Me, Myself, and I Selfish Self-Centered Narcissistic is There an Antidote?

I know what selfish behavior looks and sounds like. But I wondered why some individuals are professionals when it comes to selfishness. I had never looked it up to see how psychologists describe this behavior so I thought this was a good time to find out.

So, I did some research on what selfishness is, and how to deal with extreme selfishness. But I was surprised to learn that there can be multiple reasons the word “I” is used regularly by some people. Some psychologists term this behavior as self-centered, while some label it as selfish and others call it narcissistic personality disorder.

Below we’ll look at what I found out about selfishness, self-centered and narcissistic behaviors; along with how to deal with them.

Selfishness Psychology

The psychology dictionary defines selfishness as: “To act in a manner for your own benefit at a disadvantage to others.” This is a basic description of many kinds of actions.

Another article I found written by a political science major described the early signs of selfishness as:

“The early and familiar forms of selfishness are: building up self at the expense of others, claiming or puffing credit, being glad when others go wrong, resenting the genuine successes of others, preferring public vindication to private reconciliation, and taking “advantage of one because of his words.”

The second one gives us specific examples of selfish behavior.

Self-Centered Psychology

The dictionary defines self-centered as concerned solely or chiefly with one’s own interests, welfare, etc.;

1.engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical.
2.independent, self-sufficient.
3.centered in oneself or itself.
4.Archaic. fixed; unchanging.

We can tell by the definition that selfish is the first of the four. One who behaves selfishly would need to be concerned solely with their own interests and welfare.

Narcissistic Psychology

The psychology dictionary describes narcissistic personality disorder characteristics as:

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are superior or special, and often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way. This association enhances their self-esteem, which is typically quite fragile underneath the surface. Individuals with NPD seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat, and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an “injury” in the form of criticism or rejection.

Since narcissistic behaviors are the most complex of the three, I wanted to find out more.

Below is how Narcissism is defined on The Psychology Today website:

“The hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.”

Other articles summed up narcissism traits as:

Arrogance, grandiosity, a belief in one’s uniqueness, a preoccupation with power and success, lack of empathy, sense of entitlement, excessive need to be admired, the twin tendencies to envy and exploit others.

From the above we can see that selfishness is a certain way of acting; self-centered is being concerned only with self which manifests selfish behaviors; and narcissism is a mixture of both these, but much more.

Narcissist or Self-Centered- Is There a Difference?

Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W wrote an article on the Psychology Today website titled Narcissist or Just Self-Centered? 4 Ways to Tell below are the differences. I thought it was interesting to compare these behaviors.

In his opening paragraph he says:

“Many professionals think of narcissism, like many other mental-health issues on a continuum. And while truly narcissistic people are certainly self-centered, are self-centered people truly narcissistic? Not necessarily.”

When it comes to focus on self, both the narcissist and self-centered person are even. Self-centered people can be empathetic, but narcissists can’t – although they try to fake it. With grandiosity the self-centered person craves attention and can find ways to talk about themselves when they start feeling neglected. But they can also listen.

Narcissists seek attention; and they only listen to others so they can find opportunities to turn the conversation back to them, and their accomplishments.

Self-centered people crave attention from others, and can find a way to talk about themselves when they begin to feel neglected and unimportant. In conversations, they may talk too much about themselves, but they can also listen to others.

Selfish and self-centered

When it comes to morals, self-centered people have clear moral values, but narcissists feel that rules don’t apply to them. They rationalize why they can break rules and blame other people for their own actions to thwart criticism.

When you compare self-centered with narcissism, the first doesn’t seem so bad after all does it?

It’s important to note that narcissism is the only one that is a personality disorder.

Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Dangerous?

In an article titled Dangerous States of Mind, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. summed up how a narcissist can become dangerous.

“For the narcissist, it’s all about me, my needs, what I want. Such pathological narcissism, grandiosity or excessive selfishness is evident from early adulthood, and can be seen as a pervasive characterological defense against deep feelings of inferiority, helplessness, sadness, and unlovability stemming from certain infantile and childhood needs having not been adequately met. When this inflated persona is inevitably deflated by stressful life events such as divorce, rejection, abandonment, failure and loss, narcissistic rage is triggered, along with other long-buried emotions. The desire for revenge, retaliation, and the compulsive need to repay the hurt no matter what it takes is characteristic of narcissistic rage.”

If you’re concerned about a narcissist you can check out a blog I found during my research. It’s called After Narcissistic Abuse  It was started by a woman after she was told by her therapist she had just left an emotionally abusive relationship with a narcissist.

Now let’s look at the research I got on how to deal with people who are selfish, self-centered, and/or narcissistic.

Is There an Antidote?

selfish cure

I Lived in Heaven for 14 Months

Before I get into what I discovered in my research, I wanted to mention my 14 months in heaven when I lived in Enderby, BC. The people I surrounded myself with always thought of others and were continually engaged in selfless acts. It isn’t uncommon for them to put themselves out for the sake of others, including me. They always thought about what others wanted or needed.

Going forward I am so thankful to have them as examples; and I know that even if I think of others half as much as they do I’ll take a little piece of heaven with me wherever I go.

You Can’t Change Selfish/Self-Centered/Narcissistic People

If I were to summarize my research into one sentence it would be – You can’t change selfish/self-centered/narcissistic people, but you can control how you react to them.

You can always choose to understand why they behave the way they do and still love them; while you allow stuff to slide as you embrace them for who they are. You’re other option is to completely disassociate yourself from them.  If  they’re potentially dangerous you should go with the latter, but try to get them help too.

It’s important to note if you’re dealing with someone who strongly exhibits these characteristics don’t expect emotional support from them.

How  to Deal With Narcissistic People

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D offer the following advice when dealing with a narcissist:

She says there are two types of narcissists – Vulnerable and Grandiose, so you should know which type you’re dealing with.

Vulnerable narcissists don’t feel particularly good about themselves so they can become sneaky.  A vulnerable narcissist’s outward shell of self-centeredness and self-absorption masks a weak inner core.

Grandiose narcissists aren’t out there with their emotions so it’s hard to see when they’re undercutting you. Grandiose narcissists truly believe in their own greatness—and they may even be almost as good as they think they are.

Narcissists are antagonistic so you should acknowledge your annoyance to give you strength to stop it.

Understand where they’re coming from: For example, vulnerable narcissists want to feel better about themselves, so if you recognize they’re insecure you can reassure them.

Evaluate the context: If they’ve been rejected they can become vindictive, and spiteful. Remember that a prior situation can create how they’re behaving.

Stay positive: Some narcissists derive pleasure from watching others suffer. Seeing the pain they’ve inflicted eggs them on to be more aggressive. Stay calm even if you’re not and the behavior will lessen.

Stay focused: It’s easy to lose your sense of purpose when they’re trying to take center stage.

Recognize if they need help: Since some narcissists have low self-esteem and strong feelings of inadequacy, try to recognize if they could use professional help.

How to Deal With Self-Centered People

F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W. suggests the following ways to deal with self-centered people:

Assess the damage – potential and current: “How important is this person in your life? And how important is it that you feed into their self-centered demands?”

Consider your options: “Do you want to break away completely from the person? Do you want to continue to have a relationship? Is it possible? And are you worried about being rude? Or about their anger at you if you stop dancing to their tune? Social scientists tell us that these worries are related to social anxieties. But what will really happen if you stand up to someone who has been stepping on your toes? They may indeed get angry. They may see you as rude. But if you have done nothing more than take care of yourself, you don’t have to take their behavior to heart.”

Move on: “Divas will always find other audiences. If you are no longer an adoring fan, they will move on from you. Be ready to do the same.”

Learn from your experience: “What is most important is that you try to find ways to enhance your own self-esteem outside of the connection.”

How to Deal With Selfish People

On the Communication Skills Power blog, Peter W. Murphy a peak performance expert offers the following advice.

Be patient: “If this person is troubled the best way to deal with their selfishness is to try to bring them out of their negative frame of mind. For example, you can probably ask them why they have been rude and critical of others. You can mention that no one is perfect and that they might be able to open up to you and explain what is causing them to behave this way so you can understand them better. The best way is to be patient with them. You may be able to help them feel better about themselves and about others.”

Be Sensitive: “You also have to consider that someone who is rude and selfish may actually have some personal problems and feel that they just can’t share what is going on in their lives. They are rude because they do not want to get close to people and do not want to feel hurt by others.Try to be sensitive and be understanding about their past and perhaps they will see their own self-interest and become less critical of others. In other words, show that you are trying to help them.”

Limit Your Interaction: “If nothing else works you may have to limit your interactions with the selfish person as much as possible while still keeping them in your life. There are a few strategies that have been successful dealing with selfish people. For example, be kind, and stay cool. They know that they’re difficult and won’t respect you if you pretend they aren’t. If you have a sense of humor, use it. Everyone loves to laugh. But keep the interaction short and sweet until you see some change.”

Set Boundaries: “It would be easier to give some guidance than it is to set boundaries, but you may have to draw the line if the relationship is damaging to you. It may be your only choice if you must stay involved with this person. Remind them of the situations that were painful for you and ask why they act the way they do. And don’t accept excuses for their behavior because excuses are a way to avoid responsibility. You either build relationships through talking it out or you have to set boundaries if talking doesn’t solve the problem.Above all, don’t judge them.”

Distance Yourself: “Don’t let selfish people mistreat you. The best way is to simply stop cooperating with their mistreatment. Also, you don’t want to repeat this kind of behavior. That is why distancing yourself may be wise.” The reason they are mistreating people is because it is rewarding for them in some way. So the answer is to stop cooperating and separate yourself from them.”

Summary of Selfish Self Centered and Narcissistic Behaviors

So there you have it. Selfish, self-centered and narcissistic behaviors are one sided. Remember  there’s a reason why the “I” people in your life are the way they are. We all have bouts of selfishness and are self-centered at times; and we even exhibit some traits of the narcissist.

Those who are perpetually selfish and self centered, or narcissistic  shouldn’t be shunned either. If you can accept, and love them  then why not embrace them for who they are? Unless of course, they’re dangerous.

We can’t expect them to return our sentiments, but we can take the quote to heart – If we can be interested in others, even if they are not interested in us, we will find ourselves “under a freer sky,..

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