We are all selfish people to some degree, but problems only begin to arise when you reach a high level of self-centeredness that teeters on the brink of narcissism.

6 effective ways to deal with selfish people

If you have a family member, romantic partner, or coworker who makes you feel invisible because they rarely pay attention to your needs, you are not alone.

1. Try to understand their selfish behavior.

Psychotherapist F. Diane Barth emphasizes the idea that understanding does not mean letting someone off the hook. But learning about what motivates someone to be selfish and spotting their patterns can help you be less dismissive of their behavior. As humans, it is an instinct to be selfish. Children, for example, are naturally selfish because learning something about the feelings and needs of others is something they are taught as they get older. Older people and people with illnesses are also selfish because it is a way of survival. When you learn about what motivates someone else’s selfishness, then you can understand why it is sometimes essential.

2. Don’t take their selfish actions personally, instead, stay true to yourself.

It’s easy to get caught up in someone else’s accusations. If someone makes you feel bad for not paying enough attention to them, know that you do not have to lower yourself to their level, nor should you take their words or actions personally. It is not your job to continually serve someone at their own time and convenience. Being around a self-centered person can be overwhelming and exhausting, and you experience bursts of anger, frustration, or sadness. Know that you are still in control and that you don’t have to be reactive towards their selfishness. Instead, focus on relieving the pressure you feel through your favorite hobbies or fun events.

3. Familiarize yourself with misconceptions about selfishness.

There are many misconceptions about selfishness. For example, according to Barth, it is common in our culture to believe that having children is a selfless act, and that not having children is selfish. But people can have children for selfish reasons, such as a way to be loved, to bond more closely with a spouse, or to fulfill a father’s wish. That is why it is crucial to examine the circumstances carefully and reevaluate what is considered selfish or disinterested. People can be selfish without knowing it, which makes it even more important to help them see their actions in a broader perspective.

4. Bring up topics that interest you during conversations.

If you feel uncomfortable listening to someone else talk about themselves, you can intervene in a non-combative way. Whether you enjoy art, music, or philosophy, you can change the subject in the middle of a conversation with a simple question, such as “Hey, have you heard of…” (insert desired topic) OR a phrase like, “ Last night, I found… ”(insert desired topic). Initially, it may seem abrupt and even random, but this gives the person a hint that the two of you have been spending too much time on your stories. If you find that the person keeps trying to get back to their own topic, you can politely remind them that you’ve already heard about it. This will prevent you from giving in to your ways of seeking attention.

5. Limit the amount of time you spend together and hang out with supportive people.

Space always helps. When you limit the amount of time you spend with a selfish person, you can gain more freedom to take care of your own happiness and be who you are instead of getting caught up in meeting their needs. This is more accessible than shutting them down entirely, especially if the selfish individual is a family member or coworker that you can’t easily avoid. When you set healthy limits, you remind them that the world does not revolve around them. You also give them the opportunity to spend more time with supportive friends and family who are of benefit to you. In turn, this will prevent you from getting stuck with fulfilling someone else’s responsibilities.

6. Learn the difference between healthy selfishness and toxic selfishness.

When you constantly deal with a selfish person, you often experience guilt for putting yourself first. Remember, you are not doing anything wrong; taking care of yourself is a right you have. But selfish and toxic people can manipulate you into thinking otherwise. That is why it is essential to practice self-love. We all need a healthy degree of selfishness to maintain our mental health and well-being. When you recognize toxic patterns of selfishness, you can break out of them by choosing not to give in to them. Take care of yourself from time to time and satisfy your own wants and needs. You are also important.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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