Some People Should Come with Warning Labels
Posted on April 1, 2012 in Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski
I used to be shocked when I’d meet people who appeared to have little to no self-awareness, and how they came across to others. I was baffled because the behavior was so insensitive, hurtful, selfish, clueless, or _______________ (fill in the blank!) that I couldn’t comprehend how anyone could knowingly act that way. Until one day I learned of this thing called the observing ego.
The observing ego is your ability to step outside yourself and monitor yourself in real time. It’s like watching yourself on video. You are connected to your words, behavior and actions, and you have a good sense of how you are being perceived. But there’s a catch. Not everyone has an observing ego.
People without an observing ego often act in a way that can leave your mouth gaping open. You are left wondering if that person has any clue.
It’s the guy who touts himself as an expert in human behavior and relationships, but during dinner he doesn’t ask a single question about you, and spends most of the meal checked out on his iPhone.
It’s the person who hijacks all conversation at a dinner party to talk nonstop about himself, oblivious to the fact that’s he’s sucking all the energy out of the room.
Or the person on the phone with you who wouldn’t notice if you put the phone down for 20 minutes because the conversation is really just a monologue.
It’s the people you could write a book about, mail it to them and they wouldn’t know it’s about them.
People without an observing ego operate with little to no empathy, a preoccupation with self, and no awareness. It’s like they are human freight trains with no internal gauges or warning signs to tell them to slow down or stop. And these runaway trains can cause wreckage.
Now I’m not saying I live in a constant state of enlightened awareness. I’ve had my moments of cluelessness. I ruined a great friendship once because I kept talking about the latest drama in my life, instead of being a friend to her. I mistakenly operated from a belief that her life was so together that she really didn’t need anything from me. But as Maya Angelou says: Once you know better, you do better.
We all have momentary lapses in judgment or those times when we wish we could get a do over. People who lack an observing ego never have any of those realizations. They operate with no internal compass as to what’s appropriate, and they just plow forward unaware.
I’m not an expert in psychology, so I might not be able to discern someone who is just plain selfish from someone who truly lacks an observing ego, but I think it’s important to know that people without an observing ego exist. Once you know, you won’t let them cloud your happiness or shower you with their insensitivity and selfishness. You can choose to limit your associations. You won’t personalize their actions or beat your head against a wall hoping they will show up differently. Most importantly, you won’t waste your precious time. People without an observing ego aren’t capable of authentic relationships because they aren’t capable of being authentic with themselves.
If someone shows you repeated patterns of lacking empathy, acting unaware and appearing oblivious to your emotions, that’s your red flag. Unless you are fond of wasting your time, don’t try and fix someone who doesn’t have an observing ego. If they have zero awareness of their own behavior, chances are they are far from being open to changing it.
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley