I’m used to the special treatment and always being the center of attention. I’m a single child and I love it – most of the time. But I didn’t necessarily love it when I had the bitter realization that I’d become a selfish brat because of it.
Being an only child is a privileged position to be in. You’re the favorite – no matter what. Your whims, fancies, and wishes are (almost) always fulfilled. Even your screw-ups are ignored or aren’t taken too seriously, most of the time.
Being an only child is something that can easily be taken advantage of, even exploited. Which is what I did. I exploited my single child privilege to the point that I became a self-centered brat with no regard for other people and their emotions.
As a kid and a teenager, I can recall spending hours talking about myself and my life, and not for one second stopping to hear what anyone else had to say about theirs. I always had a way of making the conversation about me – even if it wasn’t meant to be. As a kid, I didn’t realize this because my actions didn’t have consequences in the real world. As an adult – they suddenly did, and it was a rude awakening.
I found out no amount of bad behavior could be justified by something as trivial as ‘being a single child’.
I came face-to-face with my selfishness when I was in college. My mum and I were in an argument one day and she suddenly said to me, “Stop being so selfish for once!”
I was shocked. I had grown up thinking selfishness was a highly negative trait – only possessed by really bad people. Apparently, I was a really bad person too. I was intrigued by her comment, so I decided to investigate further. I asked her and a few close friends if I really was selfish.
According to my mother, and my (very polite) friends, I’d always been a selfish brat. God bless them for putting up with me all these years. But they said it wasn’t that bad – I wasn’t as horrible as I was making myself out to be.
I was glad to find to find out that they didn’t think my selfishness was that bad, but I also wanted to make sure my selfish behavior wasn’t hurting anyone. They said it wasn’t, so I left the issue alone.
Until I came face-to-face with my selfishness again.
My best friend and I hadn’t been in touch for a while, and I was a pissed at her. When I needed her, she hadn’t been there for me. I texted her expressing my displeasure and she texted me back saying she was really sorry about the way things had been. She said she knew she was being a shitty friend, but she couldn’t help it, at the moment. She needed some time.
I was furious. How could she need time? I had expressed my feelings to her and she still didn’t think I was worth her time? I texted her back saying she had all the time in the world because I couldn’t deal with it any longer.
I pressed send and she sent me a short apology after that, agreeing that we should cut contact for good as it wasn’t fair for the both of us. And so we did – for half a day.
Something still kept bothering me. I wanted to be comfortable with the fact that I had just cut a friend out, who clearly did not have enough time for me, but I wasn’t. I felt strange about it.
I couldn’t quite place it until I took some time to reflect on myself and my own behavior.
She told me she knew she was being a shitty friend, which wasn’t usual behavior for her, and she said she couldn’t help it. I ignored her side of the story because I was so completely wrapped up in my own ego and feelings. I completely looked past the fact that clearly, something was wrong in her life. Why else would my absolute best friend in the world ignore me and then agree to cut me out of her life without an explanation?
I was so blinded by my entitlement that I felt like she owed me her time and attention. Nobody owes me anything – not even my closest friends. But my selfishness didn’t let me see past that.
I immediately called her up. She told me everything that had been going on in her life and started crying on the phone. I felt horrible for the way I’d been earlier. But I also felt better because I’d stopped being selfish and seen things from her point of view.
It was liberating – not being stuck in the shackles of my selfish behavior anymore.
This was a turning point for me – hurting someone I cared so much about really shook me to the core. Being an only child, I’d grown accustomed to having things my way. I was wrapped up in this fantasy where the world revolved around me and I was all-important. But the reality was far from it.
Adulthood gave me an abrupt reality check. I’m not a princess and this isn’t my kingdom. We’re all just human – making mistakes and moving on.
Ever since I try being more perceptive every single day. Every time I’m interacting with someone, I make sure I’m not just talking about myself, I’m not talking over them, and I’m listening, and understanding, what they’re saying.
I use my selfishness to my advantage now by taking care of myself and putting myself first. But I don’t do it at the cost of others like I used to.