by Nancy Bortz, Psychotherapist
Self-Development and Self-Centeredness
Is self-development self-centered? Frankly, yes and no. The answer is “yes” when we’re merely analyzing the short-term and “no” when we’re taking a long-term perspective. While prioritizing your own personal growth may look a little like selfishness at first blush, the ultimate aim of self-development is you being your best self, which is better for everyone around you, not just you.
Keeping the Goal in Mind
When you focus on yourself for the purpose of self-development, you may need to be rather isolated at times. Nonetheless, this isolation should be viewed as temporary, with the ultimate goal of having a meaning that extends beyond the self.
Thinking Like a Champion
For instance, we often hear how Olympic athletes lose contact with friends and family when their training ramps up in the pursuit of a podium spot. This strain on their relationships is caused by the “self-centeredness” of the Olympian. It may be hard for the athlete’s friends outside their athletic circle to understand the absolute focus required for success at the highest level. The athlete, however, knows what is required and is encouraged by their coaches to pursue excellence above all else. In this example, the athlete may even be shunned by the people closest to them due to a lack of understanding. However, the athlete must do what is required to achieve their dreams; they cannot afford to get wrapped up in the misguided expectations of others.
Self-development requires a degree of self-centeredness, at least in the short-term. Nonetheless, the long-term benefits are hopefully much more altruistic. Using our prior example, if the athlete were to win a gold medal, a generation of athletes and civilians alike may be inspired to achieve their dreams. Furthermore, the “hero’s journey” is complete at this point, and the hero can reunite with the friends and family that were temporarily neglected, assuming no bridges were burned too severely.
Don’t Be Derailed by Naysayers
It is important to remind ourselves that being labeled “selfish” is not the end of the world. You must remind yourself of your motives for pursuing personal development, even when it’s time-consuming or isolating. As long as seeking the approval of others is not your underlying internal drive, keeping your meaning and intention in mind will prove beneficial. Self-development is incredibly rewarding for not only the person on such a pursuit but also for society! A person who has overcome the obstacles to become a greater version of themselves can be an inspirational force for others.
Digging even deeper, a person who has emphasized personal development becomes stronger and is thus more able to resist the forces that bring down society. It is ultimately the weak-minded individual who will fall prey to peer pressure or the mob. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and it is up to each individual to ensure the weakest link is not who they see when they look in the mirror.
Applying This in Your Own Self-Development Work
If you are still wondering how to apply self-development principles in your life (assuming that you are not training for a spot in the future Olympic Games), you may simply want to practice incremental changes. If, for example, you are aspiring towards a promotion at work, instead of going out drinking with friends on the weekend, consider devoting more time to your professional development. This can take the form of taking continuing education courses, reading business books, joining a professional coaching group, reaching out to a leader you admire in your professional circle for mentorship—anything that would directly contribute to on-the-job success.
Your friends may not be thrilled with your decision initially. Still, hopefully, they will come around when you get that much sought-after promotion. Securing this promotion may allow you to lead others on a broader scale and have your positive vision enacted. This can benefit your company and your company’s contribution to society. You are also setting a higher standard for your friends. You are gaining commendable strength in the process, which will pay dividends in many ways.
How a Good Therapist Can Help
Finding a good therapist can be a brilliant first step in making these tough decisions. A good therapist can help you gain self-confidence and the skills that will be necessary for your journey of self-development. Many different techniques can be utilized in therapy. I encourage you to find a therapist who implements the modalities you desire.
About Nancy: I am a psychotherapist in Denver, CO. I have been in the field for twenty years and have extensive experience helping individuals and couples realize their goals and become who they really are and all they can be. I hope you enjoyed this short article of my thoughts as a professional who knows that living true to oneself is the answer many are searching for.
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© Copyright 2021 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nancy Bortz, Psychotherapist