It?s one thing to prioritize your needs, but it?s another thing to be entirely self-obsessed. This is how you can stop being selfish.
Image by @fivesixthreedays via Twenty20
by: E.B. Johnson
The world we live in fast-paced, and it?s more vain and individualistic than ever. While these developing aspects can come with some really powerful benefits, they can come with some downsides too. When we get too caught up in making a life that?s about us, we can forget the beauty of having empathy for other people?and that?s where selfishness comes in.
Selfish and self-centered lifestyles are easy to fall into, but they can seriously erode our quality of life. Getting too busy looking after yourself leads to isolation, and a pushing away of the people who can offer both joy and fulfillment in our lives. If you?ve noticed increased conflict in your relationships, or if you find that you?re just struggling to connect ? the answer could lie in the way you see yourself and the world around you. Are you a selfish person? There are some concrete signs that can provide the answer.
Becoming a selfish person.
In today?s chaotic world, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day details and lose sight of what you want and need. On the inverse side of that, it can be incredibly easy to become self-absorbed or completely lost in your own problems and perspectives. That?s why it?s important to find the balance between looking after your own needs and becoming obsessed with your desires or entirely self-centered.
Taking care of yourself is important, and it?s also important to stick up for what you want and what you believe in. When these desires and beliefs come at the cost of others, however, they cross a line that only grows to leave us isolated and defeating; hating ourselves and believing the worst in both ourselves and the people around us.
Living selfishly is no way to exist. When we insist on creating an entirely self-centered life, it eats away at who we are in the longterm and undermines our ultimate happiness. It?s critical that we learn how to find the balance in caring for ourselves and caring for others, so that we can cultivate healthy relationships and tap into the beautiful and powerful aspects of our self that are activated through the interactions that we have with others.
Why being selfish can undermine our ultimate happiness.
Looking out for our needs is a powerful thing, and a skill that many of us have to relearn later on in life. When we push that to the point of compromising the needs and feelings of others, however, we can isolate ourselves and create negative and unhappy lifestyle patterns that destroy the future we?re trying to build.
We tend to think of self-centered people as those who are obsessed with themselves and in love with themselves. While this might certainly appear to be the case outwardly, they are often concealing a fragile or highly insecure ego just beneath the surface. Maintaining their sense of superiority or control might work for a time, but in the longterm it just leads to increased feelings of self-hatred, as negative behaviors affirm negative beliefs and push away the people who might otherwise help us see how beautiful life can be.
When you personalize and internalize everything that happens around you, everything becomes an insult to who you are and what you want. The opinions of others starts to reflect on you (or so you believe). So too do the behaviors and choices of your bosses, your friends and even your closest loved ones. The more you obsess over everything?s relation to you and your needs, the more sensitive you become. The self-centered person takes everything as an insult, because they think everything is about them.
Because the selfish person lashes out and strikes out, seeking to protect their own fragile sense of self or ego, they often lead lives full of conflict. Primarily, this happens because the people around them become fatigued with the constant criticism, back-biting and other negative behaviors that stem from the self-centered person?s need to protect their desires. Unable to remain an invisible player in the self-centered person?s script, they also lash out and find ways to rebel against their cast roles and constant dismissal.
Creating negative patterns
Selfish people are only looking out for their own interests, and this can motivate them to move into some strange places. Chiefly, it can move them into poor behavioral choices, or actions that might be more malicious than they are competitive or helpful. We think we?re moving toward happiness, but really we?re just moving towards our own isolated interests. These harmful actions, over time, add up to big patterns that take conscious work to overcome.
When we?re only able to focus on ourselves, it causes us to revert to a type of tunnel vision that completely obscures our path. Being too busy focusing on yourself, you lose sight of all the exciting opportunities that come to us through the gift and energy of others. Our highest potentials are cultivated when we learn how to care for others as equally as we care for ourselves, without giving away those authentic strengths that can help us change the world for the better.
Signs you might be a selfish person.
Selfish behavior is a system of patterns that?s learned and reinforced over time. We aren?t born inherently selfish. We become self-centered over time when we learn to put our needs before others, and become callous to their emotional wellbeing. If you?re a selfish person, then chances are you will recognize one of these signs.
Return (emotions) to sender
One of the biggest signs that you?re dealing with a selfish person is your ability (or inabililty) to share and vent to them. A selfish person will happily open up and vent to anyone and everyone around them when it suits, but they don?t leave room or safety for their friends and family to do the same. If you find that you?re always the shoulder they cry on, but they can never return the favor ? you?re involved with someone who only cares about their own issues and emotions.
Inability to be wrong
The selfish person is rarely wrong, because ? to them ? everything is a direct reflection on who they are. Selfish people love to personalize and internalize, and this makes it very hard for them to ever be wrong in any capacity. Rather than accepting their mistakes and learning from them, they will often flip the perspective or deny, deny, deny. All in a desperate effort to maintain their delusional ideas of perfection or control (or both).
Passive-aggressive behavior is a hallmark of the selfish person, and one of their favorite pastimes to engage in. When you?re dealing with a selfish person who is also insecure, they will criticize other people behind their backs, or otherwise attempt to hurt their confidence and sense of self in sneaky and underhanded ways. These tactics are extremely destructive to both personal and professional environments, and allow the selfish person to exert some manner of control over their surroundings.
Need to be the center of attention
Selfish people love the sound of their own voices, and they love to be surrounded by a world of their own making. Within this, there is often a craving for a attention and a need to be the star of their own show. On a more subtle level, this might manifest as wanting your partner to do everything centered around your desires or schedule; or, it might look like becoming loud, boisterous and overbearing in social settings or when things get uncomfortable.
Control, control, control
Failure to compromise, and an inability to do anything short of what you want to do is self-centered. With the selfish, everyone around them is expected to acquiesce at all times, and there might even be drama when they believe someone is trying to thwart their plan. Control freaks are almost always self-centered in some way, and it causes major disruptances in their personal and professional relationships. Unable and unwilling to give anyone else the spotlight around them, they frequently end up with even more fractured senses of self.
Zero thought for others
The most common trait among selfish people is an inability or an unwillingness to care for others. Selfish people don?t care about how their friends feel. They don?t care what their partner thinks, or what their boss thinks, or what the neighbor down the street thinks. While this detachment from the opinions of others is freeing in some ways, it becomes problematic when it leads to a dismissal of the feelings, opinions, and desires of others.
The blame game
When someone is truly selfish, they often have a very high opinion of themselves. While confidence is key to success in life, it can be taken too far. Failing to see your own shortcomings and mistakes, or engaging in a blame game in order to avoid responsibility for your own actions, is always a sign that it?s time to make some serious changes and start considering other people.
Refusal to listen
Selfish people are inherently inclined to listen only to their own opinions, to the exclusion of those around them. Whether it?s a recommendation on where to eat, or an idea on how they could improve their own lives ? the selfish person turns a deaf ear to advice and ideas alike. They can?t hear anything but their own opinion and point of view, and they have a hard time even asking others for their thoughts (after all, that?s just a waste of time).
How to be less selfish and increase your altruism.
Just because you?ve fallen into selfish or self-centered patterns doesn?t mean you have to live that way forever. You can learn how to cultivate more generosity, understanding and altruism in your life, but it takes conscious effort and commitment to change the way you see yourself, others and the world around you.
1. Become a better listener
Becoming a better listener is the first step in building better relationships (of any sort) and it?s the first step in learning how to stop being so self-centered. When we learn how to listen to our friends and family, we access new perspectives and realize new aspects of our self. It?s a transformative power, but it takes letting go of your need to speak, and it takes letting go of always giving your point-of-view top priority.
Engage in active listening skills, and apply them to the conversations and interactions that you have with others. Rather than listening simply to reply, lose yourself in what they?re saying and be present by asking them questions and physical engaging in what they?re saying with appropriate replies and head nods.
Clear your head of any preconceived answers or anecdotes you want to share, and start letting other people lead the conversation. Be present in the moment and reply and respond to things only as they come up in the conversation, avoiding tying it in to stories about yourself as much as possible. When we start to listen actively to what other people are saying, we realize new things about them and allow ourselves to connect with them in a present and heartwarming way. It?s a small way to start making big changes in how you see yourself in relation to others.
2. Try a change of shoes
Self-centered or selfish people are entirely caught up in their own point-of-view and usually fail to see what anyone else is going through. When they?re going through problems, it?s the only problem that exists. When they?re struggling, the become incapable of seeing the pain of others. If you?re truly looking to get beyond your selfish ways, you have to get outside your obsessive perspective and start seeing things from other people?s eyes.
Try taking a walk in other people?s shoes and actively try to see things from their perspective. Start small, by consciously imagining yourself dealing with their pain or their problems. Compare it to a similar situation you might have experience before. How did you feel? Were you sad? Humiliated? Angry?
Consider the fact that you?re dealing with another human being who has all the same responses, reactions and feelings as you. Really try to recall how your emotions made you feel in your lowest and highest moments, and understand that ? in so many ways ? it?s exactly the same for the other person. Focus on empathy, and cultivate compassion in your life consciously. When you can care for someone else as much as you care for yourself, you?ll discover truly transformative strength.
3. Figure out how to give your time
Selfish behavior isn?t just something that occurs with our actions or our words, it?s something that can exist within the way we manage our time here as well. Being there for other people isn?t just about giving them nice words or a hug every now and again. It?s also about giving them time, and making a conscious effort to create space for them in your life.
Learn how to volunteer your time ? not just with your friends and loved ones, but with charitable and worthy causes as well. Open up your calendar or your diary, and clear up and afternoon, a morning, or a day to help someone who needs it (or someone who simply wants some company).
Drop any expectations that you have, and allow yourself to give freely and from the heart. Commit to sacrificing your time ? which is free ? to something or someone who can benefit from it. Through this action, not only will you be better able to bond with those you care about, you?ll be better able to bond with those deeply held strengths which you?ve left abandoned all this time.
4. Hand out a few free-passes
Too often, we forget to let things slide when we?re completely obsessed with ourselves. When everything becomes a personal reflection of who you think you are, it?s easy to get insulted and it?s easy to believe that every battle is worth fighting. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Which is something we realize when we master the art of giving free passes.
Don?t reply to that rude person at the coffee shop. Don?t fire back at your boss or your partner when they make that totally unwarranted comment. This isn?t to say you have to become a pushover, but learn how to pick your battles and realize that not every instance of negativity deserves to be addressed with our energy.
Practice giving free passes to rude people, or those who assume the world should be revolving around them. The further you move away from your selfishness, the more you?ll come to see it in others (and the more it will upset you). Rather than rising to those old habits, start letting go and walking away from the things that only bring more drama and unhappiness ? rather than the peace and joy you?re trying to cultivate.
5. Find power in being present in life
Presence is a powerful thing, and it?s especially powerful when were learning to connect outside of ourselves. Discovering the power of presence allows us to open up to others, and empowers them to open up to us. It?s all about existing entirely in the moment, and letting go of your need to change the past or impact the future. It?s being, and allowing other people to simply be in your presence as well.
The little moments in-between all the big and chaotic ?stuff? in our lives is where the most beautiful experiences lie. In these tiny moments, we connect with the people we love and build the memories that carry us into the future and through the tough times that come our way.
Start allowing yourself to be entirely present when you?re talking to someone or sharing time with them ? whatever the circumstances. Listen to their words as they speak, and don?t allow yourself to form any replies before they?ve had a chance to fully express themselves and their point. Then, and only then, allow your mind to gather thoughts and start putting together the response, reply or plan that?s requested of you (if one is requested at all).
6. Break old habits
Selfish behavior occurs in cycles, and it compounds over time to become a system of patterns that undermine our overall happiness and fulfillment. Refusing to step beyond our self-centered natures keeps us isolated, scared and cut-off from opportunities that might otherwise provide some joy in our lives. That?s why we have to break our patterns and replace them with new habits that allow us to build better relationships and futures.
When it comes to building up new and positive habits in our lives, incentives can be an invaluable means of plotting our way to a new future. Incentives are critical and positive rewards that also act as mile-markers on your journey forward. They make up a pivotal piece of the habit loop, and do a lot of the work for us when it comes to staying focused and breaking bad habits.
If you have selfish tendencies, use that nature to your advantage and come up with a system of rewards that help boost the positive behavior patterns you want to embrace. Over time, that self-centered, distrustful brain will learn that there is more positivity associated in helping others and opening up, and it will let go of it?s obsessive need to look after #1 and #1 alone. Breaking old habits can be hard work, but leading a selfish life can be a far, far harder road to travel if you?re someone who values love, relationships or social affection.
7. Release the need for endless control
Many people become self-centered or come off as selfish because they have a desperate need to control their environments and the people around them. Though these impulses can (occasionally) come from a good place, they wear down our bonds and make it harder and harder to connect with people on any real level. That?s why it?s important to start letting go of your need to micromanage and control all outcomes, before it ruins your relationships.
Start by taking a step back to analyze your life and everything in it you can control, and everything you can?t control. Put them in two lists, then make a third list which notes everything you honestly try to take control of in an average day.
Once you?ve taken an honest look at what you can control and what you can?t, start detaching yourself from that obsessive need to take over the things that are beyond your reach. Begin small, and let go of 3 small tasks or situations that don?t deserve your energy or your time. Delegation is a great way to let go, while also learning how to lean on others, but what?s most important is that you learn to stop emotionally attaching to and personalizing everything as though it reflects on who you are.
Putting it all together?
There?s a big difference in looking after your needs and becoming obsessed with yourself and the things you want. When all we can see is our own desires and needs, we start to lead self-centered lives that isolate us and further undermine our longterm happiness. In order to cultivate full, exceptional and gratifying lives, we have to learn how to look beyond our own point-of-view to see the perspectives of others.
Make a conscious effort to become a better listener, and shift the way you see things so you can see things from the perspective of the people you care about most. When we put ourselves in the shoes of others, we can better relate to what they?re dealing with both physically and emotionally. Cultivate compassion in your life by learning how to break down your walls and let go of your need to micromanage and control every aspect of your life (and the lives of others). Being selfish only leads to isolation, increased unhappiness and a loss of connection to our authentic and empathetic self. Practice giving free passes to the conflicts and efforts that don?t deserve your energy, and stop personalizing and internalizing the world around you. Not everything is a reflection on you. Not everything in this life is about you. When we learn how to love and respect others as much as we love and respect ourselves, that is where we find the true power of transformation.