You’ve probably met both self-centered and self-absorbed people in your life. At first glance, their behaviors may seem quite similar. Both types tend to talk mostly about themselves, lack empathy for others, and constantly seek attention and praise. However, there are some key differences between being self-centered and being self-absorbed that are important to understand.
Self-centered people have an inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are superior to others. Their ego prevents them from considering other perspectives. Self-absorbed individuals, on the other hand, are overly focused on their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences in an unhealthy way. They struggle to perceive how their self-absorption impacts those around them.
While self-centeredness usually stems from selfish motives, self-absorption is often an unintentional behavior that can be addressed with conscious effort and awareness.
Table of Contents
To understand self-centeredness, let’s start with some definitions.
What is self-centeredness?
Self-centeredness refers to an excessive focus on oneself and one’s own needs or interests over the needs and interests of others. A self-centered person typically displays a lack of empathy for other people and an inability to consider other perspectives. They believe that their own needs, thoughts, and feelings are more important than those around them.
Some characteristics of self-centered people include:
- Lack of empathy. They struggle to understand how others feel and lack compassion.
- Egocentrism. They see themselves as the center of the universe, and everything revolves around them.
- Selfishness. Their own needs and desires are their top priorities. They put themselves first in most situations.
- Lack of consideration for others. They rarely do things to help or please other people if there’s nothing in it for themselves.
- Exaggerated sense of entitlement. They believe they deserve special treatment, admiration, or favors from others.
- Difficulty accepting criticism. Any feedback that implies they are less than perfect is taken as a personal attack.
- Constant need for attention and praise. They crave constant compliments and admiration from those around them.
While everyone exhibits these traits at times, self-centered people display them persistently and without self-reflection. Recognizing self-centered behaviors in yourself and working to develop empathy and consideration for others is key to overcoming self-centeredness.
If you find yourself constantly disappointed in others for not meeting your expectations or needing constant praise and admiration, you may exhibit signs of being self-centered.
While it’s normal to think about yourself and your own needs at times, being excessively self-centered can damage relationships and cause psychological distress. Recognizing these traits in yourself and working to build empathy, self-awareness, and consideration for others is key to overcoming self-centered behaviors. With conscious effort, you can become less self-centered and develop healthier, mutually caring relationships.
The Root Causes of Self-Centered Behavior
The root causes of self-centered behavior are complex and often stem from issues with emotional development and maturity.
Lack of Empathy
A key characteristic of self-centered individuals is a lack of empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Without empathy, it’s difficult to see beyond one’s own needs and desires. Developing empathy is a skill that takes practice and life experience. Some people may struggle more than others with cultivating empathy due to personality traits, upbringing, or unresolved emotional issues.
Self-centered people tend to have lower emotional intelligence and maturity. They may have trouble regulating their own emotions and react in egocentric ways, especially when feeling threatened or insecure. They have yet to learn that the world does not revolve around them and that cooperation and compromise are needed for healthy relationships. With life experience and conscious effort, emotional maturity can be developed over time.
Feeling that one’s own needs are unmet or insecure can fuel self-centered thoughts and behaviors. The desire to protect oneself and meet one’s needs becomes the priority. While understandable as a survival mechanism, taken to an extreme, it leads to selfishness and an inability to consider other people’s well-being. The antidote is learning to get one’s needs met in healthy ways through self-care, communication, and mutual support.
Exaggerated Sense of Entitlement
Self-centered people believe they deserve preferential treatment and expect others to do things for them. They often take advantage of people’s kindness and feel entitled to rewards and praise for minor accomplishments.
Difficulty Accepting Criticism
Constructive criticism is taken as a personal attack by the self-centered person. They are unwilling to acknowledge their own constant faults and weaknesses, and they often blame external factors for their mistakes and shortcomings.
Need for Constant Admiration
Self-centered individuals need constant compliments and admiration to feel good about themselves. They frequently fish for compliments and become upset or angry if they feel underappreciated. Their self-esteem depends greatly on what others say about them.
In summary, the root causes of self-centered behavior are complex but often involve issues with emotional skills and maturity that can improve over time and with conscious effort. Recognizing how one’s thoughts and actions impact others and making the choice to grow in empathy and unselfishness are key steps to overcoming self-centered tendencies.
How Self-Centeredness Impacts Relationships
Self-centeredness can damage your relationships in many ways. When you’re primarily focused on yourself, you often fail to consider the needs and feelings of others. This lack of empathy and concern for others can leave your friends and loved ones feeling unappreciated, ignored, and resentful.
Lack of empathy
If you’re self-centered, you have trouble seeing things from another person’s perspective. You’re less likely to show interest in listening to others or understanding what they’re going through. Your conversations tend to revolve around yourself, your experiences, your interests, and your problems. This lack of empathy creates distance in your relationships.
Excessive self-focus can make you oblivious or indifferent to commitments and responsibilities that don’t directly benefit you. You may frequently break promises, cancel plans, or simply fail to follow through when others are relying on you. This unreliability and self-serving behavior erodes trust and causes resentment in your relationships over time.
Conflict and criticism
Self-centered people often have trouble accepting criticism or compromise. You may become defensive, blame others, or turn the focus back on yourself instead of addressing the actual issue. This inability to resolve disagreements constructively and see other perspectives leads to ongoing tension, conflict, and damage in your relationships.
Occasional self-interest is normal, but excessive self-absorption comes at the cost of intimacy and meaningful connections with others. If you recognize signs of harmful self-centeredness in yourself, the good news is that you can make a conscious effort to become more aware of others, strengthen your empathy, follow through on commitments, accept feedback, and resolve conflicts in healthier ways. Developing these relationship skills can help transform self-centeredness into self-confidence and mutually caring partnerships.
Tips for Dealing With Self-Centered People
Dealing with self-centered people can be frustrating, but there are a few tips to help you cope:
1. Set Boundaries
Be very clear about what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Calmly tell the self-centered person when they’ve overstepped. Say something like, “I’m not comfortable with that type of comment.” Enforce consequences when boundaries are crossed. You may need to spend less time with people who continue to disrespect you.
2. Don’t Take the bait.
Self-centered people often try to provoke reactions in others or start arguments to make themselves the focus of attention. Don’t engage or get drawn into defending yourself. Remain detached and don’t take their behavior personally.
3. Focus on yourself.
Rather than trying to change the self-centered person, work on being less affected by their behavior. Build your confidence by looking at your own accomplishments and the important relationships in your life. Don’t rely on them for validation or approval.
4. Set Limits on Accommodating them.
While being supportive of people in your life, don’t go out of your way to please someone who is more concerned with themselves. Don’t rearrange your schedule or priorities for them, or always drop everything to help them out. Make sure to also take care of yourself!
5. Spend Less Time together.
If possible, limit the time you have to interact with extremely self-centered people. While you can’t always avoid them completely, you can choose not to engage with them or share personal details with them. Save your energy for relationships where you feel heard and supported.
6. Develop empathy.
Self-centered individuals typically lack empathy for others and are unable to see things from different perspectives. They are often impatient and become easily frustrated when others don’t share their views.
So, develop the ability to understand and share the feelings of others by actively putting yourself in their shoes. Practice listening attentively and genuinely seeking to understand their perspectives and experiences.
In the end, you can’t force someone to be less self-centered. But you can take steps to prevent their behavior from affecting you and to bring more fulfilling people and activities into your life.
What Does It Mean to Be Self-Absorbed?
To be self-absorbed means to be excessively preoccupied with oneself and one’s own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Self-absorbed individuals tend to focus primarily on themselves and their own interests, often to the detriment of others.
- Lack of empathy. Self-absorbed people struggle to understand other perspectives and show little empathy for the feelings and experiences of those around them. Their thoughts revolve around themselves.
- Exaggerated sense of self-importance. Self-absorbed individuals believe that they and their own priorities, problems, and interests are more significant than those of others. They expect constant praise, admiration, and preferential treatment.
- Difficulty accepting criticism. Constructive criticism or feedback that contradicts their high self-opinion may be dismissed or taken as a personal attack. Self-absorbed people have trouble acknowledging their own flaws and shortcomings.
- Need for constant validation. Self-absorbed individuals rely on the approval and praise of others to maintain their inflated self-image. They constantly seek compliments and validation.
- Poor listening skills Self-absorbed people are often poor listeners because they are too focused on themselves and what they want to say next. They frequently interrupt or change the subject back to themselves.
- Difficulty maintaining relationships. Self-absorbed individuals may have trouble sustaining long-term, meaningful relationships. Their self-centeredness and lack of empathy ultimately push others away and lead to feelings of loneliness or emptiness.
Overcoming self-absorption involves developing self-awareness, empathy, and a willingness to shift focus away from oneself and truly listen to others. With effort and commitment to personal growth, self-absorbed behaviors and thought patterns can be changed. But the first step is acknowledging the problem.
Key Characteristics of Self-Absorbed People
Self-absorbed people often struggle with empathy and have a hard time seeing beyond their own needs and desires. Their self-centeredness can stem from underlying psychological issues and unmet emotional needs.
1. Lack of Empathy
Self-absorbed individuals typically lack empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. They are so focused on themselves that they don’t seem to grasp how their words or actions might affect those around them.
2. Psychological Roots
The roots of self-absorption are often found in childhood. Perhaps their emotional needs weren’t met by their parents or caretakers, leading them to prioritize their own needs above all else. They may have developed an excessive sense of entitlement as a way to compensate for a lack of nurturing or affection.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Ironically, self-absorbed people frequently suffer from low self-esteem underneath their egocentric exterior. Their excessive self-interest is a misguided attempt to build themselves up in the eyes of others. Deep down, they feel insecure and inadequate, so they manipulate situations to make themselves seem more important or talented.
4. Lack of Boundaries
Self-absorbed individuals struggle with personal boundaries and often make unreasonable demands on others. They feel entitled to special treatment and expect friends and family to cater to their needs. When people don’t meet their expectations, they become angry or play the victim. Healthy relationships require reciprocity, compromise, and mutual understanding—all of which the self-absorbed person lacks.
The underlying issues that drive self-absorbed behavior can be difficult to overcome without conscious effort and awareness. But with time and commitment to personal growth, self-absorbed people can develop empathy, strengthen their self-esteem, and build healthier relationships. The first step is acknowledging the problem and making a choice to change.
The negative impacts of prolonged self-absorbed behavior on mental well-being
Prolonged self-absorbed behavior can seriously impact your mental well-being and connections with others. When you are constantly focused inward, it becomes difficult to maintain healthy relationships or experience personal growth.
Lack of Gratitude
Being excessively self-centered makes it challenging to see things from another’s perspective or show compassion for their experiences. You become trapped in a bubble of “me, me, me,” unable to relate to the feelings and needs of those around you. This can damage your close relationships and cause social isolation over time.
Constant self-absorption also limits opportunities for self-reflection and gaining insight into your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You remain oblivious to your flaws, mistakes, and unhealthy patterns of thinking, preventing personal progress or development. Lacking self-awareness, your sense of identity becomes fragile and requires constant validation and reassurance from others to be maintained.
Difficulty Coping with Stress
When you are overly focused on yourself, you have trouble looking beyond your immediate worries, anxieties, and desires. You lack coping strategies to effectively deal with stressful situations in a balanced, solution-focused way. Minor inconveniences or disappointments can seem like catastrophes, triggering irrational thoughts and unhealthy responses. Building resilience requires gaining a wider perspective on yourself and your circumstances.
In summary, excessive self-centeredness ultimately limits your ability to grow as an individual, nurture meaningful relationships, or develop a stable sense of self. Striking a balance between meeting your own needs and being open to others is key to well-being and living a purposeful life surrounded by people who love and support you. With self-reflection and conscious effort, you can shift from self-absorption to self-awareness and build empathy.
The Difference Between: Self-Centered vs Self-Absorbed
While self-centered and self-absorbed individuals share some common traits, there are distinct differences between the two.
A self-centered person is primarily focused on their own needs and desires. They lack empathy for others and are mainly concerned with how situations and events impact them personally. Self-centered people often come across as rude, arrogant, and inconsiderate. Their selfish actions and words can be hurtful and damaging to relationships.
On the other hand, self-absorbed individuals can become preoccupied with their own thoughts, feelings, and interests. However, this self-focus is often temporary or situational. Self-absorbed people may seem distracted or unaware of others’ needs in the moment, but they are capable of empathy and do care about how their behavior affects people. They can become deeply engrossed in hobbies, work, or other personal pursuits and simply tune out the rest of the world for a period of time.
- Self-centeredness refers to a personality trait, while self-absorption can be temporary.
- Self-centered people lack concern for others, but self-absorbed individuals can be empathetic when not in a self-focused state.
- Self-centered individuals are solely interested in themselves, while self-absorbed individuals may focus intensely on a project or subject that interests them.
In summary, being self-centered is a character flaw that breeds selfishness, whereas self-absorption is typically an occasional and unintentional mindset that can be balanced with concern for others. Recognizing the differences between these related but distinct concepts can help build understanding and maintain healthy relationships.
How self-centeredness and self-absorption can hinder healthy relationships
Self-centeredness and self-absorption, while often used interchangeably, differ in key ways that can negatively impact relationships.
When you’re self-centered, your focus is primarily on yourself, your needs, your desires, and your interests. You tend to lack consideration for others and how your actions might affect them. Self-centered people:
- Have trouble seeing other perspectives.
- Frequently interrupt or talk over others.
- Rarely ask questions about others or show interest in their lives.
- Make most conversations about themselves.
While self-centeredness is often unintentional, it can damage relationships by making others feel ignored, disregarded, and disrespected. The remedy is developing empathy, learning active listening skills, and making a habit of considering how your words and actions might affect those around you.
Self-absorption is an excessive preoccupation with yourself, your emotions, your thoughts, and your experiences. A self-absorbed person is nearly incapable of focusing on anything other than themselves. They:
- Dwell on their own feelings, problems, and life events in an exaggerated way.
- Expect others to share the same level of interest in their internal experiences.
- Their needs, wants, and feelings are more important than anyone else’s.
- Have great difficulty understanding why their self-centered behavior is off-putting to others.
Self-absorption is a more extreme form of self-centeredness that requires conscious effort and often professional support to overcome. The key is developing self-awareness, learning to balance your own needs with the needs of others, and finding purpose and meaning outside of yourself.
Both self-centeredness and self-absorption, if left unaddressed, will continue to create distance in your relationships and leave you feeling disconnected. But with insight and effort, you can establish healthier patterns of thinking and interacting.
The challenges of personal development when trapped in these behaviors
The challenges of personal development when trapped in self-centered or self-absorbed behaviors are numerous. Breaking free requires conscious effort and a willingness to accept hard truths about oneself.
Lack of self-awareness
When focused inward in an unhealthy way, it becomes difficult to develop an accurate sense of self. You lose perspective on how your words and actions impact others and the type of person you’ve become. It’s hard to improve if you can’t see your flaws and shortcomings. The remedy is to listen when others provide constructive feedback and not dismiss their concerns. Look for recurring patterns in the feedback you receive.
Any criticism, no matter how kindly meant, feels like a personal attack. You make excuses and blame others rather than accepting responsibility for your mistakes and poor choices. Overcoming defensiveness starts with recognizing that you have room for growth and that feedback from people who care about you can help facilitate that growth. Try responding with “Thank you for the feedback. I’ll give that some thought.” Rather than arguing or making excuses.
Difficulty maintaining relationships
Self-centeredness and being self-absorbed make it hard to see beyond your own needs and connect with others in a meaningful way. Your interactions are superficial and short-lived. Developing mutually caring relationships requires showing interest in others, listening to them, and being there for them when they need your support. Make an effort to start conversations that aren’t focused on you, and follow up to show you care about what others share.
The path to overcoming negative self-focus is challenging but rewarding. It begins with acknowledging these behaviors in yourself, developing self-awareness, and making a commitment to personal growth that benefits both yourself and those around you. With time and practice, you can break free from self-centeredness and self-absorption by turning your focus outward and becoming the kind of person you aspire to be.
Overcoming Self-Centeredness and Self-Absorption
To overcome self-centeredness and self-absorption, you must make a conscious effort to shift your perspective and focus outward. Some tips to help broaden your view:
1. Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
Put yourself in their shoes and be considerate of their needs and feelings. What brings you joy or causes you pain will likely be similar to others.
2. Try to understand different points of view.
Your way of thinking and priorities are not the only ones that are right. Open your mind to various perspectives and value systems. This helps build empathy and compassion.
3. Cultivate an interest in others.
Make an effort to truly listen to and connect with the people in your life. Ask questions to discover their experiences, dreams, and challenges. Look for common ground and ways to support each other.
4. Build meaningful relationships.
Self-centered people often have superficial connections with others. Nurture deeper bonds by being fully present, practicing active listening, showing interest in others’ lives, and sharing details of your own.
5. Reflect on your impact and make amends when needed.
Consider how your words and actions affect those around you. Be willing to sincerely apologize if you have caused harm. Make a commitment to do better going forward.
With conscious effort and practice, you can overcome self-centered tendencies. Focus on treating others well, seeing different perspectives, showing genuine interest in people, building real connections, and reflecting on your impact. Make this an ongoing practice, and in time, concern for others will become second nature.
So, there you have it—the key differences between being self-centered and self-absorbed. Neither trait is ideal, but recognizing the distinction is important for your relationships and personal growth. A self-centered person can become more considerate by making an effort to understand other perspectives. Someone who is self-absorbed needs to work on building self-awareness through honest self-reflection and feedback from others.
The path forward is not always easy, but gaining insight into how your words and actions impact those around you is a worthwhile endeavor. Make the choice to open your eyes to the needs and experiences of others; your relationships will be better for it.
- Self-Centeredness By Michael McGee
- 7 Telltale Signs You’re Dealing With Someone Who’s Self-Absorbed mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor .. By Sarah Regan
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