with this as long as someone does not get so extremely selfish that they undermine society, which would not be in their long-term interests anyway. Almost all of our interactions with other people are based on mutual exchange for mutual benefit.