Know Thyself — Inadequacy and Egocentrism


The most usual and outstanding effect of inadequacy* is to limit the circle of one’s interests. These tend to be restricted to essentials because of the distress accompanying physical effort. The interests usually first affected are those that we call ordinarily unselfish interests. This term is not well applied because all interests are within the possible range of “self.” The inadequate person becomes egocentric. His conversation tends strongly to deal only with his own person and history. If he reads a book it is only a possible bearing on his own immediate needs that will be noticed. Any topic mentioned by another is turned immediately into a reference to himself. If he makes gifts we notice that their value is carefully estimated for maximum effect with minimum outlay. The return gift is the real aim of the action. He learns to count the cost of every service to others, and to consider its effect. He wishes to be loved for himself alone. By this he means that he hopes for devoted service from others, service which will not depend on any return from him.

The egocentric person may indulge in teasing and hurting those close to him. His gratification lies in the reassurance that their devotion will survive the test. He may be given to extreme self-depreciation and the appearance of modesty. But an examination of his modesty and his low self-estimate betrays that it is expressed under circumstances calculated to stir others to polite disagreement. He elicits compliments by his humble statements. He develops that form of functional deafness that makes it necessary always to repeat a compliment paid him. By this means he hears it twice instead of once.

Edwin R. Guthrie (1938)

*Inadequacy in this context is a failure of the emotional system to force someone to overcome a “difficulty or resolve a conflict” that is usually a major choice. This indecision may extend to trivial and minor choices.

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