Written By Alwin Thomas, Singapore
Let’s just be honest here: We’ve all got some narcissistic tendencies. No one’s exempt. That being said, I don’t mean to offend anyone with the points below; hopefully, they serve as useful indicators to help us identify these tendencies and nip them in the bud.
1. I Am Reading This Article
That’s right. If you’re reading this article right now, you’re probably someone who has some level of self-absorption. You want to know if you’re too obsessed and occupied with yourself. That’s not entirely a bad thing, though. The problem comes when we are concerned about our own well-being only, sometimes even at the expense of others.
Instead of being self-absorbed, psychologists say it is more beneficial to be self-aware—where we understand the inner motivations and desires which shape our behavior and actions. Self-absorption can lead to dissatisfaction, whereas self-awareness causes us to be introspective; it prompts us to consider how we can change our negative attitudes and live more enriching, fulfilling lives that not only benefit ourselves, but also others in the process.
2. I Find Myself Criticizing Others Very Often
It is biblical to encourage and spur other people on, especially those closest to us. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
But have you ever felt a strong need to correct someone, to the point that you’re frustrated if: One, you are unable to communicate it to them; or Two, they don’t heed your advice or just can’t seem to make sense of it? If your answer is yes to either, then you might be operating from some kind of unrealistic standard, first for yourself, then for the people around you. If you constantly feel frustrated with others, or realize that your friends want less and less to do with you, these are warning signs.
There was a time in my life when I was completely dissatisfied with everyone I knew. No matter how much time, concern, or affection my friends showed me, I was always finding some new way to put them on a guilt trip and make them feel that they were selfish and did not care for me.
What should we do? We need to remember that all of us are still in the process of becoming better, by a process called “sanctification”. Jesus Himself displayed great patience and love to those who were criticized or hated by society, such as the tax collectors and the prostitutes. While He did not condone their behavior, He corrected them gently and gave them room and time to make amends.
Similarly, we could learn to be patient and forgive not only our friends for their moments of folly, but also ourselves as we are being transformed from the inside. The Bible says: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
3. I’m Always Worrying Over Improving Myself
Are there traits in your life that you really can’t stand, but no matter how much you try to “fix” yourself, you find yourself inevitably lapsing back into the same habits? For example, are you trying to change your lack of discipline, but can’t seem to avoid procrastinating and wasting time?
We may make a resolution to change our lives, and see things seem to get better for a while. But within a few weeks, or months, we find that the old habits are back, and end up disappointed, angry, and upset with ourselves.
May I suggest that it’s because we’re focusing too much on ourselves, and trying to do everything on our own? We are always in a turmoil because we don’t let go; we don’t really believe that God is big enough to settle our problems, and we don’t really trust that He will.
We’re using our own might to change ourselves—no wonder we keep failing! Let’s trust in God and let Him take over.
4. I Feel Like I’m Always Talking
Have you ever paused for a moment in a conversation and suddenly realized that you were the only one talking? Well, maybe it’s because you haven’t stopped talking! Relationships are all about two-way communication.
If we deliberately shift the attention from ourselves and make the effort to listen to others, we’ll learn to care for the well-being of others. We would learn from people’s experiences and avoid the same mistakes in our lives. There is great wisdom in the Turkish proverb, “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold”. Could it be that even though you’ve been friends with those around you for a long time, you don’t actually know what they are like, or even what they like?
Sometimes, this may be true in our relationship with God too. We spend all our time going to Him with our prayers, our needs, and our concerns. But have we ever paused to consider what He has to say to us?
5. I Have A Fear Of Building Real Connections
For many years, I struggled with being able to care for others truly and sincerely. When I related to people around me, even those whom I love, I was always thinking of how to ensure that what I did would be reciprocated. How could I serve him so that he would always be faithful to me? What could I buy for her so that she would love me even more? And even: What could I do for God so that He would never leave or forsake me?
Eventually, I found myself disappointed when people didn’t respond the way I wanted them to, and when they failed to meet my unrealistic and selfish expectations. For a long time, I could not see a way out—until I realized that I had to first understand what being in a relationship actually meant. And the lesson came from the first and most important relationship in my life: my relationship with God.
The first thing I learned was that His love for us was unconditional. God loved us even before we existed. And despite all the times we’ve run away from Him and rebelled against Him, He has never ceased to love us for who we are. When I understood this, I began to learn to love others—just the way they were. It was not about what they could do for me, or even what would happen if they left me, but it was about how God wanted me to love the people He loved, unconditionally and selflessly. Relationships are not transactional exchanges.