Even a person choosing to give an item to someone which they really don’t want to give them chooses to do it because of another “side” of THEMSELVES driving them to do it. In this case, the only selfless act they could commit is to choose NOT to give the gift so as to NOT serve their primary driving force for giving it (themselves).
It's easy to say 'look at what people give up for the people they love' and use that as proof of selflessness. However, the fact that they are going out of their way - doing something they ordinarily wouldn't want to do - for someone they care about only serves to prove that selflessness is selfish.
True, they are putting themselves out, but they are doing it to bring relief or aid to a person they value. That person's happiness affects their own happiness, and leaving them to suffer would leave someone with unpleasant feelings of guilt and sadness. Therefore, performing the 'selfless' act is, essentially, self-serving, albeit on a subconscious level.
"To say it another way, how could you possibly view these two people and their behaviour the same way or consider them equally selfish?"
It does not necessarily mean their behaviour is viewed the same way, the point is that deep down inside after many twists and turns eventually you find motivation itself, which is what drives selfishness. One quick point, highly motivated individuals are more selfish, you know, those "overachievers". Selflessness comes out of selfishness; it is just highly, highly refined.
Written by Swati Singh
Pursuing Chemical engineering from Panjab University, Chandigarh. Believe in miracles!