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Is Being Self-Centered a Bad Thing?

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

The holidays are usually associated with giving to others and being selfless. However, in the American culture, individualism and independence are encouraged throughout the rest of the year, so it can be difficult to just turn that off.

Although we’re almost forced to put ourselves first in this society in order to succeed, being self-centered isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some experts weigh in on narcissism and its relation to being self-centered, and how to recognize these qualities.

Laura Buffardi, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Universidad de Deusto in Spain, said in an e-mail that narcissism is “a trait that characterizes someone who thinks they’re pretty great. Narcissists see themselves in an overly positive way. They think they are more attractive, intelligent, and unique than others.”

Someone who is self-centered is not necessarily a narcissist, though narcissists are self-centered.

“Narcissistic people believe they are special and unique,” said Amy Brunell, an assistant psychology professor at Ohio State University at Newark. “They are arrogant, lack empathy for others, and readily take advantage of others. Narcissists have inflated, positive views of themselves, are self-centered, and are unlikely to consider how their decisions can affect others. They want others to admire them and will therefore show off and brag to get attention.”

The key is balance.

“I think there's a balance between taking care of oneself and taking care of others,” Brunell said in an e-mail. “It's a problem when one is overly self-centered. It's also unhealthy when one chronically puts the needs of others in front of his/her own.”

Like most Americans know, putting ourselves first can be vital.

“We could not survive if we didn't look out for ourselves first,” Buffardi said. “In American and other Western cultures, it is also ‘the norm’ to be self-centered because Americans have a highly independent view of themselves.”

She added that being self-centered is important in career success.

“To be competitive on the job market we must promote ourselves - or be self-centered,” Buffardi said.

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EmpowHER Guest

I think self absorbtion is healthy when someone has been hurt and taken advantage of and has not recovered from their emotional abuse/trauma. This brings us back to the fundamental argument of 'givers vs. takers'. Sometimes giving too much has caused folks to be trodden on and they have vowed never to treat themselves like dirt again or allow anyone else to either. So the narcissim or self absorbtion becomes like a wall between the self and others -- a layer of protection. Moreover, if one knows what one needs and wants in life, there is no harm in being self focussed to reach those goals -- as long as no one get's hurt. The last thing to remember is that not everyone has very high affiliation needs -- these people don't need people as much as 'normal' people do -- I am an only child, and have learnt how to live alone, entertain myself, develop interests and hobbies and find people to be the source of noise and chaos. I'm happier being alone or with very few close people. It is quite reasonable to say that if another person has nothing much to teach you or contribute to your life and you have no common background, why waste time trying to fit in?

June 11, 2014 - 5:18am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

This so sounds just like me but sometimes I feel bad because my male friends thinks I only worry about myself but I have things that I havent yet accomplished and I fee once I do that then I can think about someone else and their needs but I feel like I should focus on myself first before anyone and make sure that im in a healthy place in my life to where I feel comfortable giving a hand out

March 9, 2015 - 2:06pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.