I'm writing a story analysis and there's this character who is good and especially loyal to his friend. However, while he thought he was being nice for friendship, he eventually realises that he did it to feel better about himself.

What word describes this situation?

  • 1
    He did it for selfish reasons. Aug 10, 2019 at 8:31
  • But was it a good act and did it benefit his friend? If so, the fact that he felt better about himself too doesn't diminish it. And if he wasn't aware of any ulterior motives, it's not really possible to ascribe any to him. Realizing things that influence you after the fact can only be applied in hindsight. Aug 10, 2019 at 9:21
  • This is more a psychological than a literary question. If he is (genuinely) good and (genuinely) loyal to his friend, what would it mean to say that he was acting for selfish reasons? If doing something good makes a person feel good (as in general it does), how does that fact make the act in question any the less good?
    – Tuffy
    Aug 10, 2019 at 11:24
  • Consider also using the phrase ‘‘ulterior motive’’. Sep 24, 2019 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Self-serving behavior is distorted by the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem, or the tendency to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner. It describes the aspect of being nice but with other motivations.

The realization that he was being nice and loyal in order to feel better about himself (rather than for the sake being a good friend) occurs when he becomes self-aware.

  • I would have voted up 'self-serving'. But I did not wish to vote up 'narcissism'. So, no vote.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 10, 2019 at 14:31
  • @NigelJ Yes, you are correct. Thank you. I changed my answer, vote or no vote. Aug 10, 2019 at 15:02

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