anonymous Asks ...
I think I am a self centered narcissist. I am always thinking about myself. Whenever I see family pictures I pretend to be looking at everyone but really I am only interested in my one images. I am a father and I am supposed to be more interested in my children than myself right? Nope. I fake it but at the core of the matter I am number one in my own eyes. On dark sleepless nights I feel terrible and I worry that I am missing my children’s childhoods because I am always so self centered. Is there a self help program or book I could read to get over this. If it was a book I am not even sure I could read it because I would feel to embarrassed to read it in front of my family, which would be admitting I am self centered, which is something I would not feel comfortable with.
Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
The question posed raises interesting questions of balance without providing enough information to really move forward. There are lots of reasons that could be behind what is being said that would lead to different ways of responding.
There are people in this world that place others before themselves. In some cases, this is in a healthy balanced way but in other cases it can also be unhealthy. Someone who constantly puts everyone else before themselves may have a very low understanding of their own worth.
On the other hand, someone who always places themselves before others may have too high of an image of themselves or at least too low of an image of others. However, it is natural to have a certain degree of looking out for self interest. For many people this self interest extends beyond themselves to looking out for the interest of those who are close to them. Even looking out for a mate or looking out for your children can have a degree of looking out for your self interest. These drives to protect go back to motivators that have existed for a long time through the development of the way we are as humans.
Aside from self interest, it is common to also look out for the interest of those close to us out of a sense of love. This is where one would look out for the other simply because of the feelings we have for the other. This is something that did not appear to be being expressed in the original question. This would raise the questions as to whether the person who feels they are self centered feel love towards other people (such as his children), whether they have felt love from others, and even whether they love themselves. In this particular case, there is not even mention of the children's mother and whether there was any love there and whether the person resented having the children. All of these would be important things to consider.
Children do need to feel love. Experiencing this is important for children to develop and to have the best chances as they grow into adulthood that one would hope to be happy. This does not mean that a parent needs to or even should simply be self-sacrificing. It is important for parents, both in two parent households and in single parent households, to still maintain their wholeness and pursuit of interests. What is really needed is a balance between self-centeredness and other-centeredness.
Changing your personality or at least your orientation to the world is not an easy process. For some people this happens naturally and automatically as they move through life changes. When it hasn't there is a need to look at what is in the way and how to address that. There are books out there that try to address this topic. My experience of these books are that you need to have an idea of what is going on before you know which one might offer good insight. In terms of self-help groups - again I am not certain. I am also struck by the fact that the person who raised this question has a certain degree of shame about the way that they are behaving and the fact that it might need to be addressed. What is really needed in a situation like this is a professional who can explore the history of what is going on and details of the present reality. This is something that could be done by many types of mental health professionals (from professional counselor to marriage and family therapists) and at least in the initial part would not necessarily take that long. If finances are a problem, you may look to see if your place of work has an Employee Assistance Program - these programs can help you with individual problems (such as how you are relating to your children) and offer a small number of sessions free of charge. They also remain confidential in terms of the employer's knowledge. I would recommend seeing someone as the next step in doing something about the situation.