me- “Did you hear about how bad this cold weather has been in the northwest that it caused several deaths?”
her- “ OMG, yes, and my pipes almost froze! It was so cold in my house I couldn’t get the house warm enough so I had to put on 2 layers of clothing!”
Granted, this was a reply from a narcissist whose only concern is for herself. This kind of person is self-absorbed and not really interested in other people. All their conversation shifts immediately back to them as soon as they can speak. You probably know some people like that.
Selfishness Comes in All Degrees and Forms
Egocentric people only think about themselves-what they need and what they want. They are incapable of compassion unless they’ve experienced that problem personally and even then, will always self-refer immediately after expressing sympathy. They cannot imagine themselves in another’s shoes or show interest by asking questions and offering support. If they like something, they believe everyone else likes it too. And, conversely, if they dislike something or somebody, they assume others feel the same way.
Egotists will often monopolize a conversation, not noticing that others have an opinion they want to express. They are unaware of the subtleties of relationship and often fail to pick up cues from other people. Self-centered people hear but they do not comprehend. They have tunnel vision. They don’t realize that their insensitivity is hurtful.
Is it Contagious?!
Today, selfishness appears all too prevalent a mode of being. ‘Everyone’ seems to be wrapped up in their own cocoons. It is all too easy to dismiss a narcissist as incorrigible and walk away. After all, who wants to deal with somebody who doesn’t show respect for others. I believe there are some good reasons for the prevalence of self-centeredness.
Who Birthed the S-Baby?
So where does the commonness of selfishness come from? My spiritual discipline teaches that selfishness is a cover for fear. If I look at someone and judge that person as selfish, I am really seeing someone who is very afraid of being vulnerable; of allowing him or herself to be moved in any way that might alter their perceived notion of safety. And the form that safety often takes presents as selfishness.
What is the root of that fear? It is the belief that you are something you are not! In your fear, you believe you are unlovable, unworthy, incapable of true happiness. And, because that idea is so horrendous, you mask your fear with bravado and arrogance.
Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.
– Erich Fromm
So where do your fears from? Every life is full of experiences, thousands upon thousands! HOW you view these events determines how much fear you carry around with you. Your fears may have no basis in reality, yet they surreptitiously affect everything you think, see and do.
Fear is a paintbrush which colors all our experiences with bolts of lightning in a grey and brooding sky. Our lifetime of experiences, therefore, takes on a mantle of doom—”What disaster is going to happen next?” we mumble, with trembling lips. This puts us in a state of mind where we tend to have more fear about being invested in the people around us. We distrust and cover that with an air of superiority in a more positive way. Hence, the appearance of selfishness!
Painting a New Picture
With this understanding- that the selfish individual is filled with fear and trying desperately to hide the ‘truth’ of hir unworthiness- you can take a new stance. You acknowledge that you are looking at a fearful person. This can help you shift the way you perceive hir so that instead of feeling dismay, disgust or disinterest, what you may want to say is, “Wow, how can i help this person not be afraid? What can i do because of the love that’s within me?”
This is what real love is all about. It’s about the love that comes from within you and then is manifested in your relationships with other people. You decide how that relationship goes. It’s not that they do something and then you decide if you love them or not. NO. You determine how you choose to see (and interact with) everyone you meet. You could look at this so-called selfish person and say, “Here is a frightened person. Here’s someone who needs my love, who i can help feel safe with me. Maybe not with anybody else, i’m not responsible for that, but with me, this person can feel safe.”
Then watch the miracle occur! Perhaps s/he can let hir guard down and not have to put on this air of being unconcerned or self-absorbed. You are allowing hir the space to shine. And isn’t that a beautiful thing if you can help someone else to shine? Wow. That is so great.
Years ago when I was writing something about selfishness i said we all should learn how to be selfish, but in a good way. So what is the good way of being selfish? From a positive perspective, the good way of being selfish is to say, “I need to take care of me first,” like a parent on an airplane. You put the mask on first before you put it on the child. You must take care of yourself first. Then you can be a great caregiver to whoever else is in your environment.
You can’t truly love another person unless you love yourself sincerely, not on a surface level, but on an honest, straight-forward level of knowing your own value. Because when you know your value, you are able to see the worth in other people, even if they can’t see it in themselves. This is a crucial aspect of the concept of ‘good’ selfishness-that you learn how to love yourself.
The decision to love yourself, to be self-full, requires a plan. For most of us being selfish in a ‘good’ way doesn’t come naturally. I’ve been teaching my Modern Meditation Method because it is the perfect vehicle for developing Self-fullness. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but just a few minutes each morning can soon set the practitioner on the right path. Introspection leads to awareness and awareness leads to the correction of mental errors that prevent us from experiencing our innate Self-fullness.
Because the word selfish has such a negative connotation, i coined a new word ‘self-full,’ which means to be selfish in a good way, to take care of yourself so you can be fully present to others:
to feel full within yourself,
to feel your own goodness
and in the fullness of yourself
use whatever characteristics, traits or abilities that you have, to share your goodness with everyone in the world.
Peace and Love Always,
If you are interested in finding out more about MarciaGrace’s ‘Sitting” training program, email her at email@example.com
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