Being thoughtful of others can require some serious effort. This is especially true in the midst of a culture that promotes self-absorption through multiple platforms. Everybody wants to talk about what they did today, all that they have accomplished, the new toys they bought, how adorable their children are, etc. We have all been guilty of this and are all capable of being roped into believing the lie “its all about me.” So how do we overcome this tragic misfortune?
First of all, we need to realize that it is in fact not “all about me.” The people around us matter and thinking more of them than ourselves will lead to a depth of satisfaction selfishness can never achieve.
Here are some negative outcomes of self-absorption that will hopefully inspire change:
Increased Stress: often when you are self-absorbed you focus a lot of your attention on what other people think of you. This can sometimes include imaginations and negative assumptions, leading to increased defensive or avoidant behaviors. This includes worrying about whether or not people like you, if they think what you say sounds stupid, or if you offer value at all. Gosh that’s a lot to worry about! Additionally, people who are totally consumed with self and the way they appear to others will put an excessive amount of effort into attempting perfection. Think of how much less stressful life would be if you didn’t care about what other people were thinking of you and focused instead on how you can positively impact others. Stress levels could be reduced dramatically.
Here is a personal story. I used to have this weird concern about my clothes fitting just right. If something didn’t tuck in properly or seemed a little too baggy or a little too loose on me I refused to wear it. I was so worried people would think I looked stupid because I was focused entirely too much on myself. This caused a lot of unneeded stress. Once I recognized this and made some changes the stress over what to wear totally disappeared, leaving me more capable of thinking about more important things.
Lowered self-esteem: The more you think about yourself the greater the risk of developing a negative opinion of yourself, decreasing self-esteem. Think about it, if you find out a friend got a promotion and you immediately think “wow why haven’t I gotten a promotion?” what happens? You immediately think less of yourself and are also in danger of thinking less of your friend. The healthy response when confronted with joys and successes of others is to rejoice with them. Being consumed with self makes this much more difficult. Additionally, comparison is bred by self-focus, often leading to depression and bitterness. Stop comparing yourself to that beautiful friend of yours and instead give her a nice compliment. You will quickly realize the difference this can make and the joy it can produce.
Damaged relationships: Who wants a relationship with someone who thinks only of him or herself? In a blog titled The Pursuit of Selflessness, Joshua Becker writes “Nobody is intimately drawn to selfishness. Nobody seeks the wise counsel of a selfish person. Nobody is willing to give themselves up for one who desires his own kingdom above all things.” How right he is! Selflessness is the glue that holds marriages and friendships together. Everybody wants a selfless friend or spouse. The problem is, a selfless person wont be drawn to a selfish person, unless its out of compassion and a desire to help, lets face it that’s what selflessness does, but this likely wont last.. Jealousy, conceitedness, and bitterness, direct causes of self-absorption, are easily detected and often avoided. Start focusing on others more than yourself and you will notice some serious positive changes in your relationships. You might even develop some new and exciting ones too.
Distraction from the needs of others: When you are busy thinking about yourself you are less capable of thinking of the needs of others. I’m not referring to neglecting self-care, as this is really important. I’m talking about self-absorption: preoccupation with ones own emotions, interests, or situations. A person preoccupied with their own “stuff” won’t notice when the people in his or her life are in need and will likely ignore those needs. Unmet needs can lead to serious conflict in relationships, especially in marriage.
Missed opportunities: The joy that comes from encouraging, supporting, and cheering others on is irreplaceable. If you are self-absorbed you might not realize this. But I promise, its true! I won’t lie, I can occasionally revert to my selfish side, thinking only of myself, and I know the lack of joy I experience in that place. When a friend shares a heartache and all you can think to do is make it about you you miss out on the chance to offer support and love. Risk focusing on yourself less so you can recognize the opportunities to serve and love others around you and experience a new kind of happiness.
Increased pride: The more you think of yourself the more you are in danger of becoming prideful. As you focus on self you focus on impressing and appearing worthy to others. This is a dangerous road to travel and one that becomes murky quickly. The deeper you go the less able you are to realize how far you have gone, and the less capable you are of turning back.
Don’t fool yourself: we have all been guilty of self-promotion. We tell the world about the great things we’ve done in order to “encourage” others. It’s really important that we, me included, really examine our motives. Are we really trying to help others or are we simply trying to promote ourselves and gain recognition? Instead of talking about yourself and what you did try talking about what you saw or heard someone else do. You want to encourage others, that’s great! Just don’t do it to commend self. share of a recent good deed you noticed someone else doing or an accomplishment someone else achieved. This will not only encourage others, but will protect you from promoting yourself and missing out on God’s blessings in favor of public praise.
For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. 2 Corinthians 10:18 (NKJV)
“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is valued by what others say of him.” Proverbs 27:21
What other negative outcomes of self-absorption can you think of? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!