how did you become less self centered
December 18, 2010 3:58 PM   Subscribe

How did you become less self-centered and more invested in the welfare of others?

What thoughts and actions got you into the habit of helping the people around you? What distracted you from fretting about your own desires?
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam to Human Relations (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Actually helping others gets you into the habit of helping others. Give blood, volunteer for things, collect up stuff you don't need anymore and donate it to a good cause. Generosity is primarily an action, and it changes the way you think about the world.
posted by decathecting at 3:59 PM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think children are often a trigger. Although I work in a high school and am still self-centered/stressed in many ways. Books like Savage Inequalities by Jonathon Kozol, films like Boys of Baraka, Born into Brothels, Mad Hot Ballroom (ok that one is mainly cute), will make you realize that you are (most likely) very fortunate and that children can't help the circumstances they are born into. Then you feel like springing into action. Or I watched a movie called something about lions about kids with cancer on pbs, suddenly sending money to sloane kettering etc. Real life is good too, I see things everyday that are heart breaking, but entering from the sidelines is fine too. Basically Decathecting above said it in her/his first line but I just wanted to add my own 2 cents (perhaps self-centeredly, of course!). Basically just do something, anything, and you then will do more/contribute more and feel better.
posted by bquarters at 4:15 PM on December 18, 2010

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, "Don't let anyone go away from you not feeling better."

Similar to St. Therese of the Little Ways--Sometimes just going a little out of your way to smile at someone could help. Look for little ways to help others.
posted by AuntieRuth at 4:21 PM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

Anonymous good deeds are the best - they teach you to enjoy giving purely for its own sake. For example anonymously paying for a stranger's meal at a restaurant. Helping others so you can bask in their praise is still selfish.
posted by meepmeow at 5:23 PM on December 18, 2010

Bearing witness was the key for me.

Go volunteer a few nights at a soup kitchen, and meet a few of the guests, hear their story.
Volunteer at a battered woman's shelter, or a homeless shelter - and listen to the people there..

Even more powerful, go to the third world - not to sit on one of their beaches, but to volunteer with some group.

The morality of helping and giving is often more emotionally based, even though we try to make it a rational / intellectual base. There is nothing more powerful than making an emotional connection with suffering people.

Go bear witness - really see and feel the pain of others.
posted by Flood at 5:29 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are several forms of meditation designed to promote compassion and empathy. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition is particularly rich in these. Look up "tonglen," for example.

One nice thing is that the practices are entirely secular. I spent a spring in a monastery practicing this and other forms of meditation, and the change in my natural tendency to be empathetic skyrocketed.

Of course, you don't need to spend months in the mountains to see benefits. Studies suggest that improvements can be seen with just minutes of practice every day (see, e.g., Hutcherson et al. (2008) "Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness", Emotion).
posted by akprasad at 6:57 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Making a repeating commitment to volunteer once a month.
posted by bananafish at 8:23 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can also start by paying more attention to the needs of people who are already a part of your life. There was a several-year period where I was very unhappy and allowed myself to grow self-centered, a phase which I'm just now fully coming out of, and I'm making a conscious effort to be more generous and attentive to the loved ones I neglected during that time. Volunteering for larger causes is a good and important thing, but so is helping your loved ones on a smaller, more personal level. When you get tangled up in fretting about your problems, ask yourself if you have a friend or family member who could use some help, whether it be emotional or practical support.
posted by spinto at 11:45 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Topless pics damage control   |   Is there a website that collects blogs for you? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.