The Suffering of Self-Importance

I’m so excited to talk about something near and dear to my heart – the topic of self-importance, lol.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking – “Self-importance? That doesn’t sound like a very positive article topic.” And you’d be right, in some ways. But stick with me, because I think by the end of our time together, you’ll see that reflecting on our own self-importance can actually be incredibly empowering and motivational.

So let’s start with a little story. Last week I was driving down the highway, cruising along with the flow of traffic. Up ahead I spotted a car trying to merge into my lane from an on-ramp. Now, I had plenty of space to move over a bit and let them in. But in that moment, I thought “No, I was here first. This is my spot in line.” So I sped up right as they were merging to block them from getting in front of me.

As I did it, I could see the frustration on the other driver’s face. And then it hit me – I had denied them that spot simply because I felt self-important. I felt like my place in line mattered more than helping out a fellow driver.

And the crazy thing is, I’m sure every one of us has done something like this before. In fact, let’s try a little exercise together. I’ll say a few scenarios – and you be honest with yourself if you’ve ever acted this way out of self-importance.

  • Squeezing ahead in traffic to get one car length ahead
  • Honking at someone the instant a light turns green
  • Pushing to board a plane first, even when they call for people who need extra time
  • Yelling at a cashier for a minor mistake in your order

Yeah, I thought so! Don’t worry, no judgments here. The truth is, we all act self-important at times. It’s part of human nature – we want to feel valued, respected, prioritized.

But – and this is a big but – self-importance taken too far can have real negative consequences. Research shows that when people feel too self-important, it leads to less empathy, more prejudice, and worse ethical decision making. Yikes!

So what do we do about it? Well, I think step one is simply noticing when self-importance sneaks up on us. Can we catch ourselves in those little moments? Because once we’re aware, then we can start making different choices – even small ones.

Like letting that person merge in front of us with a friendly wave. Or smiling patiently when the person ahead of us in line is taking a bit longer. Or thanking the barista profusely when they remake our order.

These little acts don’t diminish our self-worth – if anything, they boost it by reinforcing our integrity and values. And that feeling is so much more satisfying than the fleeting rush we get from acting self-important.

Now, there are bigger examples too. Times when self-importance leads to prejudice, cruelty, or group dominance.

Think about the religious wars throughout history, where people slaughtered each other, convinced their faith was more important. Or the caste system in many countries, where higher classes justified mistreatment by saying they were more important humans. Or even the history of slavery and segregation – all stemming from one group’s belief that their lives mattered more than others.

These extremes remind us how dangerous self-importance can become when left unchecked on a societal level. But again, replacing it with empathy and human dignity can work wonders.

Let me tell you about my friends Julio and Sarah. Julio shared that where he grew up, there was intense discrimination against immigrants from Mexico. People treated them as less important. But when Julio’s family moved into a new neighbourhood, his next door neighbour Sarah welcomed them with open arms. She brought over homemade tortillas and insisted they call her Abuelita – grandma. With that simple act of elevating their worth, Sarah bridged a divide.

Stories like this inspire me so much! They show how easy it is to shift from self-importance to lifting up others.

Now, real talk – making this shift isn’t always easy. We have to unlearn some deep patterns. But we can do it! Let’s take a moment to practice…

Imagine someone you know who tends to act self-important. Picture them in your mind. Now, send them some compassion. Think about why they might feel the need to put themselves first so often. Can you have empathy for the insecurity driving that behaviour? Send them love.

How did that feel? The more we can recognize the humanity in each other, even when people act unpleasantly, the more we chip away at the grip of self-importance on us.

It’s also so important to nurture our own self-worth. When we feel valued internally, we become less dependent on external validation. What are little ways you can practice self-care and self-love each day? I’ll share some that help me.

I look in the mirror each morning and say “I love you” to myself. I repeat positive affirmations, like “I am worthy just as I am.” I make time for my hobbies, and hang out with people who make me laugh. Little rituals like these reinforce my intrinsic self-worth.

The point is, self-importance doesn’t serve us nearly as well as cultivating confidence from within while also caring for those around us.

And when we make this shift on both a personal and societal level, the benefits are profound. More win-win collaborations. Less superficial status seeking. Richer human connections. Can you imagine how much better our world could be?

Now, I realize I just rambled on this entire article about dialing down self-importance. Which seems kind of self-important of me! It’s funny, isn’t it? This is definitely a journey we’re all on together.

Wherever you are on your path, know that you have infinite worth – and so does every person you meet. Keep choosing compassion, my friends. I believe in you.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from a favorite book of mine that sums it up beautifully:

“Without self-importance, life loses its sense of grievance, offense, and sadness. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Let’s walk out into the world today with less self-importance, and more love, my friends. Thank you so much.

October 4, 2023

Marcus Dickinson

Are you ready for a
people-centric approach?

Complete the form and discover the difference it can make in your organization.

People centric Approach

growth for my business and/or team.