The Surprising Value of Self-Centeredness

January 28, 2023 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Our mission is to be the resource that helps achieve the mission. However, if we make ourselves the mission, we will be neither mission nor resource.” Craig D. Lounsbrough 

I was thinking this morning: What if self-centeredness is actually vital for the development of a healthy and completed self? What if we are built (or “hard-wired”) to be self-centered? Finally, what if self-centeredness is the bedrock for other-centeredness?

Hmm, says I.


Typically, we understand self-centeredness in the negative—that is, a narcissistic attempt to build one’s own prestige or power. We all know (and live with) narcissistic people. Few personality disorders are more frustrating than a self-serving or egocentric person who cares only for their personal gratification at the expense of others. These people rob others of the praise and credit deserved for a job well-done; they establish around themselves a family or business culture where they are the center of attention.

Yes, this is what we most commonly think of when pondering the notion of self-centeredness. But what about the other side or polar side of self-centered practices? What about self-examination and self-improvement?


It was Socrates that stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” (and then we always have the retort of Guy Kawasaki, “The unlived life is not worth examining.”) Both statements require self-understanding.

After all, “I” am the filter through which all information, all knowledge, and all feelings must be evaluated. “I” am responsible to make wise choices regarding how I live, how I treat others, and… how I serve myself. In this light, I cannot help but conclude that “I” am indeed essential for survival and for service. Therefore I am, and must be, self-centered.

Over the years I’ve studied several spiritual masters. Every single one of them demands disciples to be highly self-examined and self-aware. In fact Emotional Intelligence, which is one of the most popular assessment instruments in the world, is all about self-awareness.

The Conundrum

What we have then is a conundrum of sorts. To be, or not to be, self-centered? On the one hand, being self-centered can be narcissistic and selfish; on the other hand, being self-centered is more about humility and an unselfish regard for the well-being of others. Opposites? Yes. Both true? Yes.

So… what will it be? Self-centered for understanding the self wisely with the purpose of creating a “better self” that can serve the world with humility, humanity, and love? Or, self-centered only for the purpose of power, prestige, and acquisitions of personal possessions?

You choose which!

Self ”ish” or Self ”less”

Note the Common Word

Photo courtesy of Tamer Dagas at istockphoto

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