We are all born with the instinct for survival. We are exposed to punishment themes. We seek the love and support of others, not harsh words and unkind acts. We seek recognition, success, and material wealth. To that end, we want what we want.
Wanting and self centered behavior are kind of joined at the hip. Most often we cannot have one without the other. In fact, those people that value material wealth or recognition above all other things tend to also be the most self centered. Over time, we might refer to them as "spoiled." That's just been my experience. It is only my opinion. It may not be true for you.
It is our job to become aware of our own selfish behavior. To at least attempt some moderation. That's the first step. Recognize and become aware of your own self serving behavior. How does it effect others?
It is also my belief that the vast majority of people who place their needs above all else do so unconsciously. They do not do this with malice or intent. They don't even have a conscious thought regarding it. Some folks become so self serving that they convince themselves and others that they are not self serving at all. I call this heightened unconsciousness.
So we accept that some self centered behavior is a fact of life. It is when that degree of self seeking behavior becomes so intolerable or so extreme that it adversely effects us. That we consistently have to avail ourselves of our own self worth and in some instances, abandon our own values to simply accommodate and tolerate the self-centeredness of those around us. When self seeking behavior becomes consistent and extreme, when it causes us to abandon our core values, then it has become a problem. How do we know when enough is enough?
This is what I have learned. In the workplace, extreme self-centeredness is the leading cause of job loss and conflict. I am convinced of that. Selfish people, people who hurt and diminish others in the workplace, are virtually unstoppable. They will go to extreme levels in an attempt to get what they want. Generally speaking, eventually that extreme level of self seeking reaches such an obvious level, that action (long over due) must be taken. Many times these people must be confronted and disciplined. Very often it ends in job or career loss, perhaps in civil or criminal action. Occasionally, the extremely self centered person can be reasoned with. I was able to get through to a couple of folks like that. I consider those among my most valued successes. If you are on a level or subordinate role with these types of co-working hostage takers, you will find yourself practicing not taking what they say or do personally, internal discipline and restraint, and acceptance. Sometimes a lot of acceptance. Sometimes we have to wait out a chaotic person like that, but more often than not, they will "fire" themselves. They just never seem to do it as quickly as most of us would like. Sometimes we must throw in the towel.
In personal relationships, this becomes a little easier. Extreme self seeking in personal relationships is also unconscious. Sometimes the people we love simply want what they want. We make concessions and allowances for them. Often they consistently display an unwillingness to make any effort, concession, or allowance for us. We find ourselves in a situation where the self seeking partner has displayed absolute indifference. They simply lack any capacity, whether conscious or unconscious, to meet us halfway. What happens next occurs- as a direct result of the capacity you have for allowing that situation to continue. Intuitively, like the work place hostage taker, many of us stay in relationships well beyond that point. When you begin to feel diminished, when you find your core values being manipulated and ignored (and perhaps you are even abandoning them) it is time to consider ending the relationship. In this instance, you will not have to wait for a boss to intervene- you can take action yourself. You may simply reject the relationship and extract yourself from it. Because you understand it is never personal, you simply look for the exit.
As a younger man, I often practiced extreme self-centeredness. I am not proud of that achievement. In fact, in some instances, it has been the source of humiliation and shame. Somewhere, somehow, I found the divine inspiration and courage it takes to recognize that part of my life. At first my ego was highly resistant. It simply didn't want to accept that I was selfish, perhaps extremely so. My ego wanted to deny and rationalize. To justify my conduct. It even sought out others who would agree and support my selfish behavior.
Today, I am still self-centered. I have not been able to eliminate selfish behavior nor do I think it is possible. But I do not practice self-centeredness in the extreme. I try to include others, often thinking about their needs ahead of my own. I am fully aware of the wanting and damage that all of that selfish and spoiled behavior in me causes. I still make mistakes, wanting selfish people to be a little less selfish and a little more willing to meet me halfway. I get frustrated at their denials and their unwillingness to work on themselves. Today, I have been able to identify those people who are willing to understand this basic concept. I am also removing myself from those situations of extreme self-centeredness which have caused me to question my worth and my values. I can't take their actions personally. I have to practice tolerance along with a great deal of acceptance. I have decisions to make and that's how I find myself managing these things.