What It Means To Be Selfish But Not Self-absorbed

Children are often told that if they don’t share their toys, they are selfish. That they must share with their friends, or they will be labeled unkind, mean, or rude. The older we get, the more we need to realize this is untrue and as human beings, we are not entitled to share everything important and dear to us.

In fact, the more we share or give to others, the more opportunities people have to exploit and take advantage of us. We avoid this by being selfish with our time, our emotions, and our attention.

It’s absolutely possible to be selfish in healthy ways.

The line between being selfish and being self-absorbed is thin and crossing that line is detrimental will hurt your relationships with others.

Someone who has healthy boundaries in their life regarding how much time and attention they spend on others is being selfish as part of their self-care. Being selfish does not automatically mean you are completely closed off to the needs of other people. You can be selfish and still actively care about other people. Being self-absorbed is the opposite.

People who are self-absorbed will absolutely convince themselves that they are being selfish for the right reasons. They have crossed that line and either do not realize it, or do but won’t acknowledge it. It’s painfully obvious to everyone else when this line has been crossed because they are suddenly not important in that person’s world anymore.

Being self-absorbed is exactly that. Being absorbed, wrapped up in yourself and your own world.

So much so that you’ve blocked out the people closest to you; put blinders on so you can’t see their needs or struggles. When you’ve crossed that line, you stop checking in on your friends. Or when you do, you do it out of obligation and not because you actually care about their wellbeing.

In conversation, it’s clear when someone is self-absorbed. They dominate with talk only of themselves and what is most important to them. These conversations are rarely two-sided, which will eventually prove damaging to the relationship.

Trying to approach someone who has crossed into self-absorbed territory about their neglectful behavior is never pleasant. They see no error in their actions and will most likely see this approach as an attack. At that point, not much can be done.

But there are steps to make sure our healthy boundaries with others don’t turn into the sourness of self-absorption. Consciously practicing self-examination will help us see our actions and behavior before or as they change. Asking ourselves during a conversation, “Have I asked this person about them?” is a great way to start.

The important thing to remember is that pretending to care about people close to you is not the same as actually caring. When you find yourself checking in on your friends purely out of obligation and not because you truly care about them, it’s time for some deep reflection and examination of yourself. Being selfish and setting healthy boundaries will never be as lonely as being self-absorbed, effectively making you the only one in your corner.

Image via Unsplash


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