Egocentrism & Perspective

It could be more prevalent in 20-somethings, but I know this exists in every age group. Clearly, children have an excuse; egocentrism pretty much defines childhood. But when adults aren’t able to see beyond their own perspective… that is troubling.

I’m thinking of when people focus on how bad they have it, or how this person is bringing them down, or that group is basically flawed, and really, how helpless they are as a result of an external force in their lives. A shining example, although I’m really referring to something much broader, is when you hear people complain about the opposite sex in heterosexual dating. Men say women are crazy; women say men are assholes. Are we not all aware yet that if you’ve dated a string of not great people you’re the only common denominator? I’m sure it’s less known that people unconsciously look for and are immediately attracted to certain qualities, and sometimes those are bad qualities that don’t SEEM to be apparent right away, but a couple months/years down the road there you are, in another intense relationship that you won’t admit should have never started and really, looking back, you should have known from day one.

But reeling this back in, people think about how bad they, individually, have it, whether it’s with love, work, or any other area. I’m betting it’s extremely common for people not to realize how many other people have the same problem, no matter how weird and specific or huge and traumatic. That weird thought you have that you’ve never told anyone because of how weird it is? Someone has thought the same thing, and people have thought much weirder things. If you’ve ever heard someone else talk about his or her own experience with [insert thing you think only you have thought/experienced], isn’t that so gratifying? I’m not the only one!

Besides the fact that it can be comforting just to know others are going through the same thing, because misery loves company, it’s much more helpful to take that knowledge and use it to get out of a “victim rut.” That’s empowering. Whether you are extremely frustrated by your current work environment or you’re haunted by a horrible event in your past, it shouldn’t define or consume you. And there are people who want to be the victim at all times. It’s probably not a conscious decision, but it is a decision, and I know I forget sometimes that not deciding is a decision in itself.

We have a choice in how we respond to things though; we don’t have to be victims. This isn’t just about wording, like people saying, “I’m not a victim of X; I’m a survivor of X.” It’s about the attitude. It’s about NOT telling yourself, “X happened to me/this is how it is, so there’s nothing I can do.” While everyone gets “me” focused at times, some people are “me” focused at all times, like they live their lives in a fog and can only see their immediate surroundings. Not in a selfish way, but in an always-in-their-head way. If you can’t see more than a foot in front of you, you’re only taking in what’s right there and it’s impossible to consider what’s going on outside of that. It’s both choosing not to see anything but your own perspective and denying that there are even any other ones out there.

Let’s not boil this down to having to tough it out or suck it up, or pretend you don’t have justified reactions/emotions. You just don’t have to wallow in a mud puddle of self-pity. Okay, maybe for a few minutes we feel sorry for ourselves and pout. But then pick yourself up, or get help in picking yourself up.

Side note: this isn’t to say that just changing one’s attitude can clear something like clinical depression. Anyone who’s experienced it will tell you, that’s not the case. And it’s not about “blaming the victim.” I’m referring more to what seems to be a norm of people completely externalizing their problems rather than considering the part they play in continuing their own suffering.

If you think about it, everyone is a victim of some kind, and everyone could be a victim if they chose to be. It’s the people who you see taking action on things and not “waiting for their luck to change” who are also more at peace with the facts of life (death, taxes, dating foibles, etc). It’s because they’ve accepted what they can’t change and done something about what they can (à la the Serenity Prayer).

Whatever it is, people have done it right/gotten through it/succeeded at it before, and this is when it’s a good thing that we aren’t all special, unique snowflakes, because we know we can do it again.

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