Andi (empath_eia) wrote in the_faintest,

001. Self-centeredness

I thought long and hard today about what topic my first entry here should be.

Some topics felt too heavy for a first time (grief, anger). Some felt too 'fluffy' (auras, crystals, tarot), though you can rest assured I'll get into them at some point. The rest felt too random, too pretentious, too something to be acceptable.

Then I realized how much I was overthinking it and told myself soundly to shut up and write.

My topic today, coming to you courtesy of a question an old friend asked me recently, is the concept of self-centeredness. (Not selfishness-- I'll talk about that in another post.)

It's an insult I hear thrown around a lot, usually behind the back of the person in question. "She's so self-centered! Can't she think of someone else's feelings for once in her life? God, what a bitch!" Or: "He's the most self-centered jerk I've ever met. It's like nobody else matters. Like we don't even exist!"

This has always mystified me. If a person is being inconsiderate, they are being inconsiderate. If they are being callous, they are being callous. I don't dispute that. But calling him or her 'self-centered' as if that's at all related to the situation at hand...

Let me ask a question. If being self-centered is such a terrible thing, who else exactly should you be centered around? Second question: how?

How on earth could a whole being such as yourself 'center' around anything at all other than... yourself? You are a being whole and complete unto yourself. How could your center be anywhere but in the middle of your self? The very thought is ridiculous. As well as the Earth to spin around Mars's axis, because clearly it's being self-centered spinning around its own.

Think of a person you know who you could easily apply the negative label of 'self-centered' to. What behaviours do they exhibit that makes you think this? Perhaps they talk about themselves a lot, forever wanting your opinion on whether this pair of pants makes them look skanky, whether the head of this or that company respects them or not, whether their relationship is worth fighting for. Perhaps they only seem to tolerate you because of what you can do for them, your particular talents or web of contacts. Perhaps they are overly concerned with their reputations and obsess over everything anyone says about them, twisting it to either assume a positive meaning (if they have an overinflated ego) or an insulting one (if they have low self-esteem). "He said I did a good job. Not a great job. Just a good job. He tells Marissa she does a great job. Must be because she has a nicer rack than me. Do you think so?" Perhaps they loudly voice their opinions at every opportunity, talking right over yours or trashing it before you can even properly voice it. They drive you crazy because you can't get them to listen to you talk about your day for five seconds before they're back on themselves. .

Now think about where these people's focus really lies. When they talk about themselves, what are they trying to accomplish? They're trying to get you to listen to them, to respect them, to like them, or possibly to confirm their beliefs about themself-- I knew they hated me, I knew they thought I was useless, I knew it, I'm such a waste of space, so glad you agree. They want to know what you think of them, what other people think of them, what the entire world thinks of them. They need you because you have something they don't, or they think you do. They need everyone else to share their opinions because they're not content with only themselves.

Are you seeing a theme here? All these self-centered people think about is you, you and everyone else they know.

Say a self-centered man has an issue: he doesn't believe he's a good lover. Instead of asking himself honestly "Am I doing all I can to be a good lover?" he runs around to all his friends, his coworkers, his family, his acquaintances, random strangers on the street, and proceeds to tell them all what a good lover he is, how awesome he is in the sack, how all the ladies want him but don't have the guts to ask him out... in the hopes that the power of other people believing him will somehow disprove the point. "All these people agree that I am a great lover, so it must be true!"

Everyone around him is rolling his or her eyes, thinking "For chrissakes, man, shut up about yourself already and try listening to someone else for a change. You're so self-centered."

But is he? He's not actually focusing on himself at all. All his focus is on other people, though the topic is himself. He is being... other-centric.

Everyone, by virtue of being a Something, is self-centered. Every thing is centered around itself. That's just a law of the universe. Interestingly, the people you think of as 'self-centered' are-- in my view-- the furthest thing from it.

I am a self-centered person. I don't pretend to be anything else because it would be silly. And yet, I am rarely accused of being anything other than a nice, helpful person ('thoughtful' is how my dad puts it, and it's probably my favourite praise-word, though I don't need praise to know I'm nice to people). This is because I neither need nor want any other opinion on myself but my own, and thus don't need to ask everyone around me for theirs. With this need for the validation of others out of the way, I am free to listen to them without my own insecurity tangling up my thoughts.

Most of the time, anyway. I got a little other-centric regarding the creation of this very blog earlier today, unsure as to whether I was being pretentious or not and seeking reassurance from outside myself inside of asking myself and listening for the answer. I pestered a bunch of people I know for their opinions, ignoring them if they tried to talk about their own stuff and steering them back to my problem, focusing on their answers with neurotic intensity to distract myself from the mire of self-doubt sucking at my knees. Given a few minutes alone and couple deep breaths, I calmed down and came back to myself, finding (as I knew I would) all the reassurance I needed from within my own heart and mind as soon as I did.

In conclusion: the people who accept their self-centeredness as natural fact are not the people who get called self-centered. The ones who do are actually trying to center on other people, which is quite impossible, but very annoying to the subject of their desperate attempt to avoid focusing on themselves.

To use a classic example:

Other-centric woman: "How about this dress? Tell me the truth: does it make my butt look big? It does, doesn't it. It's okay, you can say it. I know you're thinking it. I don't know what happened. Back in the '90s I could have had ten booty calls in a night if I wanted, but now look at me. I'm a whale."

Self-centered woman: "Damn, I'm out of shape. This dress is unflattering. I'll wear the skirt with the tailored waistline tonight and sign up for yoga class after work tomorrow."

The first woman is fishing for compliments and reassurance, hoping her friend will say "Nonsense, you look fine, you could still have any man you wanted. The dress makes your ass look fabulous." That's because she's afraid to ask herself and listen for the answer, because on a subconscious level she knows she won't like what she hears. The second woman values her own opinion and doesn't need anyone else's.

A side effect of this is that she'll have less trouble telling the truth to others, because she's not afraid of others telling the truth to her since she already knows it.

Other-centric woman: Oh yes, the purple polka-dots are lovely, they set off your eyes. Of course I'm telling the truth. Would I lie to you? You look fabulous.

Self-centered woman: I wouldn't wear that if I were you, honey. Here, try this blue one instead.

Of course, I'm not asking you to take my word for it. As I stated in the profile of this community and in my introductory post, I don't claim to have any idea what I'm talking about. The purpose of this community is to help you think about things you don't usually think about in ways you don't usually think about them, not to tell you what is and what isn't. Verify things for yourself. Improve on my theories, prove them wrong, do whatever you want, just start paying attention.

Next time you meet a person who strikes you as 'self-centered,' look a bit closer and from a different angle, and see what happens. At the very least it'll give you something to ponder while you're pretending to listen to them.

Good night and sweet dreams to all of you. Thanks for reading.

Tags: !essay, self-centeredness
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded