To some extent, everyone is selfish. While normal levels of self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence are necessary for people to function well, there is a fine line between these traits and being overly self-absorbed, arrogant, or simply narcissistic.
For example, some people are constantly attempting to persuade others that their world is superior, whereas others will always cut you off and try to air their grievances when you wish to air yours. Others, on the other hand, can talk for hours about themselves, making you feel insignificant.
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These self-centered individuals adore the concept of “all for one”—but only when that one is them. They will dislike and devalue you if you do not accept their erroneous sense of “superiority.”
If you've met someone who is extremely selfish, or if you have a selfish friend or partner, here are some concrete ways to deal with them.
1. Recognize that they have little regard for others
The first piece of advice for dealing with self-centered individuals is to be honest with yourself. Accept that the self-centered individual may never put your needs first. As much as this friend or lover means to you, be aware that they have no regard for the feelings or well-being of others. They can be generous and charming at times, but for the most part, they simply lack the ability or willingness to be thoughtful and considerate. This information will help you understand where you stand in the relationship.
2. Pay yourself the respect you deserve
Emotional pirates are selfish people. They want your attention but don't give it to you. Give yourself the attention you've been giving the emotional pirate to avoid being drained of emotions. For example, if you are unhappy with your physical appearance, go to a barbershop or boutique to improve it. This is known as meeting your own needs, and it is an excellent way to boost your ego while also pirate-proofing your life. Ignoring your own needs in order to focus your attention and energy on a self-absorbed individual is not virtuous. It only prepares you to be emotionally drained and hurt.
3. Stay true to yourself and don't lower yourself to their level
Selfish people can irritate you and make you want to pull out their hair—don't do it. Don't play their game or engage in inappropriate behavior. Simply be true to yourself. It's difficult to be kind to a self-centered person who is brutish or unkind to you, but becoming like them doesn't make things any easier. Reduce any resentment you have toward them by focusing on the person you are and resolving to continue being the considerate and loving person you know you are.
4. Remind them that they are not the center of the universe
A self-absorbed person may be so preoccupied with herself that she overlooks your thoughts or feelings. She may simply require a gentle reminder that the world does not revolve around her. Speak up and tell her as much as you can without sounding like you're attacking her. Instead of throwing a tantrum and yelling, “You never listen to me; you always make everything about you,” try saying, “I really need to talk to someone about something that is bothering me.” Would you be willing to listen to what I have to say?”
5. Deprive them of the attention they seek
This is an effective strategy for dealing with extremely selfish people who refuse to consider others. The trick is to be civil while never giving the self-absorbed person the attention he or she craves. It works by limiting your interactions with them to bland, noncommittal remarks. For instance, rather than saying, “You poor thing, he did that to you?” say, “Yeah, that's life.” For a while, it will perplex and throw them off balance. Remember that your attention is your most valuable asset. If you don't give it to them, they'll most likely flee.
6. Bring up topics that are of interest to you
Bring up whatever interests you—carpentry, cooking, politics, you name it—in conversations with a self-absorbed person rather than focusing all of your attention on the topics he brings up. For instance, he might say, “You won't believe what my girlfriend said to me!” “Hey, do you know how much Bill Cosby is worth?” you might respond. The more random your topic and the more unrelated to the selfish person's topic, the better. Maintain your focus on your true interests regardless of what happens, and watch him try to get away from you when he realizes you're not interested in his self-centered stories.
7. Stop doing them favors
Selfish people always ask for favors, but they avoid helping you when you need it. That's just how they work. While it is important to be tolerant and give a selfish friend or partner the opportunity to change, it is also important not to enable their selfishness—especially if it ends up hurting you. So, if a self-centered person asks you for too many favors, don't give in and let her walk all over you. Assert yourself and make it clear that you do not appreciate being treated as if you are unimportant or of lower status. If you find yourself in a position where you must defend your position, keep it brief and to the point, because selfish people are not the best listeners and may not listen to you at all.
8. Limit the amount of time you spend together
When you realize someone is being too selfish and self-absorbed, it is time to distance yourself from them. You should try to spend as little time together as possible. If you used to have coffee dates every evening, spread them out more and more, and stop calling and responding to all of their messages. You may encounter a wide range of reactions, from disinterest to tantrums and anger, but remain firm. Your time is better spent alone than with people who are overwhelmingly selfish.
9. Make an active effort to make new friends
Remember the agony, hurt, and exhaustion of devoting intense emotional energy to selfish, inconsiderate people, and decide not to do it again. Refuse to become emotionally attached to such friends. Instead, make new friends who value you as much as you value them. You can meet new people and make new friends by attending social events, religious places of worship, and volunteer centers. Once you've made new, better friends, you can tell stories about the selfish person who pillaged your energy and plundered your emotions for a while—or you can't.
10. Call it quits on the relationship
If the selfish person you're dealing with doesn't appear to be changeable, he could be more than just self-centered and selfish—he could be a narcissist. Narcissists are not only selfish and self-absorbed, but they also lack empathy and purposefully exploit others. They are more difficult to deal with than the average selfish individual. In this case, you can try to persuade them to seek professional assistance, but if that fails, you should cut all ties with them and end the relationship completely. Life is too short to be bogged down by selfish people and trapped in toxic relationships that drain your energy and happiness.
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