It’s the start of a new year and as usual many of us including me, have begun the year with high hopes and plenty of resolutions. We are determined that this new year will not go the way of previous years and so, not only have we written out our goals, we’ve made vision boards, taped affirmations on every wall in our space and are praying fervently into the new year.
It is normal to desire an improved life, status and future for one’s self and I for one do not begrudge anyone for seeking to do so but I will like us to add something more to all we are doing to chart out new beginnings for ourselves. Looking back at the list of things I wanted to do this year, (By the way, I have stopped writing goals and just have in focus the desires of my heart which are not necessarily time bound) I noticed that most of the resolutions I made were basically for my benefit and not so much for others and it got me thinking.
The average person always tends to think that if it is alright with us then it must be alright with the world. We tend to look out for ourselves first, and rightly so, for if you ask me, we can only help others if we are in a good place ourselves and can only love others when we love ourselves. However, more and more, I am beginning to see that what many of us term as self love is really self centeredness.
Please don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong in one being self aware, loving oneself, doing right by oneself and treating ourselves good. There is nothing wrong in being protective of our own interests and pursing the things that bring us joy. Self love means to appreciate one’s own worth or virtue, to have a “proper” regard for and attention to one’s own happiness or well being.
Self love and being self centered are two different things though at times the dividing line can be rather thin. Sometimes we seem to think that confidence, high self esteem, positivity and self awareness portray a person who knows and is in love with themselves but it could be a hiding place for self absorption. A self centered person is someone who is excessively concerned about themselves and their own needs. If we look carefully, they are easy to spot. Their most obvious trait is the compelling need to make everything about them. They talk about themselves and what makes them happy, their experiences must always topple that of their listeners and because they talk so much about their feelings, wants, desires and experiences they tend to be bad listeners because it must be all about them.
Self-absorbed persons always see themselves as a cut above others. Their experiences are oh, so unique and different from that of others. Their views and opinions are the only correct ones and because they don’t see life from other person’s perspective, a disagreement with them is an attack on their person.
Self absorbed people are people users, they are friendly and charming at first but it’s all a ruse to get them into your space or heart for once you become close they only remember you when they want something from you. They lack empathy and view your pain only through their own eyes with the belief that whatever you are going through is small compared to the “calamity “that is happening to them. They are egoistic by nature, identifying mainly with people that will reflect well on them because of what they have rather than who they are.
It is worthy of note that the self centered person doesn’t necessarily have to be the richer , better educated or better stationed in life person. Some of the most self centered people are the ones who think their relatives, friends and neighbors owe them because they have more than them. They have a entitlement mentality and can’t see beyond their own problems. They tend to think that because others have what they don’t have they must share their problems and find solutions to them.
In my opinion, our individualistic approach to life is slowing suffocating our humanity. It used to be that not too long ago, we could count on someone to notice that all was not well with us, to count on someone being there to inquire about our well being especially if they had not seen us for a while, to have someone to listen, really listen when we talk and not cut in and prattle on about the happenings in their own lives. It used to be that we were more sympathetic and empathetic towards others, more willing to sacrifice our own comfort and happiness because of others but today, buoyed by the motivational speeches which tend to make us put ourselves ahead of others and our personal aspirations, we have become so besotted with being the best or doing the best for ourselves that we neglect, trample and treat as inconsequential those that surround us.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, writes: “Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
It’s the beginning of a new year and I will like to request that we practice being less self centered by listening more and talking less, being more empathetic, respecting the other person’s, time and schedules and being generous with ourselves with time and material goods. The truth, whether we like it or not, is that when we are mindful of others, we are helping ourselves and making our community a better one.