Tag Archives: selfish

“I feel that you are selfish.”

“Baby I love your way” detail by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

The good thing about “selfish” people is that they take care of themselves — so you don’t have to. They can also be full of passion and vitality because they do things out of interest rather than out of obligation or guilt.

This same tendency, however, can make them less aware and concerned about other people’s needs. It’s important, therefore, that your expectations match the reality of a person’s character. So enjoy the positive and protect yourself against the negative. Make sure you express and go after your own desires and needs — in a positive, life-enhancing way!

“I feel that you are selfish” expresses a negative judgment or complaint, not a feeling or request. When people hear negative judgments, their defenses come up and their hearts close down.

The most effective way to deal with people who seem a little selfish is to take care of your own needs and to pursue your own desires. Don’t expect them to stop what they are doing in order to take care of you. You will produce better results if you engage and entice the person rather than criticize and complain.

For example,

“Let’s do something that we both enjoy. Do you want to watch the game and then go to dinner?”


“I left you some dinner, and have to go pick up the kids. It would be great if you could clean up. See you in a little while.”


“Let’s go to the beach. I have a nice bottle of wine.”


“I am going to see a band in town tonight with Damian and Corey. It would be fun if you’d join us!”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

“Should I stay with my husband who is rude, selfish, and impossible to live with?”

“Celestial Magic” Mimi Stuart©

“Should I stay with my husband who is impossible to live with?

My husband barks orders at me, is rude and condescending, and when things heat up he uses profanity and calls me names. He does things that can be very selfish, and if I complain he says I’m being “toxic”. He rarely says he’s sorry and is uninterested in counseling.

Here are the reasons I have stayed with him to date:

1) I don’t want another failed marriage,

2) We have a kid together and for her sake I don’t want to break our family apart,

3) He is very smart, can be fun, and we share values,

4) He is the primary breadwinner so I’d have to go back to full time work, and

5) We are both in our early 50’s and that feels like a pretty advanced age to give up and try to start over.”

1. Another failed relationship

Is staying in a failed relationship better than leaving it? We all make mistakes and face different challenges in our lives. Life is about learning from our experiences and transforming ourselves and our relationships for the better. Ask yourself whether staying in a failed relationship is better than leaving it when there is very little hope for joy, mutual growth, and deepening love.

2. Staying together for the children

Staying in an abusive relationship is not good for you or your daughter. In contrast, having the courage to seek a better life can be of great benefit to your child. It is a gift to show your daughter that you can set clear boundaries, that you have the self-respect to expect better treatment, and that you will take action to improve your life.

It may be helpful to explain the situation to your child, without unnecessarily disparaging your husband. There is no need to go into great detail, especially if the child is young. For example, you might say:

“You probably have noticed that we have great difficultly talking to each other without arguing. There will be disagreements in any relationship. But in our case, we are hurting each other constantly and unnecessarily. Since your dad is unwilling to go to counseling, I have decided to leave the relationship. But we both love you and life will go on and eventually improve.”

You may be surprised by her reaction, if not immediately, then down the road. If your husband is as abusive as you say then she may thank you for the separation.

3. My partner has good qualities. What is the magic ratio?

Something attracted you to each other in the first place, and it is good to still be able to see his positive qualities. The question to ask yourself is whether your relationship reaches the magic ratio—that is, a minimum of five positive interactions to every one negative interaction (found through John Gottman’s research.) When that magic ratio is not reached, the relationship will spiral out of control toward misery.

4. Financial considerations and going back to work

For many people, financial security is a very serious consideration. Yet independence from an abusive relationship is well worth your going back to full-time work. As a capable and thoughtful person, I am sure you will find work and thereby become more independent and also attract more positive people into your orbit. In fact, working can be the most liberating and rewarding experience you can have outside your relationship. Whether you stay together or not, working can expand your life and social network, which can enhance your self-respect and courage.

5. Too old to start over

You say that you are hesitant to end your relationship because you are in your fifties. But consider that you could easily live for another 35 or 40 years. Even if you only had another five years, your best years are likely ahead of you given your current circumstances. People can have new relationships, learn, grow, and find joy and happiness in many ways later in life. I know many people who are physically and mentally active well into their 80’s and 90’s.

Now that your husband is spending more time at home, ask yourself whether things are improving and will continue to do so, or not. Ask yourself whether you will be able to enjoy your life more in the next 30-40 years with him at your side or without him? What you have described is an abusive relationship, so I suspect the answer would be the latter.

It is laudable that you are taking responsibility for your part in the conflicts between the two of you. You can continue to work on becoming a more effective communicator and focus more on controlling your own life.

If you do leave your husband, there is no need to blame him or to be hostile. Explain the situation in a “nonviolent” way (see Marshall Rosenberg.) Here is an example,

“We have many values in common, I enjoy your wit and intelligence, and most importantly, we have a wonderful daughter. However, I need to be able to communicate with my partner in a loving way, to share joy, and to find ways to grow together. I feel distressed and frustrated that we rarely can talk with one another without fighting. I want to be in a relationship where there is mutual respect, curiosity and love. I’m sure you have noticed it too that our relationship is no longer a happy one—for either of us. We may find a way to resolve our ongoing problems by counseling, but if you aren’t willing to try, it’s best that we separate. It makes me very sad. I certainly don’t want to hurt you, but I can’t foresee continuing in the way we have been.”

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

“What is the difference between being selfish and being narcissistic?”

"Quantum Leap" Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©

“Quantum Leap” Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©

The spectrum between selfishness and narcissism includes being just a little selfish, very selfish, somewhat narcissistic and suffering from full-fledged Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


“Pathological narcissism is a life-long pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.”

~Sam Vaknin

A true narcissist lacks empathy for others as he or she is consumed with a drive to uphold a particular self-image in order to obtain “narcissistic supply,” that is, acclaim, fame, sexual conquests, or power, depending on the particular narcissist. Most people enjoy praise and admiration, but for narcissists, gaining praise, admiration, status, or power is their primary drive, as it is their only way to attain a sense of self.

True narcissists are extremely defensive and hostile when challenged or when feeling inferior. They generally do not apologize for treating others badly unless it suits their goals, because they lack the empathy to feel another person’s pain. Narcissists may pretend to be empathetic and kind if necessary, but like everything else they do, their behavior is designed to create a self-image that will garner narcissistic supply. In fact, the drive to feel superior is so strong that narcissists will exaggerate, lie, cheat and do whatever it takes to sustain a sense of self-importance.

It is sadly impossible for a narcissist to have a loving, mutual and equal relationship with another person, for as Vaknin puts it “the narcissist identifies being loved with being possessed, encroached upon, shackled, transformed, reduced, exploited, weakened, engulfed, digested and excreted.” Moreover, the more you admire a narcissist the more poorly you will be treated. Despite the fact that the narcissist seeks admiration, “the narcissist holds his sycophantic acolytes in contempt. He finds his fans, admirers, and followers repulsive and holds them to be inferior.” (Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-love”)


Selfish individuals tend to think of themselves first, but don’t lack empathy for others. A moderate amount of what we call “selfishness” is a positive attribute, and might be called “self-preservation,” “independence,” or being a “go-getter.”

Unlike narcissists, slightly selfish people may have a strong sense of self that is not dependent on either being admired by others or having power over others. They are capable of having equal relationships with others, particularly if they can take care of their own needs and are not overly dependent. The good thing about “selfish” people is that they will generally take care of themselves; you don’t have to. They can also be full of passion and vitality because they do things out of interest rather than out of a sense of obligation or guilt.

When dealing with selfish people, it is important to maintain some independence and to continue to pursue your own passions. Don’t expect them to take care of you. If you want to share more time together, engage and entice them rather than try to change them by complaining about the lack of attention. Of course, this will hold true with most people.

When dealing with extremely selfish people verging on narcissism, it’s best to keep your relationship light, avoid dependence of any kind, and keep your expectations realistically low to avoid the inevitable disappointments you’ll feel when you experience their lack of concern for you or other people. In essence, your expectations should match the reality of a person’s character. So enjoy the positive and protect yourself against the negative.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “My teenager is selfish and rude! How did I raise a child like this?”

Read “Narcissism Part 1 (of 5): ‘My husband is so selfish! Is he a narcissist?’ Symptoms of Narcissism.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “Cold Empathy: The Narcissist as Predator.”

Narcissism Part 2 (of 5): “I don’t have a problem with self-esteem!” Causes of Narcissism.

"Embellishment" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

Narcissism is basically a psychological coping mechanism for low self-esteem. Ironically the narcissist rarely believes that he or she has a problem with self-esteem.

Very young children naturally feel they are the center of the world. They need to experience healthy narcissism to feel good about themselves, to gain the confidence to grow up and take care of themselves and be able to initiate social interactions.

Children generally grow out of this healthy narcissistic phase if they experience “mirroring” and “idealization.” Mirroring means receiving empathy and approval from one’s parents. Idealization means being able to look up to a caregiver as a respected person separate from oneself.

No Mirroring:
Lack of mirroring occurs in one of the following ways:

1. Approval is erratic or lacking all together. The child is ignored.
2. Admiration is too unrealistic to believe, while realistic feedback is lacking. “You’re the cutest, smartest…”
3. Criticism for bad behavior is excessive. “You are bad, evil, stupid!!”
4. The parents are excessively permissive and overindulge the child, implying a lack of caring. “Sure, have a bowl of candy, more juice, toys, throw your food if you want to, I don’t care.”

No Idealization:
Children are deprived of idealization in one of the following ways:

1. The parents are unpredictable, unreliable, or lacking in empathy.
2. The parents are emotionally or physically abusive.
3. The parents have no interest in the child’s needs, but exploit the child to feed their own self-esteem.

Without receiving empathy or the ability to look up to others, children do not develop empathy for themselves or others. They may grow up being psychologically stuck in the narcissistic phase.

As a result, they feel flawed and unacceptable. They fear rejection and isolation because of their perceived worthlessness. To avoid this pain, they focus on controlling how others view them by embellishing their accomplishments and skills.

They feel deep shame, which causes them to develop an artificial self. While we all develop an artificial self to some degree, narcissists IDENTIFY with their artificial self. Preoccupied with presenting the right image, they are ironically rarely aware of their own low self-esteem.

People with adequate self-esteem are usually willing to look at themselves with honest self-reflection and consider areas in which they could improve. This makes sense because they have empathy for the flaws and inadequacies in both themselves and others.

Sadly, the narcissist believes that flaws are to be hated and concealed, and that only perfection and superiority can be displayed. Thus, they view themselves and others with a perspective that swings from over-valuation to loathing. In their quest for approval and acceptance, they use their charm and charisma. Once dependent on others’ approval, the smallest hint of disapproval can send them into a state of punishing vengeance.

To protect oneself from the emotional pendulum of the narcissist, it’s best not to make your self-worth dependent on one by perpetually trying to please the narcissist. While the charisma bestowed on you might feel irresistible at first, it could soon turn into punishing scorn and retaliation.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read Narcissism Part 3: Avoid raising narcissistic children.

Read Narcissism Part 4: Celebrity, Power, and Prestige.

References: “Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.”

Narcissism Part 1 (of 5): “My husband is so selfish! Is he a narcissist?” Symptoms of Narcissism.

"Roar of the Raptor" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

Narcissists display extreme selfishness, a lack of empathy, and a craving for admiration. Freud aptly named the disorder after the mythological figure of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and was doomed to never receive any love back from his reflection.

There are degrees of narcissism, ranging from excessive self-importance to full-fledged Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is natural to enjoy praise and admiration, particularly given our current media culture, which prizes recognition for image, power, and status more highly than wisdom, responsibility, or a sense of meaning. However, narcissists don’t simply enjoy occasional admiration; the craving for admiration is THE PRIMARY DRIVE in their lives.

To obtain the praise and admiration they seek, they will exaggerate their talents and accomplishments. Their desire to be viewed as superior can lead to misrepresenting their history and accomplishments. They may even lie and cheat in order to get promotions, win races, or seduce people.

Narcissists are preoccupied with self-aggrandizement to hone public opinion of their image. They fantasize about and seek power, fame, status, or money, and are often envious of others who have an abundance of these resources. With grandiosity and arrogance, they demand that others treat them as special or superior.

High-functioning narcissists present themselves well and are socially adept, because they work hard at creating a praiseworthy image. In casual relationships, they are likable. However, in intimate relationships, they frequently display envy, arrogance, and entitlement. They protect themselves from criticism, humiliation, and rejection by over-reacting with contempt or outrage. Underlying all these emotions is often a feeling of emptiness.

Feeling entitled and lacking in empathy, narcissists tend to exploit others to serve their own needs. Focused on their own needs and frustrations, they become skillful at controlling and blaming others. As you can see, superiority and entitlement do not promote mutually-satisfying, long-term close relationships.

You cannot change a narcissist, as they rarely, if ever, believe they need to change. However, whether your husband is merely selfish or narcissistic, you need to take care of yourself to avoid being exploited and hurt. You can’t expect him to set the boundaries needed to protect you. Nor can you expect him to fulfill your needs and desires, unless it suits his goals for stardom.

Generally you should not count on anyone fulfilling your deepest needs and taking care of you. However, it is definitely desirable to be with someone who is considerate, loving and thoughtful—traits, which the narcissist can temporarily fake, but cannot truly embody.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read Narcissism Part 2: Causes of Narcissism.

References: “Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.”