The Painful Trap Of Self-Importance

She was sobbing and ranting, and I wanted to tell her “You have the power to choose any facts and any feelings, why are you choosing these facts and feelings?” but she was stuck in the painful trap of self-importance.

The Painful Trap Of Self-Importance - and my AHA moment

It was not the right place, and certainly not the right time to have that conversation, and if you would have told me I’d have it, I’d probably hide under a nearby table and held my breath trying to not make a sound. I tend to avoid these type of discussions because I know where they come from.

Self-importance is the prison that tells us that we are special and the world revolves around us, that we are at the center of our life experience, or like my brother likes to say to me “you are the center of the universe.”  I like to think I am past that stage of my life, but it is really a never-ending journey and a battle that requires much intention and awareness.

As the mother of a very strong 2-year-old, I am fascinated by the beginning stages of the “I, me, mine,” focus, and to see this tiny human declare her strength, independence, and sense of control in the world. She’s becoming quite the mirror and a catalyst for major self-reflection, which has accelerated my transformation in this area.

Self-importance is man’s greatest enemy. What weakens him is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of his fellow men. Self-importance requires that one spend most of one’s life offended by something or someone.”~ Don Juan

As I listened to this woman talk to me about her interpretation of my words and actions, to what she had completely made up and imagined about my feelings, my thoughts, and my actions, I was overwhelmed by countless emotions.

I won’t deny that, at first, I just wanted to be swallowed by the earth as people do when the ground quakes cracks open.  I secretly wished that she could just see what a fool she was making of herself, and I begged her to calm down, promising we’d have the conversation another time… to no avail. And since she is someone I care about, I quickly explained her conclusions weren’t true and her resulting feelings were not my intention. You guessed it, none of that mattered. But something interesting happened.

I started to see her as this fragile, vulnerable, fearful, sad being, completely trapped in a lie of her own making, completely unable to experience the peace, love, and bliss that were openly available to her.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

It hits very close to home for me, because I was once stuck in that pattern and I can clearly see that it held me back and that I traded the feelings of joy, oneness, and connectedness that are so dear to me for the stress, fear, and anxiety of being offended, of taking everything personally as if everything had to do with me or happened because of me.

You may think this kind of delusion happens because one has a strong self-concept, but it is actually the opposite. I can attest to acting this very way because of feelings of inferiority and other insecurities I called mine. It was a disease I had caught in my own home growing up, and for some reason, I didn’t want to let go of. Read what Carl Semmelroth says in his book, The Anger Habit Workbook (aff link):

“Self-importance is quite different from self-esteem. In fact, it is a major barrier to the development of self-esteem. Your self-esteem assures you that you have the ability to deal with whatever occurs in your life with competence and grace. Self-importance leads you to assume that whatever you want or need is owed to you because of who or what you are.”

Self-importance is a certain path to suffering because it is wall that we put up to not allow hurts in, but at the same time, the feelings we crave to feel loved, nurtured, and cherished cannot penetrate that wall either. We end up acting in ways that are incompetent and far from graceful and, based on these actions, we are ultimately perceived as uncaring, entitled, and self-centered. Needless to say, self-importance leads to loneliness, suffering and separation.

And that’s where she was. Suffering from the makings of her own imagination, and lonely even in a room full of inviting people, and facing a friend who truly cares for her. She couldn’t see it… but I could, because of all the awareness I’ve gained in the past couple decades. Creating a new world starts with declaring: “let there be light.”

And this raw awareness of what was happening, and seeing myself in her, was exactly what helped me not judge her, but to feel compassion for her. And once I was in this new space of letting go of my own self-importance, I was able to see things clearly: she was beautiful and sensitive, she doing the best she could and it was not about me.  A lesson that continues to be reinforced, and continues to gradually heal my childhood wounds.

One of my favorite books of all times is Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, “The Four Agreements.” (aff link). The second agreement reads:  Don’t take anything personally.

“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…

When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid.”

I could quote the entire book, because it is THAT good, and I constantly need this kind of reminder. It’s very easy to get sucked into the spiral of self-importance and believe the lie that someone’s opinion has anything to do with my reality. I choose to let her have her opinion, and let things evolve as they inevitably will, because the truth is I am one tiny being in a vast universe, and I am only responsible for myself. The world was and will be before and after my mortal existence. I am not the center of the universe… and neither is she. And though we seem so separate in our journey from self-importance to self-worth, we are so connected in so many ways. That’s the beauty of humanity… none of us are special because we each are.

When we truly see each other as one, as sisters, and we root our identity in this concept, there is no more inferiority or superiority, and many of the self-conscious emotions that cause suffering and tantrums slowly dissipate. The illusion that we are separate from others, that we are each our body, is the source of most of our problems in humankind, and unique to the human experience.

In Psychology, the self-conscious emotions refer to the emotions that begin to show up in the second year of life, when they start seeing themselves as distinct beings and to develop a sense of self.  Guess what these emotions are? Pride, guilt, shame, envy, jealousy, embarrassment, and self-pity… and they all stem from self-importance. YUCK!

It’s funny how just a little bit of knowledge can empower and enlighten us so much. After I realized what self-importance can do to me and how it is the root of everything that makes me a restless wreck, I have put a bit more effort into eradicating this center of the universe syndrome that haunted me and blocked me from feeling connected to the people in my life.

And it is in moments such as these, when I see a beautiful woman in front of me, shattered by her own personal beliefs and expectations, that I see that getting rid of my self-importance is not about me, as my ego would have me think… it is actually about being able to further connect with others, even when the distortion of their self-importance is at the highest manifestation.

Maybe, just maybe, my quest for self-awareness is a quest to be others-aware, and maybe, just maybe, my quest to master myself is actually a search to master my relationship with others.

Self-importance causes frustration, discontent, and pain. Self-importance stops progress. Self-importance results in not feeling important at all. But the real tragedy of self-importance is to not be able to see others’ value because we don’t see our own, and to project our self-hatred onto those we want to desperately love. It is when we shift from our self-centeredness and see the big picture that we can truly find ourselves. And though she may never find out, my friend gave me the chance to shift some more, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

What are your honest thoughts in the topic of self-importance? I want to learn so much about it and I feel your comments will give me a wider view on this topic, so go to town!

Elayna Fernandez - Author - Speaker - Success Guide to Moms and Mompreneurs
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM
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41 thoughts on “The Painful Trap Of Self-Importance

  1. I think we all need to feel that we belong, but I do think others feel they are more or less important than others. It’s something I know I need to spend more time thinking about. Some days, I just want to fly under the radar, not noticed by a soul. Other days, I want my accomplishments in life to be recognized by all. I think striking a healthy balance between the two would be best for me.

  2. This is a beautiful post Elayna! It’s something we all need to be aware of and learn. Hope you are doing well!!

  3. This is a great post. I think at some point all of us have felt more important than other. This gives me something to think about.

  4. Self importance is just as valuable as self esteem. It is where we set the limit to how we should be treated by others. It’s important to teach our kids the value of self importance especially if you have a daughter because they are more sensitive to their surroundings.

  5. I appreciate your point about self-importance creating a wall. In our attempt to keep the hurt out, we also unintentionally keep some of the good from coming in. Breaking down that wall is essential to happiness and contentment.

  6. Self-importance has a place in life- and I find it sad for those who think they’re so unimportant that their emotions don’t matter.
    This hearkens back to the idea that the people who offend don’t get to decide what is offensive. Perhaps, if your friend’s emotions bother you, she needs to confide in someone else. Giving power to someone else’s poor reaction is undesirable, but it’s also human nature. Sure, we can make small changes, hope to protect ourselves, but the idea that somehow your idea of just not being affected is better seems self-serving and a strong trait that not everyone has. I wish I did, but I feel other’s judgments deeply- no matter how many self help books I read.

    • I love your comment. I was deeply affected by her judgment, but then let it go because it doesn’t serve anyone. It wasn’t her emotions that bothered me, it was her assumptions, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Her blaming me or my accepting guilt for something I didn’t do, say, or even think, doesn’t contributes to love, trust, or happiness… and that’s what I want my life to be about.

        • You know what? “Don’t make any assumptions” is actually another one of the four agreements. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop making assumptions or taking things personally, but I think it’s good to have these codes and rules to live by, so at least I will have some sense before I blame someone else and do or say something ridiculous that may hurt someone else. No one wants to act like a donkey, but we all do sometimes 🙁 I love this discussion, Chelley. I am very grateful for you!

  7. This is super important. I don’t think a lot of us realize how important Self-Importance is, and leave ourselves to last.

  8. Self-Importance can be a relationship killer that is for sure. It can be difficult to switch from the “me” to “us” and if you can’t do that, it can end a marriage or a newer commitment quickly.

  9. Sometimes it is important to take into consideration people such as your spouse or children. Again, there are also times when you have to worry about yourself first.

  10. When something like this happens, I often think that the offender does not get to decide what is offensive. Even if the intent was not to offend, it can still happen and calling it a delusion would be very insulting. My husband and I had a conversation about this recently when he said something that sounded just awful. It wasn’t his intent, and he felt that should have been acceptable. But, he did see my point of view about how his words could have been taken in a completely different direction.

    • I so appreciate your comment, Stephanie, because it is an example of a misunderstanding, perhaps in tone and choice of words, versus the delusion I’m writing about, which is when nothing is said or done and the person just imagines it to be so because of their own insecurities. Communication is paramount to clear up misunderstandings, but when someone assumes the worse in their own mind, “interpreting your thoughts” when you didn’t say a word, there’s quite an issue at hand. Thank you for bringing this depth to this discussion. <3

  11. This sounds very familiar because this has been me and still is. I’m still on the process of working and building self-importance. Why do I feel like I’m the one’s to blame when encountering difficult/unexpected times? Sometimes I think that when I’m gone, no one would be affected. I know it’s a crazy thought in this crazy mind. And sometimes it builds a wall between me and my husband. Yes, it’s a painful trap and I want to get out.

  12. Thanks for writing this article. I had a couple of “life long” friends that would interpret something I did (because I was trying to help) and turned it into like I was trying to be mean to them. It’s so sad when people are this insecure because you love them and just want to help them – and the only enemy is in their mind. Thanks Elayna!

  13. Self-importance…the reason why I had to cut some people out of my life. I believe we need to teach people how to treat us. I have self-respect and respect for others. Sadly, some people just don’t know what respect means.

  14. I could honestly care less what anyone thinks and truly don’t care what anyone else does other than people in my circle. I don’t have the energy or time to worry about what they are doing.

  15. Okay I am going to differ here a lil bit. Self importance maybe the wrong word maybe, But Self appreciation is extremely important to ones self confidence and some people take it a wee bit too far. We are the centre of our own universe part of the bigger universe, interconnected so we are as important as we Allow ourselves feel. No one can make US FEEL ANYTHING unless its physical contact in which case again WE FEEL the pain or Pleasure. Not them.
    So its all down to how you Project those feelings of self importance when in the presence of others I guess.
    I believe I am Magnificent, fearfully and wonderfully made. That doesnt make me self important. It just is! And neither do I go about imposing it on others coz they are just as fearfully and wonderfully made!

  16. I’ve never thought about self importance in this way before. I hope that I think about this post before becoming my own worst enemy if I ever feel the urge to trap myself.

  17. I think there is a fine line between self importance and self awareness. You need to value yourself, but also not think you are more important than anyone else’s thoughts, feelings, etc. I love the message of the Four Agreements, we can’t control other people, so why should we let it get us down or take control.

  18. It’s definitely not our fault most of the time, especially when we’re just trying to help and people get offended. It is their view of themselves that keeps them from having a better reaction for things that are happening around them.

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  22. Self importance and self awareness is critical. I didn’t always believe that. Over the years it’s become a matter of life or death for me. I nearly died because I was not valuing myself and watching triggers that affected my health. Thank you!

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