Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Apparently I Am Self-Centered

Last night, in the midst of a fairly intense conversation about life and people, Katherine told me she thought I was self-centered. The instant this came out of her all kinds of red flags went up for me. This kind of assessment has often been linked with some sort of moral judgement and claims that I must "work on this" if I wish to become a good person.

Katherine is not the first to make this observation. Cheryl made the same observation last year, along with letting me know that I was also a bit shallow. And Bobbi made a similar observation a couple of years back, along with telling me I was needy. It's interesting to me that the women in my life make these observations, and none of them made in anger or as part of an argument. It's also interesting that all three of these women care greatly for me, even love me, notwithstanding these fairly blatant character flaws.

For so much of my life this kind of observation has been used as a tool to make me feel guilty, like I was a failure as a husband, as a father, as a friend. Last night it was different. Katherine made a point of saying that not only was it not a bad thing, nor did it make me a bad person, and that self-centered and selfish are completely different things, that I am in no way selfish. I felt moderately better, but my flags were still up.

The comments from Cheryl and Bobbi were actually couched in similar language, that these parts of my personality were just that, parts of my personality, a whole, complete personality which includes things like helpfulness, kindness, caring, loving, giving, and, believe it not, even a degree of wisdom, the kind that comes with age and cruel experience. I trust these women, and their assessments. I trust them because they are not judgments against me, simply observations about me.

Katherine even went a further step last night, reminding me that all of us are self-centered; it's a core part of the human experience, to see the world from our own point of view. I am, perhaps, just a bit less skilled in putting myself aside, a bit less able to get myself out of the picture. She also said, however, that life might be more enjoyable for me if I could see that through a bit, become more skilled at taking myself out of things. I suspect she is right; as my friend Mike says often, "It's not all about you, Richard."

What I find most fascinating and comforting is that people all around me still love me, still care for me, still want to be with me, in spite of this apparently abysmal character flaw. Perhaps I am not all that bad after all. Perhaps self-centered is just one thing, one of the many things in my life. Perhaps I really am a decent person, even with this. Just perhaps, I might be a worthwhile human being. After all, they forgive me this, and so much else.

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