free spirit

Self-interest, self-centered, self-absorbed

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As I'm gaining a full and clear understanding of what it means to be selfish ( to have self-interest) I find that I am a little unclear as to the difference between selfishness, self-absorbed, and self-centered.

Thank you for your help!! B)

~ Carrie~

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As I'm gaining a full and clear understanding of what it means to be selfish ( to have self-interest) I find that I am a little unclear as to the difference between selfishness, self-absorbed, and self-centered. 

                                      Thank you for your help!!  B)

                  ~ Carrie~

To be self-centered is to view and treat the world as if it revolved around oneself. So it is the view that other people may not live for their own sake, but must live for YOU. I wouldn't use the term "self-centered" to describe this view, though, since it suggests that the problem with the view is too much focus on the self.

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As I'm gaining a full and clear understanding of what it means to be selfish ( to have self-interest) I find that I am a little unclear as to the difference between selfishness, self-absorbed, and self-centered.

As I understand these terms, they have a proper and an improper meaning and connotation.

-- selfish

Proper: concern for one's rational self-interest.

Improper: Exclusive concern for oneself and disregard for others.

-- self-centered

Proper: concern for oneself as the centerpoint of reality.

Improper: concern for oneself with a disregard of reality.

-- "self-absorbed"

Proper: concentrating on oneself.

Improper: concentrating on oneself while ignoring matters one should attend to.

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Stephen, do you mean by "proper and improper" correct and incorrect definitions in every case you give?

I ask because I think there is a legitimate need for a certain concept that is related to the topic of this thread.

I've known some people (some Objectivist, some not) who almost seem unaware of other people in a sense. For instance, whenever I got together with this one friend, she would tell me about what was new with her, what her concerns were, what problems she was having, etc. Our conversations, as I recall them now, always revolved around her. It was as if the extent of our friendship was to serve as a sounding board for her needs. She didn't often return the favor -- that is, asking how I was doing, following up on some concern I had expressed to her, etc. And, in talking to mutual friends, I found that others had the same experience with her. It was child-like in the sense that it was if she didn't see other people as independent people, but rather saw them as entities existing to serve her needs.

I'm tempted to use the term "self-absorbed" for this type of behavior, but given the possible confusion with "selfish" am reluctant to do so. Is there a better term for this behavior?

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Stephen, do you mean by "proper and improper" correct and incorrect definitions in every case you give? 

I ask because I think there is a legitimate need for a certain concept that is related to the topic of this thread.

I've known some people (some Objectivist, some not) who almost seem unaware of other people in a sense.  For instance, whenever I got together with this one friend, she would tell me about what was new with her, what her concerns were, what problems she was having, etc.  Our conversations, as I recall them now, always revolved around her.  It was as if the extent of our friendship was to serve as a sounding board for her needs.  She didn't often return the favor -- that is, asking how I was doing, following up on some concern I had expressed to her, etc.  And, in talking to mutual friends, I found that others had the same experience with her.  It was child-like in the sense that it was if she didn't see other people as independent people, but rather saw them as entities existing to serve her needs.

I'm tempted to use the term "self-absorbed" for this type of behavior, but given the possible confusion with "selfish" am reluctant to do so.  Is there a better term for this behavior?

I meant "proper" and "improper" in the sense of the connotations applied to the meaning of the words. Just as with "selfishness," "self-absorbed" and "self-centered" have a rational connotation that stands in distinction to the ones typically drawn. One should be self-absorbed and self-centered, just as one should be selfish, at least with the connotations that I implied in what I wrote.

I certainly know the kind of personality you describe as once being your friend, but her being absorbed with herself to the extent of the unreasonable exclusion of others is improper just as would be her stepping over others to get what she wants at their expense. We should not call her latter act "selfish," nor should we call the former act "self-absorbed." The problem you raise, though, is in finding a term to use that better characterizes the pathological aspects of these acts, and I for one know of nothing else to use but a descriptive phrase.

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When I am trying to explain the acts that are under question to my clients I use the term irrational. I have found that this is the best way to get my point across.

The reason this works for me is there is no way around it. When they say, "don't you think their is a point when someone is to selfish?" I say no, not if we define selfishness by having concern for one's self-interest. This means thinking long-term and not going after the whimsical emotional desires that one might have.

Such an example with my clients might be: I want that second piece of cheesecake, but I also want to be lean. To act in their best interest, they must first prioritize their values and then selfhishly go after them. If they choose leanness over the cheesecake, but still eat the cheesecake, they are being irrational, not selfish.

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This is an interesting thread!

I have used the term self centered to describe someone who is completely unaware of reality outside of the "realm" of ... themselves. This type of person tends to be long term self destructive and perhaps somewhat narcissistic. I would not spend time trying to figure them out if any red flags come up while getting to know them.

Good question too, Ed!

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