The Power of Self-Focus: How to Redefine Selfishness for a Fulfilling Life

Issue 74. May 10, 2024 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez and Sage Friedman

For some reason, most of the people I work with are super concerned about not being selfish. People (especially women) act like being selfish is one of the worst sins you can commit. Even being perceived as selfish is so distressing that they’ll go to just about any lengths to not be perceived as selfish – even if it’s detrimental to their well-being.

Since one of my mantras is “keep the focus on yourself” this thing about selfishness comes up a lot. I’ve been asked a few times what the difference is between that and thinking “It’s all about me.” They may sound similar, but they’re not. 

Keeping the focus on yourself is imperative if you want to live a life with the intention that you enjoy. When you learn to keep the focus on yourself, you’re much more likely to be an energized, vital contributing citizen, and things are less likely to be “all about you.” Here’s what I mean. 

When you keep the focus on yourself, you’re focused on what you’re doing or could be doing, what you want and need. That means, you’re less likely to be focused on what others are doing or not doing, what they need, and trying to provide that for them. As the serenity prayer encourages us to do, we want to change the things we can (us) and accept what we can’t change (others). 

Keeping the focus on yourself is about being proactive in your life and not reactive to life. Another way to say that is that it’s about coming out of victim mentality. When we have victim mentality, we don’t perceive choices. We feel like life is happening to us rather than that we’re creating our lives. You will not and cannot take control of your life if you think life is happening to you. You cannot take control of your life unless you keep the focus on yourself. 

I was astonished about how much control I was able to have over my life as a result of my recovery, especially when I built healthy boundaries. I started to live much more intentionally, though I didn’t know I wasn’t living intentionally before that! 

When we live more intentionally, we mind our own business and take responsibility for ourselves and our well-being. That means we’re much more likely to live well, contribute to society, and be good citizens. Wouldn’t it be nice if our communities were made up of more people who live well, contribute to society, and act like good citizens?? 

You can’t control whether others do that, but you can control whether you do that. 

When we keep the focus on ourselves and have an internal focus, we’re much better able to see that circumstances in our lives are just happening. They’re not happening to us. Let’s say someone else has done something mean or nasty. If you’re focused on yourself and living mindfully and purposefully, then you don’t take things others do so personally. You’re more interested in what you’re doing, thinking, and feeling and how you’ll respond to that. 

I like peace. That’s become more and more important to me over time. So, when someone does something that previously might have pissed me off, I’m not really interested in “going there.” I want to maintain my peace. I don’t want to give my peace and serenity away to them (especially if they’re a stranger!). 

For example, when I see someone driving erratically, I remember that I used to drive like that. I know what that’s like. They’re typically “all about me” and not thinking of how their driving is upsetting others and potentially putting others in danger. So I bless them and let them go on their way without losing my shit. 

I’m focused on me, what I’m doing, who I’m being, what I’m thinking and feeling. I’m trying to maintain my peace and serenity. I’m not focused on them and what an asshole they are, which is what I used to do. 

When I used to get pissed off when things like that happened, I’d also relive that moment throughout the day feeling justified in my anger. That meant I experienced that difficulty repeatedly, instead of just one time. Now I can let it go because I’m focused on myself and the life I’m creating. I didn’t know it was an option to not be pissed off under such circumstances. In my family, someone pulling out in front of you equaled being pissed off. That’s just the way it was

If you’re always thinking, “It’s all about me” you’re a taker, looking to get what you can from others and society. You’re probably walking around thinking that people or society owe you something. You don’t understand or care what’s happening to others. You don’t see that things are just happening in the world; they’re not happening to you

You probably think that when somebody does something that pisses you off, they did that just to piss you off, or because they don’t like you. You think that you’re the center of their universe rather than they’re the center of their universe. That makes you more likely to take things personally. That’s an external focus and the opposite of keeping the focus on yourself. 

The Serenity prayer reminds us to seek the courage to change the things we can (us and our internal world) and accept things we cannot change (others and the external world). You can’t change the internal world if you’re not focused on it. You can’t change the external world, period. 

If you want a life where you feel more in control and have more peace and serenity, consider keeping the focus on yourself. If you need help learning how to do that, you can listen to this podcast and/or read this article.

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