What’s The Difference Between Self-Centeredness, Selfishness, and Self-Awareness?

Difference SelfCenteredness Selfishness SelfAwareness

Sometimes the line gets blurred when you think about whether there are any differences between being selfish and self-aware.

Do you believe, “If I ask for something I want, I’m being selfish?”

Or does it make sense to you that there’s a huge difference between being selfish, self-centered, and self-aware?

Let’s talk about those differences.

First, let’s take self-centeredness. Here’s an example. A self-centered person might say: ”Oh, I’m so sorry your mom has cancer. That’s horrible. I’m sure you’ll be taking her for treatments, but does that mean that you won’t be able to keep carpooling?  Or it might sound like this: “Wow, congratulations! I’m so happy you’re going to have a baby. It took me four years and so much money for infertility treatment. I wouldn’t know what it feels like to do it all naturally.”

A self-centered person grabs the focus. And you’re left wondering why you even bothered to talk to them in the first place. Or somehow you absorb a weird kind of shame for sharing as if your struggles or your joys don’t matter.

The difference between being self-centered and being selfish… 

Selfishness is putting yourself, your own needs, in front of someone else’s, most or all the time. If there’s pie, a selfish person grabs the last piece. If a child needs to be picked up, they have an appointment they can’t miss, and it’s left up to you. 

Sometimes, not being able can’t be helped. But if it happens all the time, then it’s selfishness. And it’s very hard to be in a relationship with someone who knows only how to take but not to give. 

Related: 4 Signs You Are In A Selfish Relationship

How is self-awareness different?

Being self-aware is a very different choice. My definition is simple: You keep in mind your own needs or wants, and treat them with as much consideration as you treat the wants and needs of others. Your needs don’t always rise to the top of the needs/wants/time available chart, but they do sometimes, just like sometimes you put the wants and needs of others ahead of yours. But your needs are in consideration enough of the time. 

The important word there is “enough.”  Sometimes, that’s not a lot, because someone else’s needs to take priority, and for good reason. Either we all get really, really… really busy. Yet there are other times that you find yourself in a more painful or frightening or confusing place and frankly, your needs  – and you — need attention and support.

You could call it good self-care. You ask for help, and hopefully, receive it.

Is this confusion a part of perfectly hidden depression?

If you struggle with perfectly hidden depression, may not know the difference between selfishness and self-awareness. You might not have been taught or treated as if your childhood needs and wants were even significant.

What’s The Difference Between Self-Centeredness, Selfishness, and Self-Awareness?
Difference between being selfish and self-aware
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Dr. Margaret R Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, has practiced for twenty-six years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Earning the 2009 Arkansas Private Practitioner of the Year award for her volunteer work at a local free health clinic, she began blogging and podcasting in 2012 to destigmatize mental illness and educate the public about therapy and treatment. With her compassionate and common-sense style, her work can be found at https://DrMargaretRutherford.com, as well as HuffPost, Psych Central, Psychology Today, The Mighty, The Gottman Blog and others. She hosts a weekly podcast, The SelfWork Podcast with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. And her new book, Perfectly Hidden Depression: How to Break Free from the Perfectionism that Masks Your Depression, is published by New Harbinger and available at Amazon, Barnes, and Noble or your local bookstore.View Author posts