Journaling Exercise: Are you self-centered?

 

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Too much self-centered attitude brings isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.

Dalai Lama

 

I had a conversation recently with someone who is going through a rough period, but what I noticed was that every single sentence was about them. Even when they were trying to talk about not hurting someone else, their sentence was phrased such:

“I don’t want to feel guilty for hurting my loved ones.”

Notice the sentence pattern. First it begins with an ‘I’. That’s not bad necessarily. You could say, “I don’t want to hurt my loved ones.” or “I want to behave better towards my loved ones.”

But that’s not what that sentence does. It clarifies that the person doesn’t want to feel guilty for hurting their loved ones. So its’ not so much hurting others they are worried about, but feeling guilty for it.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking about a horrible human being here. This person doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone. However, their focus is all on them. All they are thinking about is how it would make THEM feel if they hurt someone. Their focus is entirely on self, but superficial self. The outside self, not the inner self where self-awareness exists and makes you take stock of your behaviour and allow you to change it.

Self-centeredness can take many forms, from above where one is the sole emotional focus of one’s thoughts, to where  one is deliberately using others for one’s benefit and all the degrees in between. It is also possible that you may not even be aware how self-centered you are.

I believe in general human goodness, and I don’t think most people actually want to be self-centered. I think most people do want to be able to give and receive affection, have healthy relationships – but not everyone is consciously working on overcoming their internal triggers and limitations to achieve that. So that’s what this exercise is about. If you are find that you are self-centered, or more self-centered than you thought, that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. The awareness is the key. You need to know exactly who you are in order to determine if you want to continue being that, or if some changes/improvements are needed. 

So ask yourself these questions:

  • When you are talking to other people, particularly people close to you, how often “YOU” are the sole focus of your conversation?
  • Do you ask someone, “How do you feel?” or “How are you?” and actually listen to them, or you can’t wait to get to your part of the conversation?
  • When considering other people, are you more concerned about how it would make you feel?
  • When talking to other people, are you often thinking about how they annoy/amuse/irritate/adore/inspire you? 
  • Do you find yourself ever thinking of others, in their own right, their problems, just wanting to listen to them for their own sake, because you care?
  • Do you think you are better than others in every way possible? 
  • Do you think you DESERVE everything in life – attention, affection, admiration – without having to give anything in return?

 

Be honest with yourself as you answer these questions, and give specific examples wherever you can. Don’t just give up at the first try. If you can’t immediately come up with an answer, try again. But answer these questions in as much detail as possible. 

Once you know the extent of your self-centeredness then you can work any changes you think you might need to execute to be the person you want to be.

 

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