Photo creds: Joel Fulgencio (Unsplash)

As humans, we tend to be self-centered creatures. If this statement does not seem valid to us at first glance, an important question to ask is what proportion of our thoughts involve us compared to others? I would argue that it would be the vast majority of them.

In our self-centeredness, we may akin our lives to be similar to a first player game, or the eyes of the main protagonist in a story. However, the world is quite different from games or stories, in which many narratives are being unfolded simultaneously at the same time. In being constrained in our first-person point of view, it is difficult to observe this. Many books, as well as films, takes the position of a 3rd person omniscient narrator/perspective in which many plot lines within the narrative can be told concurrently. Not only do we have a broad perspective, but we are also privy to the thoughts of these characters, and thus can have a better grasp of the situation. Unfortunately in real life, this is simply not the case, where instead of an all-knowing perspective, we observe things from our two eyes, our first-person perspective.

Due to the limitations of this perspective, the majority of what we observe, as well as understand is from our point of view, resulting in self-centeredness. Often in arguments or contentious issues, it is highly likely that we only have a grasp on one side of the issue, because we have not considered what the other person/side is thinking. In real life, we do not have the benefit of entirely understanding the thoughts of another person via an omniscient perspective. Similar to the game of Chinese whispers, the nuances of one’s thoughts may be ‘lost in translation’. The multi-step process of converting thoughts to words of the other person, for us to then receive those words and then interpret them provides a great deal of friction, having the potential to cause many inaccuracies of meaning.

As our thoughts are permeated of ourselves, we may slip into the trap to think that the world revolves around us, similar to how the earth was thought to be the middle of the solar system in antiquity. That as we delve deeper into this self-centeredness, we may unconsciously think that there is a spotlight incessantly trained upon us, where the whole world is watching. Such a phenomenon is labelled by psychologists as “the spotlight effect”. If we take the 3rd person omniscient perspective, this is frankly not the case. Because everyone is so busy with their own lives and commitments, no one actually cares what we do, where the spotlight is but a figment of the imagination.

This is why social media is so damaging. We are fed with the notion that there certainly is a spotlight being trained upon us. With social media essentially being a perpetual machine of seeking the approval of others, it encourages that the self is indeed the center of the world. In this position, lie great breeding grounds for arrogance and thinking highly of ourselves.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Romans 12:3 (ESV)

Self-centeredness – when fanned into flame, may lead to arrogance. It is this arrogance that has the potential to hurt the people around us. A way to extinguish arrogance is to tackle our self-centeredness with humility. That we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to, where we should consider the needs, thoughts, and feelings of others above our own. It is a comforting thing to know that there isn’t a continuous spotlight being trained on our every action, breath, or existence. It is exciting to think that our lives are not the most important ones, where there are so many stories yet to uncover, containing countless lessons that we may learn from.