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.