Egocentrism is the normal condition for all of us in early life. As infants, we see the world as a mere extension of ourselves. And we also believe the things that we think might bring us pleasure exist purely for our use and benefit. This kind of egocentric world view is both natural and normal when we’re very young. But as we grow, things simply must change, especially if we’re to grow in the dimension I call character. Keeping an egocentric view of things is the bane of all relationships. It poses danger both to ourselves and everyone else. So, naturally, the first step toward healthy socialization and sound character largely involves moving past our infantile egocentrism.
The First Step Toward Character
There are many important lessons to learn and values to internalize on the road to sound character. And, as mentioned above, overcoming egocentrism is an essential priority. It’s not a first step in a purely chronological sense. Rather, it’s a fundamental principle, that when embraced, makes genuinely embracing all the other values and principles essential to good character possible. (See also: Nurturing Good Character: The “10 Commandments” and Essentials for the Journey.) Without seeing ourselves as part of something larger, and without having a proper sense of self in the midst of things, it’s virtually impossible to achieve full character maturity.
A Proper Sense of Self
We need a proper sense of self to be emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy. And that includes having a balanced sense of self-worth. We need to know what our true worth is and where it truly comes from. Otherwise, we’re prone to unhealthy ego-inflation or equally unhealthy impoverished self-esteem. And an impoverished self-image makes us unduly vulnerable to the exploiters and abusers I describe in In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. (Mira, tambien: Lobos Con Piel de Cordero.)
Knowing ourselves and loving ourselves properly is not egocentrism. In fact, it’s everything but! Once you know deeply who you are at the core, and how unconditionally you’re innately valued, etc., you’re free of both the need to prove anything or feelings of worthlessness. Sadly, these days, a culture devoid of healthy character places many obstacles in the way of forming a healthy sense of self. And that’s how so many of our relationships end up being toxic. (See: How Did We End Up Here?.)
Hear more about this topic on the current edition of Character Matters.