The Right Term

It recently occurred to me that there is a term that describes what type of person I am. I often tell people, that I don’t really care about the world around me. I’m more interested in the people and activities close to my heart and those people and things that are within my immediate sphere of existence.

But I am a big fan of conciseness, and recently I was thinking that there must be a better way to explain myself. For I’ve always believed in getting straight to the point, and an explanation that spans the better part of a paragraph is far from concise. That’s when it came to me: Self-absorbed! 😮

Self-absorbed: To be preoccupied with one’s own emotions, interests, or situations.

Essentially, it means a person is preoccupied with his/her own inner being. The Red String is a prime example of this. While it is indeed my attempt to reach out to others, it is nonetheless, all about my life and it reflects just how much time I spend ruminating over my thoughts and feelings.

But to be self-absorbed is not altogether a bad thing, and it is not as some may believe, the same as being self-centred. Now this point in itself is quite interesting, because it means that being absorbed by your affairs is not the same as not caring about anyone else’s.

I often tell people that I don’t really care about the world around me, I’m more interested in the people and activities close to my heart…

Thinking about myself in this new way has been very enlightening. It has helped me understand why I am rarely concerned with the world around me; why it rarely occurs to me to make that friendly phone call just to say “hello”; and why, as with Yes vs. No, I can easily detach myself from the worldly situation, and respond based on my rules of thumb.

Still, the difference between being self-absorbed and being self-centred is very tricky. Even now I find myself second-guessing my presumption. Because looking from the outside, many of my actions can be interpreted either way. From the inside however, being self- absorbed really means that I spend so much time in my own head, that I see little of anything else. Consequently, how involved I am in something dictates how in touch I am with it, and how in touch I am with it dictates how much consideration it gets. Increasing any one of these three factors, similarly increases the rest (or vice-versa).

But a self-centered person would only look out for themselves, even to the detriment of those things in which they are very involved. In practice, this translates into the difference between unintentionally knocking someone over (and apologising furiously), and purposefully doing so because the way they walk irritates you. The action is the same, but the intent (if any) different.

Consider these habits of mine:

  • Most people rarely hear from me: But those that do are generally integral to my daily activities.
  • I hardly watch tv: Because the outside world always seems secondary to my present circumstances.
  • I am often oblivious: Usually too busy thinking about one thing or another.

All these things point to a self-absorbed nature, and there are a lot more where they came from. Yet even though I am sure that I have other character traits that lead me to behave otherwise at times, I find that more and more, my self-absorption seems to dominate. Having discovered this new term to describe myself, I have learnt a valuable lesson.

If it wasn’t for my discovery of the term, many of the insights I covered in this article would have been left unseen, or at best, vaguely acknowledged in my mind. Without this core definition, I would have remained none the wiser to what influences my absorption. Now I know of 3 factors I can tackle to improve communication, productivity, and at least avoid seeming like a self- centered jackass.

There’s a big difference between knowing oneself intuitively, and knowing oneself definitively. Simply identifying the right term can clarify a lot. That said, I also think that definitions change with time and my ability to self-assess will increase with knowledge. So even if I haven’t entirely hit the mark, having a more accurate self-description is definitely a step in the right direction.

But enough about me. How about you? What term would you use to describe yourself? What term would you use to describe me? Leave a comment, send an email, drop a note. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

Damola Mabogunje

Software Engineer by day, Blogger, Poet and Author, by night, I spend my days writing everything from the convex comma, to highly complex code.

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