Humans by nature are self-absorbed.
We naturally think about ourselves more than anything else.
And I’m no different. In fact, I often wonder if I’m an extreme case because I feel like I think about the subject of “me” entirely too much.
I understand it’s normal to think about ourselves. As a professional copywriter my job is to craft stories that get people to take action. And the best way to do that is to speak to the reader’s desires. To talk about them and make them the hero in the story instead of the company I’m writing for.
And it works. Because most humans care about themselves more than anything else in the world.
So knowing that this is true I think has emboldened my self-centered way of life. It’s as if my knowledge of human nature has validated my narcissism. I think, “Well, yeah I’m self-absorbed but so is everyone else. I’m just not going to hide it.”
But I sense a shallowness growing inside of me I don’t like. Sometimes I feel I’ve given myself over to my own desires so much that I may have forgotten how to truly care about anyone else.
Now, of course, this is not apparent on the outside. I’m not a jerk (at least I don’t think I am). I’ll lend a helping hand if someone needs something. And I’ll go above and beyond the call of duty for clients, but if I’m honest the reason why I do this is because I enjoy the respect I get from “wowing” clients.
I know it can be uncomfortable to read this. It’s uncomfortable to write it.
But I feel like it’s an important conversation to have. A worthy endeavor to undertake. I’m talking about the journey of leaving the familiar ground of thinking of ourselves all the time to discovering what it’s like to think of others more.
What would our lives be like if we were free from that constant, never ending, concern about our own lives and instead were able to truly care about the interests of others more than our own interests?
Is it even possible to do this? Is it possible to even think about others 51% of the time and ourselves 49%? If I could get there I feel like that would be a miracle.
Maybe some people think of others 99% of the time and themselves only 1%. They must be the true saints among us. Was Mother Teresa like this?
So where do we go from here? I’m going to propose a few simple things we can try to see if it helps us think of ourselves less so we can free up more bandwidth to think of others more:
1.Practice empathy: Imagine what it would be like to be them. Think of someone in your life. It could be your spouse, your kid, a friend, or a client, and imagine what life would be like if you were them. Try to guess what they may be feeling or thinking. And what would make them happy.
2. Be helpful: Come up with creative ways to serve those around you. This could be as simple as doing the dishes at home when it’s not “your turn” to do it. It could be realizing that a friend is struggling with something and so you take them out to lunch so you can focus the entire time on them and their problems.
3. Write about others: I’ve journaled for years but most of my entries are about how I feel, what happened to me and problems I’m trying to figure out in my own life. But what if we spent time just writing about others? About how great they are and why we appreciate them.
4. Appreciate others: Speaking of appreciation, that’s another thing we can do to help us focus more on others than on ourselves. What are you thankful for about another person? What gifts and abilities do they have that you think are amazing? Focus on that.
5. Start with those closest to you: If you’re married or in a serious relationship then you can play a game where you try to see how much of the day you can spend thinking about the other person’s feelings, desires and needs. When you’re talking with them let them talk and resist the urge to talk about all the stuff you want to talk about.
After spending so much time focusing on yourself it can be a bit of a relief to focus on others. It actually makes life more interesting too.