This may seem like an odd blog entry, but it has been the topic of conversation over many dinners recently.
Although we are taught from a young age that being self-centered is a bad thing, I think that more people would benefit from being this way. Let me explain.
To start off, I am not suggesting that people should be selfish. I think of selfish as being “exclusively concerned with oneself.”
Being self-centered – in my opinion – is entirely different.
Centering is what you base your life on.
My parents are children-centered. For them, my sister and I are the most important part of their life. They live vicariously through us.
I have friends who are spouse-centered. They do everything in their power to please their partner.
Too many of my friends are work-centered. Their job is the most important aspect in their life. They get meaning from their career. It is no surprise that men are twice as likely to die during their first five years of retirement, than they are prior to retirement.
Others are service-centered. They give their lives to charity and others. They sacrifice their own well-being in the name of contribution. Oprah may fall into this category. One of the reasons she claims she put on all of her weight is that she did not spend enough time taking care of herself.
Which leads us to the benefits of self-centering.
Throughout your life, there is only one constant. You. Your children may pass away before you do. Your spouse may, in spite of all of your loving, leave you. Your job (as many people are finding out) is only temporary. Even service to others can be fraught with challenges. If you center on someone or something else, you may be giving up control of your life.
Only YOU will be around for as long as you live.
Therefore, instead of centering your life on someone or something that may not be around as long as you, maybe you should try being self-centered. This gives you some level of stability in an unpredictable world. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition – “independent of outside force or influence” – supports this notion.
Anyone who has flown on a plane has heard the flight attendant say, “If the plane loses oxygen pressure for any reason, the oxygen masks will drop down out of the small overhead compartment. If you are seated next to someone who might need some assistance, you should put your own mask on first, and then breathe normally as you assist the other person.”
Take care of yourself first. Be centered. Be grounded. Take control of your life and don’t get derailed by circumstances around you.
Being self-centered is NOT the same as being selfish. Those who are self-centered are NOT narcissistic, hedonistic, or self-absorbed. Because self-centered individuals are more grounded, they are able to give even more to others. They have the potential to be even more generous and to make even greater contributions.
In some respects, this is in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Self-actualization (which is where I put self-centering) is the highest level, higher than esteem, love/belonging, safety and physiological needs. Interestingly, creativity is listed under self-actualization.
What do you think?
P.S. I wrote this blog entry back in 2009 yet is appears to be my most popular blog post of all time. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. While here, please take a look at the work I do with innovation and problem-solving.
P.P.S. Some may argue a more theological perspective. For example, Stephen Covey (of the 7 Habits fame) authored, “The Divine Center: Why We Need a Life Centered on God and Christ and How We Attain It.” As I try to avoid religion and politics in this blog, I’ll leave this discussion for another time.