9 signs you’re dealing with a really self-absorbed individual, according to psychology

by Mia Zhang | June 3, 2024, 5:17 pm

Sometimes, we can all be at least a little bit self-absorbed.

It’s a quirk of human consciousness that we can only live inside our own heads, after all.

Our feelings and emotions are always going to seem more real to us than those of others, purely because we are the ones feeling them.

However, being an emotionally mature and empathetic person means understanding that other people’s lives are every bit as important and meaningful as yours.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands this.

Some people are so self-absorbed, it’s like they don’t really understand that other people are actually people.

Instead, they see the rest of us as being something like videogame characters who only exist to have an impact on their own lives.

These can be very irritating people to be around.

If you want to spare yourself from being exposed to self-absorbed people, it’s good to know the signs to watch out for.

So here are some signs identified by psychology that demonstrate you are dealing with a very self-absorbed individual.

1) They talk about themselves – a lot

Have you ever met one of those people just won’t shut up about themselves?

Everything they say is about their achievements, their success, their possessions.

Almost everything they say seems designed to impress other people.

Funnily enough, this often backfires, and makes them less impressive than they would be if they didn’t talk about themselves so much.

Look, we all talk about ourselves from time to time.

There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you have an anecdotal personal experience you can share that can help you relate to the people around you.

But that’s totally different from monopolizing a conversation and making it all about you.

Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne calls this conversational narcissism.

And as she points out, it’s possible to be guilty of this without even knowing it.

“When someone tells you where they’re from, for example, do you say “I went there on vacation,” instead of finding out more about how the person moved to where he or she is now?

Similarly, if someone tells you his or her occupation, do you say, “I wanted to be that once as well,” or do you ask about how much the person likes the occupation?”

These are ways you can spot conversational narcissism in yourself.

And if you know other people who talk like this, it’s a good sign that they are very self-absorbed, if not downright narcissistic.

2) They don’t display empathy

Empathy is a natural trait in humans. At the same time, we all have different levels of empathy.

It’s also a skill that you can develop over time to make yourself more empathetic.

Ultimately, empathy means putting yourself in other people’s position to understand better their inner emotional lives.

“Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character,” according to Psychology Today. “It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced.”

We can’t read each other’s minds.

But you can tell a person with a high level of empathy, because they will have a good understanding of where other people are coming from.

Often, they will ask questions to better understand another person’s thoughts or feelings, and pay attention to the answers they get.

On the other hand, self-absorbed people don’t do any of this.

Instead, they only want to talk or even think about themselves, and pay no attention to how other people may feel about them.

3) They don’t listen

One of the consequences of lacking empathy is not listening to others.

After all, listening to what other people say and asking them questions is one of the best ways to understand them better.

But a self-absorbed person isn’t interested in doing that.

That means instead of listening when other people are talking, they will simply wait for their own chance to say the next thing they want to say.

Or they may even talk over other people, convinced that their viewpoint is the only one that matters.

Psychologist Robert Taibbi draws a line between people who are merely self-centered, and those who actually narcissists, based on their ability to listen to others.

“In conversations, they may talk too much about themselves, but they can also actually listen to others,” he writes in regard to self-absorbed people.

Narcissists, only the hand, don’t listen to others.

And if they do, it’s only to find weaknesses to exploit or ways to make themselves seem better.

“Where self-centered people essentially say, “Notice me!” narcissists say, “Notice how special and wonderful I am—and you’re not!” Taibbi writes.

4) They seek validation from others

It’s easy to think that self-centered people are egomaniacs, and in many ways that’s true.

But as any decent psychologist will tell you, a lot of the irritating ways people behave are designed to hide their opposite.

What I mean by that is that often, people who seem the most self-centered and egotistical are in fact full of self-doubt.

This causes them to seek validation from others.

“For many, hurt and invalidation starts very early and continues throughout their life in one form or another,” writes mental health expert Darius Cikanavicius. “As a result, many people learn that their fundamental sense of self-esteem and self-worth comes not from within but from others, and so they constantly seek other people’s approval or attention.”

One of the ways people lacking in self-esteem deal with their pain is to become extremely self-centered.

So seeking validation from others isn’t necessarily a sign of being self-centered, but it often springs from the same early trauma.

5) They aren’t interested in others

Ultimately, self-centered people care only about themselves, and much less about others.

And this can show itself in lots of different ways.

They may:

  •       Interrupt when other people are speaking;
  •       Failed to ask other people questions about their lives;
  •       Disregard or invalidate the feelings of others;
  •       Minimize other people’s achievements;
  •       Ignore people’s personal boundaries;
  •       Refused to apologize

These are just some of the traits that make self-centered people so difficult to be around.

Ultimately, their lack of interest in others virtually ensures other people don’t want to be around them.

6) They can’t handle criticism

No one likes to be criticized. But how you handle criticism says a lot about who you are as a person.

“The ability to take criticism well depends mostly on how secure we feel about ourselves,” writes psychologist Leon F Seltzer.

And he goes on to point out that narcissists are some of the worst people at taking criticism.

That’s because to someone so self-absorbed, any criticism seems like a threat.

Because their self-absorption comes as a response to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, even mild criticism can reopen that wound.

Therefore, instead of taking criticism on board, they will react emotionally, lashing out at anyone who criticizes them.

7) They are entitled

Few things are more annoying than a person with a deep sense of entitlement.

And often, self-absorbed people feel entitled to everything they want out of life, regardless of what it might cost others.

“Sometimes we mistake entitlement for a sense of self-confidence projected by competent, assured, often charismatic others,”writes psychologist Jane Adams. “Sometimes we confuse it with narcissism, with which it’s often associated, or self-absorption, which occasionally looks like the same thing.”

An entitled person is often unaware or uncaring of how their actions affect others.

They will demand what they want and never care whether it’s reasonable or appropriate, or the effect it may have on other people.

8) They’re always competing

To a self-absorbed person, life is one big competition.

And if they don’t feel like they’re winning, they will often show their displeasure at being ‘beaten’.

“Some people may have a secure sense of self, regardless of the situation, whereas others may have unstable or fragile self-esteem that varies depending on their last accomplishment or whom they are able to impress,”writes psychologist Melanie Greenberg.

So basically, the competitive nature of a self-absorbed person goes back to those inner feelings of inadequacy.

9) They struggle to maintain long-term relationships

Finally – and maybe not surprisingly – you can often spot a self-absorbed person by their inability to stay in a long-term relationship.

Whether it’s maintaining a romantic relationship with a partner or having friends they’ve known for years, self-absorbed people often struggle to form these deep connections.

That’s because their self-absorption makes them extremely irritating to be around.

Avoiding self-absorbed people

Self-absorbed people rarely realize just what a drag they are to spend time with.

But anyone who’s been around one for any length of time it tell you just how irritating it is.

Keep an eye out for these signs of self-absorption, and you’ll find it easier to avoid people who think only of themselves.

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