| 3.5°C Dublin

John Masterson: 'Self-centred? Selfish? No, I'm a really nice guy...'

Mind matters


Tiger Woods. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tiger Woods. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tiger Woods. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I was having what I thought was a normal conversation with a good friend when out of the blue I heard her saying "You are the most self-centred person I have ever met". I refrained from remarking that she must have led a sheltered life, or from remarks about pots and kettles, and merely offered the gentle opinion that I disagreed. And waited, wearing a slightly hurt look.

She backtracked rapidly and balanced her observation with a list of my better qualities. I nodded and let her go on for a while. After all she was talking about me and in a much more positive manner so I could easily cope with 15 minutes of that. At least she hadn't called me narcissistic. Not that I have anything to be narcissistic about. But then, most narcissists don't and that does not stop them. Narcissists tend to only think of other people in relation to themselves. They are not nice people to be around. Empathy is not high on their list.

On giving it some thought I realised that I know quite a lot of fairly self-centred people. And they are all successful. But when I say self-centred, they are people who temper that quality with being other-centred. When they focus on a goal they are able to keep it in mind. They are Number One. They will not be deviated and even though they carry on normal conversations they are really in another world at times. I think of one good friend who balances work success with happy family life and inevitably when we meet for a catch up at some stage she will say "that's enough of me talking about myself. Would you like to talk about me for a while". One can be self-centred and equally self-aware.

While pondering this, and still wondering if perhaps I have a poisonous personality I had better attend to, I looked up some self-centredness questionnaires on the internet. On the first one I came out at 5pc which is a bit close to Florence Nightingale for my liking. I was told that I was "constantly thinking of others" which means that either this was a rubbish assessment tool or that I was lying, or most likely both. I continued my search and on the next questionnaire which asked questions like how often I Googled myself (hardly ever, but I have done it and so have you) I came out at 42pc and was told that I was interested in what people thought of me. Who isn't? And that while I did not think my opinion is the most important, I always made sure I was heard. I can live with that. It sounds fairly normal to me. Having seen the direction these results were going in, I decided it was wiser not to try a third test.

Being overly self-absorbed can be psychologically dangerous. If you get into a cycle of negative thoughts it can lead to feeling down or depressed. Thankfully, when alone I am more likely to read a book, look at the view with a glass of wine, make phone calls, or watch TV, than beat myself up.

It is one thing to be self-centred and quite another thing to be unaware of the effect of one's actions on other people. Without doing a third test I decided that I am definitely not showing any of those sociopathic or narcissistic tendencies which probably explains why the friend who started all of this has not cast me into exterior darkness.

I watch a lot of golf. The level of self-centredness required to perform at the top is extraordinary. They can all hit the ball well, but their minds are different. Tiger Woods is the only golfer to win four Majors in a row and he has won 15 to date. Is he a nice person? He does give vast amounts of money to charity. But a well-rounded human being? I do not recommend bringing this up with the women in your life.

Michael Jordan has said that to be successful you have to be selfish. So since I am not a multi-millionaire I must be a nice, thoughtful guy. Case closed.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Most Watched