8 Highly Effective Ways To Stop Being Self-Centered

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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you unpack the reasons for your self-centeredness and to overcome those tendencies. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.

If you’ve been alive for any amount of time, no doubt you’ve been accused of being self-centered. It’s a common accusation thrown around with and without cause.

But what does it mean to be self-centered, and why is it a bad thing?

Simply put, a self-centered person is one who acts like other people around them don’t matter: that the only important thing is getting what they want, when they want them, regardless of anything else going on around them.

As you can imagine, this isn’t ideal for any kind of relationship, be it a friendship, romantic partnership, or healthy rapport with your parents or children.

A self-absorbed partner will end up pushing people away with their alternating demands or neglect. And a self-centered parent might create a vicious cycle reproducing their ways in their offspring.

When it comes to learning how to stop being self-centered, the key is finding the root, to understand why this behavior developed in the first place. Much like treating any kind of illness, understanding the causal factors will give us the info we need on how to heal it.

What causes self-centered behavior?

No behavior occurs by accident or out of nowhere but is instead a result of something else. It really is a “cause and effect” situation.

For example, if you take a look at people with narcissistic tendencies, you’ll discover that although there are genetic factors that come into play, a huge environmental factor is usually childhood abuse like neglect and hyper-criticism.

Similar factors often come into play when it comes to self-centered behavior, though the difficult circumstances need not have happened in childhood.

In simplest terms, self-absorbed people often become that way in order to get their needs met. For example, a child with neglectful parents will learn quickly how to take care of themselves. They learn from experience that if they want anything in life, they will have to fight for it.

Extreme pressure makes one myopic.

When and if you’re stuck in a place where nobody else is going to look out for you (or look after you), then you have to make your own needs and well-being a priority. If that’s your reality for long enough but then you suddenly find yourself in a better position, you can’t just turn it “off.” That habit developed over time and will have to be eased out of over time with intentionality.

A person might have had to endure horrible, stressful circumstances for years, while trying to ensure that everyone around them was well taken care of… only nobody else looked out for them in turn. So one day they came to the point where they were so over being stepped on they decided to make their own needs and wants the primary focus.

Something inside them shut down, and they lost a lot of care or empathy for what others around them might be needing. It just didn’t matter: from now on, they were going to take care of what they needed in the moment, and f*ck what anyone else felt about it.

Issues will undoubtedly arise when they’re no longer in this kind of environment and instead are in situations where teamwork and real friendship are involved. Like we mentioned earlier, the habit didn’t just appear overnight or get flipped on like a light switch. It developed slowly as the person had to adapt to excruciating circumstances.

However long the person suffered in these situations will determine how long it takes them to come “back.” The general rule is it takes about half as much time to recover as it did to experience it, but that depends a lot on the individual and what kind of support structure they have as they move forward.

If you’ve experienced this kind of thing and realize you’ve been behaving in a self-absorbed manner – and want to break free – there are steps you can take to do so.

8 Steps To Become Less Self-Centered

1. Treat others as you’d want them to treat you.

This is the golden rule in all religions and philosophies for a reason. If you don’t want others to be self-absorbed in their dealings with you, try not to do so with them.

Be aware of your own behaviors, and if the people around you act in ways that a) upset you, and b) remind you of things that you do, that’s a good sign you might want to curb those actions too.

Often, we get most annoyed by other people when they display tendencies we dislike in ourselves. For example, a person who constantly talks through films often gets irritated when someone else does it. Or if they’re used to grabbing the last biscuit from the tin, they might pitch a fit to discover someone else beat them to it.

If a self-centered action you take would seriously piss you off if someone else did it to you, it’s a big indicator something needs to change. Would you be upset if you were playing a video game and someone switched it over to Netflix to watch a movie simply because that’s what they wanted in the moment? Or if someone borrowed an item of yours without asking? Don’t do the same thing to them.

Basically, don’t be a d*ck.

2. Try to understand other people’s perspectives.

One major trait of self-centered people is they’re so focused on what they’re feeling that they fail to take into account what others might be seeing, thinking, and feeling about the situation. Furthermore, their own views about what may be occurring will often be more influenced by their past experiences than what is actually going on.

Every single person experiences life differently. They see things through different lenses, process information in their own way, and have their own unique skill sets (and lack thereof). You might get frustrated with your best mate’s inability to go and find the ball you lost in the shrubbery, but he might have trouble seeing it if he’s color blind.

The same applies for life experiences and skills. What one person might find fun in bed might trigger another’s past trauma. In a situation like this, the first partner might feel rejected, while the other one has to deal with some PTSD.

Similarly, one person might scoff at another’s incompetence at basic carpentry but be unable to cook a simple meal. Each party just didn’t learn the skills (yet!) that the other was proficient in.

By widening your scope of awareness and taking other people’s experiences into account, you can develop more empathy and patience with them.

3. If you’re feeling something, ask if others around you are feeling it too.

Let’s say you’re hanging out with your family, binge-watching Netflix or similar, when all of a sudden you feel like making a cup of tea. Rather than just getting up, making one for yourself, and sitting back down, ask if anyone else would like one as well.

Since you’re boiling the kettle anyway, it’s just a nice gesture to make the offer. Even if they all say “no thanks,” at least you’ve made the effort to offer, you know?

Same goes for if you’re feeling hungry. Have you ever been in a situation where your partner or friend has made themselves a meal but hasn’t offered you any? Chances are you probably felt pretty neglected or invisible in that moment, so you can imagine how others would feel if the situation were reversed.

If you’re feeling cold, ask around if others want the thermostat raised or a fire lit. Feeling tired? Ask if others are too, as you may all be going through something draining. Then, make a group decision on something awesome that will lift everybody’s spirits.

4. Find a balance that you’re comfortable with.

We’ve already touched upon the fact that learning to stop being self-centered is going to take a bit of time. What’s going to undermine your attempts is if you try to do (or give) too much to others too soon, and potentially get disappointed when they don’t reciprocate or show you proper appreciation the way you’d want them to.

Be sure to understand and honor your own needs, so you don’t feel a burgeoning resentment or hostility toward others when being of service to them, especially if they don’t reciprocate immediately.

Additionally, if you do feel a wave of resentment or feeling like you’re being taken for granted, withdraw and try to look at the bigger picture.

You know how we talked about understanding other people’s perspectives? This also includes observing where the other person’s at in that moment, and determining why they’re behaving the way they are.

Let’s say you make your partner coffee, and she doesn’t accept it with genuine enthusiasm. You might feel a sudden wave of hurt or anger, like you went out of your way to do something nice for her and she acted like she didn’t care. If you allow yourself to stew and spiral, you might decide you won’t bother to do that again.

Or, you could take a few deep breaths and look at the whole picture.

Is she usually appreciative of your little gestures? Yes, she is. Okay, so what’s different about this time? Was she preoccupied with something else? Was she feeling unwell? Observe all you can, and then when you feel like it’s a good time, ask her if she’s doing okay, as she doesn’t seem her usual self. You might find out she had cramps, was waiting for the painkillers to kick in, and wasn’t able to be properly enthusiastic and grateful for your gesture.

Most of the time, other people’s behavior has little to do with us and is entirely about what’s going on in their own minds and bodies. We can assume things, or try to figure out what’s going on based on what we see and hear, but ultimately the best way to truly understand a situation is to talk about it.

5. Timing is everything.

This expands upon the point above. The most amazing gestures can fall flat if they’re offered at the wrong time. This is not necessarily because we chose poorly but because of what’s going on with those around us.

Let’s say you’re making a U turn and putting in a concerted effort to be nicer and more selfless toward others. Without understanding where others are at emotionally, this behavior could very well backfire.

You could decide to throw a surprise party for a friend of yours, go to pick them up, and find out they’ve just split with their spouse or their parent just died. They might have absolutely no inclination to be social, but you could feel upset and let down because of all the hard work you’ve put into surprising them.

In a situation like this, if you choose to get upset, you’ve made the situation all about you rather than them. Even though the party was technically for them, you were doing it because you wanted to do it. Of course, you wanted them to have fun, but you also wanted them to appreciate all the hard work you put in and acknowledge your efforts. Now you’re not going to get any return on your emotional and physical investment because of their stupid despair.

This is why it’s so important to stay aware of what’s going on with your partners, friends, and relatives. Understand where they’re at, and time your new, generous acts of benevolence accordingly. You’ll spare yourself a lot of disappointment by doing so and strengthen your relationships significantly.

6. Take small steps to result in big progress.

It’s better to do little things regularly than make grandiose efforts that may fall flat. Much like we touched upon in the tips above, it’s important to check in with yourself as well as others around you before taking action.

For instance, if you’re accustomed to being the one who always makes the decision as to what kind of food to order on a Saturday night, let your partner or housemate be the one to do the order this time. It’ll surprise them and be an opportunity for you to expand your palate. In fact, they might be so delighted by the fact they get to choose that they’ll order YOUR favorite food, simply as a way to show their appreciation.

This creates a positively reinforced feedback loop. You’ll appreciate the fact they appreciated you and did something kind for you when you gave them the opportunity to do so. The result will likely be you’ll do more of the same gesture, which they’ll appreciate and reciprocate, and so forth ad infinitum.

By doing this, you’re re-training your brain away from the negative reinforcement it received earlier in your life. Instead of bracing for people to f*ck you over, thus having to fight for the things that matter to you, you’ll realize the people around you love you, support you, and want your happiness too.

One thing to note here is some people might be mistrustful of your new behavior, especially if they’ve been hurt by you in the past. They may assume that your kindness is “buttering them up” for something. The only way to reassure them and earn their trust is to keep on keeping on. Consistency and time will create trust.

7. Keep a journal of successes and challenges.

Some people keep dream diaries, so they can look back over several years’ worth of dreams to see if there are any patterns. This is because we forget details quite quickly, and having notes about what we’ve experienced allows us to revisit these things on the regular.

Consider keeping a similar journal where you keep track of your new behaviors and attitude changes. This will allow you to see what’s working and what still needs improvement. For example:

  • 9pm: I did the dishes and asked my partner if she wanted a cup of tea. Her body language was withdrawn, and she didn’t want to engage with me. I got angry. I just did housework and offered to do something nice for her, and she gave me attitude. 
  • 10:30 pm: She just told me that her best friend was diagnosed with cancer today. What I took as a lack of appreciation was actually her working through grief and fear. Noted for future reference.
  • 11 pm: She made us a late-night hot chocolate, let me know my efforts were seen, and said sorry she wasn’t in the right space for it earlier. I told her what I was feeling in that moment, and she understood and thanked me for being honest with her. 

Next time something like this happens, you can flip back through the journal to see if anything similar has occurred. If you’ve been through a lot of crap in the past, chances are you hold onto bad memories more easily than good ones. By keeping notes, you can remind yourself of why less-than-stellar results occurred and thus remember to see the bigger picture.

8. Keep your desire to change a secret.

This may sound strange, but it’s important to keep this entire process (especially your journal) a secret. Even though your partner or family members might love you to pieces, it’s still vital to keep this type of personal journey to yourself. You might change your mind about this later, but for now, keep it just for you.

Usually it’s not a healthy or positive thing to keep secrets from those you love, but sometimes there are exceptions. Many people – especially when they’re feeling hurt or depressed – will lash out and use personal vulnerabilities as attacks or leverage. When hurt, their inclination is to hurt others: don’t give them any ammunition.

Ask yourself if you’re really self-centered, or if others are trying to manipulate you.

You’ve likely come across this article because you’ve done some web searches on self-centered behavior, right? This means you’ve either done some soul-searching and determined you have these tendencies, or someone else has been telling you how selfish you are and you’re trying to figure out whether it’s true or not.

It’s important to know that many folks accuse others of self-centered behavior in order to get what they want. They might make a lot of demands on you, and then pitch fits when you finally put your foot down and do what you want. In fact, many people who are selfless and consistently give get accused of being self-centered when they begin to make their own needs a priority.

These people have likely gotten accustomed to the idea that you’ll give to them whenever they want, and they don’t like the idea of that changing. As a result, they’ll do what they can in order to maintain the status quo which often involves trying to guilt trip or shame you into doing what they want.

If you’re trying to assert healthy boundaries in order to change the parameters of your interpersonal relationships and the people around you are accusing you of being self-absorbed, don’t get angry with them. Take a deep breath. This could very well be a manipulative tactic to get you to fly off the handle. You’ll inevitably feel bad about lashing out at them and then have to “make it up” to the offended party.

This will knock away the foundational blocks you’re trying to assert regarding your own well-being, so don’t let it happen. Call them out on what they’re doing, and remove yourself from the situation. Keep your calm, and repeat as necessary.

Remember the people around you don’t exist at your convenience. They’re not objects that can be summoned to give you attention, affection, food, etc. when you want and then dismissed when you’re done with them. Treat them as you want to be treated, and they will undoubtedly reciprocate.

Still not sure how to be less self-centered? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process of identifying the root cause and breaking free of this mindset and these behaviors. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.

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