What Buying Cake Taught Me About The Joy of Selfishness.

February 28, 2020

Posted in  Experiences, Funemployment, Lifestyle, Thoughts

28 February 2020, Day 7 of funemployment: 

Prior to resigning from my job, I asked a friend how he makes decisions.

Part of the reason for why I was taking 12 months off was because I find it difficult to know what I want or like.

I was impressed by his apparent clear-sightedness of his own direction in life.

Friend: “Well… I am very selfish.”

Me: “Selfish? What do you mean?”

Friend: “Whenever I make decisions, it is very simple. I put myself first, before considering anyone else, even my wife.”

Me: “What!”

Friend: “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mistreat my wife.

Once I have decided this is right for me, then I start the work of showing the other people impacted by this decision that it is also right for them.

We work together to seek out win-win solutions for everyone.

But, my starting point is always me.

That’s what I mean by selfish.”

That, for me, was extremely interesting.

In listening to this friend, I realized that a big reason why as an adult I’m uncertain about my own likes and wants is because:

1. I feel guilty about putting myself first, and

2. Over-compensate when putting others before me.

In this way, I tend to constantly ‘erase’ myself in most of my decisions.

‘Self-sacrifice’ seemed to be the noble thing to do.

However, in practice, this often just frustrates.

A person who never asked to be put first may not appreciate the lengths I had gone to.

In turn, I end up resenting that person for not recognising my efforts, and also regret not putting myself first.

That person may also get frustrated when I try to be accommodating and say yes to everything.

I admit to constantly frustrating my partner with the same answer whenever he asks me any of the following:

  • What I want to eat – “anything”
  • Where I want to go – “anything”
  • What I want to do – “anything”

For him, saying “anything” all the time means I’m giving him the entire weight of making the decision for both of us, rather than participating.

Even though I am genuinely trying to make sure he gets to do what makes him happiest by self-effacing…

In the end, we’re both frustrated.

Being overly accommodating is not helpful, even if well-intentioned.

Right after resigning, I decided to buy a whole cake.

Just because.

Initially, I was going to buy the cake to share.

I started debating on which flavour to get:

“Wow! Earl grey! My partner would like that.”

“Maybe chocolate matcha, which my mom would definitely enjoy?”

“Oooh, there’s hojicha matcha! That’s intriguing!”

I sat on this for an entire day and wasn’t able to make a decision.

  • If I got earl grey, would mom enjoy it?
  • Would partner even eat the cake?
  • I’m okay with all three flavours, but hojicha matcha is really what’s interesting for me…

And then I realised, what I was doing was self-effacing over something that the others hadn’t even asked for.

I was tying my happiness to theirs, and imposing it on them.

It was me who wanted cake, no one else had asked for it.

I also tend to overestimate how much others will enjoy my ‘sacrifice’, and underestimate how much I dwell on the ‘missed’ want.

For example, I might estimate that earl grey would be a 9 out of 10 enjoyment for partner, and a 7 out of 10 for me.

Here’s the likely reality of buying cake for someone else:

Let’s say I get the earl grey.

“I can live with a 7 if it makes him happy”, I think.

It arrives.

My first thought will be: “hmm… I wonder what the hojicha matcha would have been like…”

I go over to surprise the partner.

Because he hadn’t asked for it, he might say “oh thanks”.

“How is it?” I’ll ask eagerly.

“It’s just so-so,” he’ll say honestly.

It’s a 5 out of 10 for him.

Deflated by his lower than expected enjoyment, and because hojicha matcha is still on my mind, my own enjoyment is a 4 out of 10.

The whole cake, instead of garnering the expected 9+7=16 pleasure points, only nets a dismal 9 out of 20.

Damn it!

Throw it on the ground!

The Mao sisters don’t deal well with disappointment.

So I decided to practice being selfish this time.

Last Saturday, I went ahead and put myself first and bought the hojicha matcha.

Here’s how it actually went:

Partner: “I don’t want any cake.”

Mom: “I don’t like it at all…”


Frankly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of it either. It was probably a 6 out of 10.

But there was an immense lightness in taking full ownership of the result.

In making the choice for myself and not having any regrets, I was able to be happier myself.

I also made my loved ones happier by not imposing or unconsciously blaming others for a lower than expected happiness response.

And that was completely worth it.

I’ll probably buy a second cake.

Practice makes perfect after all!


I might not share cake, but I will share my journey during this one year break!

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PS: which of the three flavours would you have gone for?

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