Frankly, It's Not a Very Pretty Sight...
Picture it. A documentary is coming on the television set. The music sets a dramatic tone. The narrator (let’s give him a British accent for effect) announces that a new tribe of people has been discovered in (surprisingly) a part of the world that isn’t even remotely remote. You lean in close, wondering how a new race of people could have hidden all these years, undetected. You watch, expecting them to be draped in animal skins, living in caves, speaking in grunts, and sporting, possibly, nose rings.
You admit to yourself that maybe you watch too much National Geographic.
As you wait, literally on the edge of your couch, for the big reveal, the camera zeroes in on the new breed.
It’s us. As images of social media, pictures on Facebook and Instagram, infidelity statistics, divorce rates, and so on flash across the screen, the narrator pauses dramatically then announces the name of the new breed: the Self Absorbed.
Kidding aside, I just have to ask, what is with people these days? Why are so many individuals as self absorbed as high-end paper towels? When I was in high school, the ancestors of the self absorbed were called “self centered.” But the generation they gave way to has far surpassed their efforts.
Odds are you know at least one person (the odds are greater that you know quite a few) who is self absorbed. Heck you may even be showing signs of heading that way yourself. If that’s the case, take heart. Maybe this article was meant for YOU and will prove as a life boat to keep you from drowning in a sea of YOU.
When something happens gradually, it becomes our NORMAL. What we accept as the norm today would have mortified us 20 years ago. As a comparatively small example, think about the commercials you see on TV today. If you could transport yourself back 20 or even 10 years ago, can you imagine your reaction if you saw some of this crap come on? Something my husband used to do, when our girls were younger was probably the best way of handling idiot commercials I’ve ever seen. He’d always have a “back up” channel in place during the show we were watching (especially during sporting events, where commercials really show their immaturity). He’d flip over to the “back up channel” (usually the Golf Channel or the Weather Channel) as soon as the commercials tried to throw themselves into our living room.
Since he didn’t want three young girls exposed to stupidity and flirtations with porn, he’d simply opt out. He was a dad who didn’t want to let what was becoming “norm” to the rest of the world to become the “norm” for his family.
Unfortunately, the commercials – gradually – have become even worse.
Isn’t that how most things happen? Slowly. Gradually. Then you sit there one evening while a commercial plays out that leaves your jaw on the floor as you ask, “America… what happened?!”
Like commercials (and magazines, movies, television, music…), the road to self absorption for so many people has happened gradually. They didn’t set out to become narcissists. But unfortunately, they didn’t set out NOT to become narcissists either.
[nahr-suh-sist] noun1. a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.2. Psychoanalysis . a person who suffers from narcissism, deriving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.
Signs of a Self Absorbed
In a nutshell, the self absorbed makes every single moment, every single situation, and every single experience about them. What matters most isn’t who they are with, the beauty around them, the moment they’re in, or what they can do for anyone else.
What matters most to them is… well… them.
A few questions that’ll help classify a self absorbed person:
- Does the person talk, at length, about their health, their diet, or their appearance?
- Does the person buy things only for himself or herself?
- Does the person ever do “cool” things for others?
- Does the person give to charities… could the person even name three charities?!?!
- Does the person look at the world around them or are they too busy demanding that the world look at them?
- On Twitter, is the person 95% about self-promotion?
- On Facebook, are they begging others to LIKE them (or their product) or are they working hard, giving others a reason TO like them?
- Does the person ask… and actually listen to the answer… how someone else’s day was?
- Is the person friendly, respectful, and courteous to servers in restaurants or do they have the, “You are here to serve me and you’d better do a darn good job!” mentality?
- Does the person have any idea, whatsoever, what’s actually going on in the world – or is the world, to them, literally what’s in the room with them?
- The self absorbed individual is the one who, when talking about their success (something they’re always doing), shows pictures of their car, their vacation, and sometimes even their home. I’m never impressed with that – come on, just about anyone can buy a car or take a vacation! To borrow a phrase from an old Shania Twain song, “That don’t impress me much.” Show me what you’re doing to make THE world a better place, not YOUR world. Show me how you’re helping precious children who need someone to care, show me how you’re saving a beautiful animal from becoming extinct, show me how you’re helping elderly people live out their lives with dignity, show me how you’re making the world a better place. Put your car in the garage, dude, it’s the least of my worries.
In Defense of the Self Absorbed
Before you start to think I hate self absorbed or self centered people – I do not. I don’t hate anyone. In fact, I feel sorry for them because if you limit your world to YOU, you’re missing out on so, SO much. If you make every situation, every day, every holiday, every moment all about you, you’re missing out on everyone around you. What’s more, you’re creating a void between you and everyone else. If your life is all about you 24/7, make no mistake about it, you’ll end up pushing everyone away and you will be left with your one true obsession.. yourself. How lonely does that sound?
As I said earlier, sometimes things happen slowly over time. Many self absorbed people slowly transition into being that way because of a health scare or other dramatic event in their lives. A loss of a very close loved one makes some people become very self absorbed.
Over my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of people become very self absorbed because of a health issue or because of aging. They become, literally, obsessed and preoccupied with the person they see in the mirror. They’re every conversation and thought is channeled in that direction.
To me, that’s not LIVING, that’s simply TRYING NOT TO DIE.
There’s a big difference. But, again, things happen slowly over time. The same person who would have been mortified by the idea 10 years ago is, today, discussing bodily functions with the hostess at Cracker Barrel and medications with a stranger in Target. Just because someone politely asks, “How are you doing?” doesn’t mean they want your medical history.
When you read interviews with people who have celebrated their 100th birthday, they look back over a life of living. They don’t look back over a life of trying not to die.
I think we have to cut our young people a little bit of slack, too. Young girls and boys, today, have grown up with Facebook, Instagram, constantly taking selfies (pictures taken by oneself of oneself), reality TV, and with the mindset of “By gosh, it IS all about me!” Sadly, it’s their norm.
And our future is in their hands.
Are you scared now?
Dangers Posed by the Self Absorbed
I am a positive person – very positive, in fact. However, even I am driven to say that the self absorbed breed could just be our downfall. Think about some of the problems we face.
- Divorce rates are through the roof. Self absorbed people don’t think about the other person, all that matters TO them IS them. So what if they “flirt” online or go to websites that bother their spouse – it’s their life, by gosh, and they’ll do what they want. And then they do…. all the way to divorce court.
- People are falling for scams online left and right. The person they THINK they’re having a relationship with is completely different from what they think. Sometimes the other person is actually married and often they aren’t even the sex they believe them to be! Talk about awkward. When people only care about themselves, they don’t care if they hurt another individual or not. They don’t even care if they wreck their world. Remember, the self absorbed care only about themselves – all others are irrelevant.
- Relationships are crumbling because men and women seem to have complete misconceptions about infidelity. If you are in a committed relationship, your every e-mail, “tweet,” direct message, etc. should be able to be seen by your companion. If they can’t be (without you wanting to run for the hills), you’re cheating. Plain and simple. I read a few days ago something that stood out to me. If you could not exchange phones with your significant other without panicking, you need to wake up. Same can be said about e-mail and social media. Self absorbed people only think about what makes them feel good at the moment – they don’t have any respect or regard for anyone else. And then they wonder why their relationship fails.
- I don’t get shocked easily. I always say the reason for that is I lived with three teenage daughters – how in the world could anything shock me?! However, I am shocked by what’s considered normal these days. During the Super Bowl, for example, there were about 3 different commercials that left me grasping for reality. Do advertisers not realize (or give a darn) that kids watch television? Do they not realize that the only people who buy their products aren’t 15 year old boys?! Many companies are just as self absorbed as the individuals who run them. They think, “I’ll do what I want to do, and if offends people… I’ll probably just make more money.”
- Self absorbed people are the ones who text while they drive. The dangers they pose don’t matter – the only thing that matters is that they have something to say and… after all… their words are worth any chaos they cause. Especially if they happen to have a picture of themselves to show off.
- One of the biggest dangers of the self absorbed person is the fact that they’re keeping the breed going. They’re continuing a “norm” that needs desperately to end.
Is There Any Hope for the Self Absorbed?!
If you had an uneasy, “Uh oh” moment when you read the words “self absorbed” and saw a bit of yourself in the descriptions, you’re lucky. You’re probably cured already. Sometimes all it takes is a wake up call. It’s kind of like taking a good look in the mirror before going out for dinner and a movie and seeing that your hair’s standing straight up. It’s not a pretty sight, but thanks be to God you saw it before anyone else!
Personally, I think there’s hope for even the most self absorbed people. If not… at least they provide the rest of us with a little free entertainment. Just be sure you don’t buy into what they’re selling – it really isn’t any way to live.