Self-absorbed people typically have similar markers to those of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), however, people who are ‘ate up with themselves’ are not necessarily narcissists. Each of these parallel personality traits has the potential to pull you down mentally and damage your self-esteem, however, narcissists typically thrive through a string of manipulative tactics—emotionally abusive tactics that someone who is simply self-centered may not be ingrained with.
Self-centered people are rooted in seeing life through their own eyes and they often fail or don’t want to make the effort to see life through your eyes. Their actions are often filled with defensive dominance.
What are the top characteristics of a self-absorbed person?
On the defensive (insecure and vulnerable) – They do not accept that they have flaws. They compare themselves to others and typically find ways to hold themselves to a level above. They fiercely fight for their own identity (we all should protect our own identity with a humble attitude), even if they are flawed or have made mistakes. When they make mistakes, they uphold themselves with gusto to preserve their image and claim innocence. They protect their point of view and often do not stop to consider yours. It feels frightening to the overt self-centered person to open up and be vulnerable, even when you genuinely want to help, for their fear is that you will see their weaknesses and shortcomings.
Dominate relationships – They love using the words “should” or “must.” Telling others what they should or must do is done in an attempt to place themselves in a seat of authority. They verbalize commands of correction to get what they want.
Opinionated – They can talk incessantly about other people. They are over-consumed with their own self-image, point of view, preferences, and desires, which leads them to perpetually talk about their opinions, and to lack consideration for the opinions of others.
Lack of empathy – They do not want to understand the opinion of others and they are not sensitive to what others experience or feel. They refuse to consider what it feels like to be in another’s shoes.
Devalue others – Rather than having a healthy criticism of others, they use it as a tool to devalue others. They believe they are superior to others. People with this trait take more than they give, and when they don’t get what they want, they take on an attitude of contempt.
Set many rules – Self-absorbed people often set high expectations of people close to them. This leads them to judge, issue corrections, and set rules. “I expect my wife/husband to (act like this, raise our children like this, or dress like this, etc.)”
Interruptions (verbal and otherwise) – The best communication skill is to listen. Self-absorbed people feel driven to interject their own opinions and they habitually do not let people finish sentences. Self-centered people love the sound of their own voice and will talk over others in an effort to get their point across.
Self-centered people have a tendency to barge into your space, with little to no regard for your time or availability. As they propel into your space, they may say, “I know you are very busy, but …” These words are often not heart-felt, and are typically a ploy to continue interrupting.
Expect you to be available – In addition to interrupting you, self-absorbed people may feel put-off or angry if you’re not available for a talk, call, or visit. They often feel like you have an agenda that isn’t about them, “They didn’t answer my call. I know they are there. They are avoiding me.”
Two Key Differences Between Self-Absorbed Person and a Narcissist
Empathy – Most self-centered people feel and can show empathy, to a lesser degree (as compared to a non-self-centered person), however, they are good at turning it off and on. When they are looking inwards and refusing to look outwards (i.e., they are in a mood, or are arguing a point), they go blind to the feelings and thoughts of others. The most common identifier of a narcissist, however, is a complete lack of empathy.
Emotional abuse – Self-absorbed people may try to manipulate others, yet, this is not ingrained in their nature as it is with a narcissist. A self-centered person may say things that resemble gaslighting, such as, “You are so wrong…I am not even sure where you got that from,” or, “How can you believe that? Are you okay?” The self-absorbed person’s intention is not to gain control of your mind, nor to make you feel you have lost yours. Instead, their mindset is rooted in proving that they are right.
How to Deal with a Self-Absorbed Person
We all want to retain a state of calm, especially when we are dealing with a toxic self-absorbed person. One of the best ways to buffer stress is through mental and physical boundary setting.
In The Moment Boundary: How do you want to feel mentally and physically? Pay attention to your breathing, your heart rate, and your thoughts at the moment. Despite any negative emotional wrangling that you may be encountering, develop a mindset that helps you remain in a calm and peaceful place. Are you breathing normally? Slow your breathing down. Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing not only helps your body and mind live in a state of calm, but it also lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
There is one major thing that a self-centered person cannot do to you, and that is to get inside of your head and change your thoughts. You have this.
Mental boundaries include refusing to argue. Mental boundaries can lead to physical boundaries, (i.e., exiting to another room, or leaving the premises entirely). When you leave the premises, or even when you remain in the same space, say, “When you are calmer, we can talk,” or, “When the time is more appropriate, we can talk.”
Your preferences and mental self-preservation are your boundaries, and you must stick with them. Be clear with your preferences. You cannot give someone your full attention when you are not in a space conducive to doing so. You cannot communicate in a productive manner with a person who is in an unwilling empathy-lacking mental state.
Our lives are unique, so our boundaries are limitless!
I hope this blog helped you identify with self-absorbed people. We will talk in-depth about boundaries in an upcoming blog or vlog.
Be sure to share your thoughts and experiences that you’ve had with self-absorbed people in the comments below…the more we share, the more we help others!
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