Most of the time, arrogance can indicate an excessive need for self-importance and wanting to be the center of attention. In its extreme form, it can turn into narcissism. It could be the root of many problems, from anxiety to depression to the inability to sustain healthy and fulfilling relationships. While normal levels of self-worth, self-confidence and self-value are all essential for people who want to be fully functioning, there is a line between these characteristics and being arrogant.
Most of you have probably had an encounter with a self-centered person. The first piece of advice for dealing with such people is to try to stay away from them, or to have clear boundaries with them since they may become energy vampires. But if you absolutely have to deal with them, below are some ways to understand why they act the way they do. It will give you skills to deal with them.
Some of the characteristics of self-centered people:
1. Arrogant people take too many measures to protect their self-image. Their universe is usually small, with statements that have too many "should" and "must." They have idealist views, and a need to impose and make others believe that their universe is the better one. They will usually dislike you if you don't buy into that.
2. They usually have a lot of friends, but just superficially. Their friendship is mostly about quantity not quality. They can be charming, but have an agenda. Their agenda is to find an ego feeder. They may have found ways to attract a lot of people into their world, but usually the ones who feed into their arrogance.
3. They feel incomplete. That is why they use other people to fill up the inner gap.
4. They are intolerant of differences. They devalue others and put them at a lesser position. They lack the ability to feel confidence internally, and instead find a sensation of superiority by seeing others as inferior. In addition, they can't see different viewpoints. They usually have points of views that are fixated and most of the time not valid, since they are usually the type who only reads the cover of the magazine to look smart, and then is opinioned about it. They may also harshly criticize others who don't buy into their views.
5. They are unable to have long lasting relationships. For them, people are either very good or very bad, depending on who admires them and who does not. In other words, if you fulfill their wishes, you're good. They can be your lover one minute and a hater the next.
6. They can't feel a true sense of empathy. It is hard for self-centered people to have a real sense of empathy. Even if they do, it is usually conditional, depending on what they are receiving from the source they are empathizing with.
7. They may have self-esteem holes. Self-esteem is how well developed your sense of self is. For the arrogant type, there are a lot of holes in this area that need to be filled.
8. They may look too confident. They are usually successful on the surface and things look good since they go the extra mile to make their persona look as flawless as possible. But when you go deep inside, the real feeling of inadequacy reveals itself.
9. They have failed attempts to self-heal. For an arrogant person, the problem is usually "you" or the "other." Therefore, self-healing or therapy won't be helpful to them.
10. "What is in it for me" gone too far. They usually maximize their contributions and minimize that of others. They expect too much for what they are willing to give. This is the type that thinks his government, society, people around him and the world owes it to him without him giving much in return. While any healthy functioning human does relative levels of cost benefit analysis in different situations, a self-centered person looks for vast benefits with minimum effort, and this is usually at the expense of others.
What to do:
1. Don't be their door mat, and have clear boundaries with them.
2. If you have to defend yourself, make it short and to the point since they are not the best listeners, and have a thick wall guarding their self-image.
3. Don't buy into their arrogance, don't feed their excessive sense of self-importance, stay true to yourself and be sincere.
4. If you get into a position that you have to assert yourself, don't attack them, but show that you don't agree.
5. Don't get attached to them.
6. Have an open mind and be tolerant.
7. Be patient.
8. Learn to observe and evaluate their behavior objectively.
At the end, try to not hate self-centered people. Have compassion for them since they usually have had a past that created a wrong type of self-protection mode for them. There is a part of them that they don't like and are trying hard to cover. While many people have had pasts that are not perfect, nor close to it, self-centered people are lacking the skills to address these issues in a productive way. Instead of facing it, they are hiding it. At the end, remember that you can have compassion for someone, but at the same time hold them accountable for their actions and have clear self-boundaries.
Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD
Self Knowledge Base & Foundation
A non-profit dedicated to public education
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