What is “Self-centred” Therapy?
"Reclaiming the term “self-centred” is about bringing the focus of meeting our own needs back to us. Being self-centred is about figuring out what your needs are, what it is you truly desire, and embracing those desires as worthy of being met"
For as long as I can remember, the term “self-centred” was considered a criticism of one’s character. To put your own needs first was considered a transgression against friends, family, and community. I was so young when this message was first taught to me that I never questioned it, I just accepted it as truth. “It’s better to give than receive.” While I understand that this lesson was meant to teach me to share with my siblings and consider how my actions might positively or negatively affect others, what it manifested in me -- and maybe in you as well -- was a schema of my own self-worth being tied to serving other people’s needs. I learned to anticipate the needs of others and give it to them, sometimes before they even asked, to earn their gratitude, and with each piece of praise I received this schema became stronger.
I'm not saying that I was never asked what I wanted, but the message of thinking of others first was so strong that I struggled to find the words to express my desires. My voice was choked off by an inner critic that implied I was being selfish or greedy. This voice made me deliberate the exact words I should use to appear the least needy. My needs were prefaced with phrases like “if it’s not too much trouble…", "if you don’t mind…", "it might be nice if…”. Somewhere along the line the idea of asking for what I wanted or needed had become conflated with being selfish.
How many of us are in relationships where we expect others to just know what we want without having to ask for it?
In the dating world, this people-pleasing schema, of putting other people’s needs first, manifests into relationships where it’s more important to protect other people’s feelings and egos than to express one’s own need. How many of us are in relationships where we expect others to just know what we want without having to ask for it? And, if they can’t give us what we want, if they don’t intuitively know or guess what we secretly yearn for, doesn’t that mean that they don’t really understand us, that they don’t really love us? This insidious thought breeds frustration and resentment; and, perhaps, a growing fear of having any wants and desires at all. What if you never acknowledge to yourself that there are things you want from your partner, won’t it hurt less that they aren’t giving them to you?
We have become a society of “givers” and people-pleasers with no idea of how to feel good about “taking”. We are out of touch with our own needs and thus incapable of expressing them to others. We have moved so far away from the idea of being self-centred and that many of us struggle to answer the question of what we want from our partner. Reclaiming the term “self-centred” is about bringing the focus of meeting our needs back to ourselves first. Being self-centred is about figuring out what your needs are, what it is you truly desire, and embracing those desires as worthy of being met. Identifying and meeting your own needs first so that when your partner does ask, you have a strong voice to show them how to show up for you in the relationship.