Are you too selfish?
Selfish. Self-centered. Self-absorbed. These are three terms that we've got absolutely wrong.
What these terms imply with their words is not aligned with the connotation. The word "selfish" implies that someone is of themselves. The term "self-centered" implies that someone is centered within themselves. The term "self-absorbed" implies that someone is absorbed in themselves.
Yet the connotation that we apply to these three terms is not at all what the words themselves imply.
Consider the behavior of a so-called selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed person. They do things that hurt other people. They are blind to the pain of others. They run rough-shod over other people's feelings, dreams and hard-work. They don't seem able to really listen, really understand, really empathize or grok anyone at all. They are unkind, uncaring, and inconsiderate. They are highly preoccupied with showing off and collecting praise, but don't pay attention when others show-off and they don't praise others.
They seem to have nothing but self-interest, but the fact is, a so-called selfish person has yet to take any real interest in themselves. A person who is truly interested in themselves will take time that is just for themselves. They will feel what it means to be human, deeply. A person who is truly centered in themselves will be highly compassionate, because to be inside oneself is to have an open heart that recognizes the hearts and hurts of others. To be embodied in yourself in a positive, complete way means following your own bliss.
A person who is living a life of their own personal bliss is not concerned with showing-off, collecting praise, being defensive, arguing other people down, or taking roughly from others; on the contrary, a person who is living their own bliss is so full of their own joy, excitement and enthusiasm that everyone around them is uplifted, inspired and feels deeply seen.
A person who has absorbed their own truths will be able to understand and empathize with others much more deeply. Such a person knows what deep grief feels like – because they have been present with themselves and their own pain. This self-knowing is the most critical knowing to enable deep compassion of others.
This is a very personal frustration for me because I grew up hearing that I was being selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed and even full of myself. I tried to "stop" being those things by looking outside myself. I tried to care more about what other people said. I forced myself to listen to others to be polite even when I didn't want to. I didn't understand that the reason it was so hard to listen to others was because I was not listening to myself, and so listening to others felt like a betrayal. I was jealous of my own attention going outward when it wouldn't come inward. I didn't understand that external focus was only going to worsen the condition I was being accused of.
The next time someone is being "selfish" – i.e. blind to their own real best interests, feelings, dreams and internal reality – see if you can get them to actually pay attention to their own heart. Ask them kindly, "What are you really feeling right now?" or "What do you feel in your heart right now?" or "What did you really want to get out of that?" And then, after they answer, lead them deeper by asking them "Why?"
By leading someone who is being blind into themselves, you will start to open their eyes. Someone who is chronically repressing their feelings will not be able to see the outer world clearly until they can see their internal conflicts, hopes, motives and beliefs clearly.
Try leading a narcissist into themselves. If they're a complete narcissist, they won't be able to do it. They'll be terrified of the possibility and have to escape the situation or deflect it. If they have a lot of narcissistic behaviors, but some openness, you'll watch them go through an incredible transformation as you get them to actually look within.
Remember: If you do not go within, you go without.
The Consciousness Alchemist