How to achieve your personal development goals: being a centred self

Just the other day I overheard two women in front of me in a queue; they were discussing a friend of theirs – someone they used to really like spending time with , but who had apparently become “OMG, SO, like, self-centred”. This got me thinking.

It’s a strange word, self-centred. How is it that putting yourself at the centre of your own universe has become a byword for selfishness, greed, arrogance, and more? And is this really fair? I’d like to make the case that, actually, putting yourself first is no bad thing, and can in fact really benefit your personal growth and development.

What’s most important in your life?

When someone is not at the centre of their own universe, they put someone or something else there instead. Like a solar system, our lives revolve around the biggest, most important elements; we naturally find something to orbit. If we end up orbiting someone else this means that their needs are more important than our own, that we neglect ourselves in order to orbit that person. This is how parents put their children first and how people dedicate themselves to lives of service.

1202717_26234732Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, to name just two, are examples of how great deeds can be accomplished through putting others first; however, they also had a solid and unshakeable core belief in their life’s purpose – they had a job to do. They had a centre that was intrinsically connected to their sense of self.

Putting others first, without a firm core of our own to anchor us, can be a toxic experience. If you do not value yourself you give greater value to others, to their perceptions of you; you spend a greater amount of time comparing yourself to others and finding yourself lacking because whatever others have always seems more valuable.

When you consistently put others’ needs before your own, then you teach yourself that you are not really very important. This is a behaviour, which becomes a habit, which becomes a belief. That way lies a desolate road, littered with missed opportunities, regrets, unlived dreams, unrecognised potential and a disappointing sense of ‘Is this it?’.

How to put yourself first

This is not to say the alternative is selfishness, far from it. When we put ourselves at the centre of our worlds, something magical happens that actually benefits everyone. People who have a ‘centred self’ take responsibility for their lives, for the presence or lack of things they want. They discover their true desires and create plans to fulfil them. They ask for help to make changes. They look life squarely in the eyes and declare that they are in charge. The set about achieving their personal development goals. They take back control and understand that their life is theirs to shape as they wish.

When we put ourselves at the centre of our worlds, something magical happens that actually benefits everyone.

They make time to meet their own needs, whether that means an hour to relax and unwind during a busy schedule, starting life coaching, starting a new hobby, completing a childhood goal, catching up with friends, getting that niggling health problem checked up on, learning when to say ‘no’ to others, and so on. Taking time out from serving others to take care of and promote our own well-being, whatever shape that takes, puts us on the road to less stress,┬ápersonal growth and real happiness.

948508_88800125When we look after ourselves, all of a sudden we are more relaxed, less punishing in our view of ourselves, and less likely to compare ourselves unfavourably with others. We understand and feel our own power, our agency. We smile, we laugh and we begin to dance with life.

We seek more of what is positive in our lives: good friends, quality time with loved ones, time for ourselves, projects that help us grow, situations that challenge and stimulate us; we learn to leave behind, with respect, the things that are no longer serving us. We put out new shoots in life that grow into strong branches and blossom. We have more time, space and energy to undertake selfless tasks for others. Giving in this way becomes a pleasure that comes from a place of strength, rather than a necessity that comes from fear. We become better friends, better parents, better sons and daughters, better professionals, better business people; we become better versions of our selves.

Self-centredness vs selfishness

That’s not to say that I’m advocating selfish acts that carelessly hurt others. When we are truly putting ourselves at the centre of our universe, we honour those around us, because our relationships are important to us. Recognising our own value helps us to see and respect that value in others.

When this happens for real then we act honourably, for our highest good, while respecting the rights and needs of others. There’s a difference between healthy centredness of the self that allows you and those around you to thrive, and the selfishness and cruelty that we have come to associate with the word self-centred.

Recognising our own value helps us to see and respect that value in others.

Taking responsibility and personal empowerment

dreamstime_xs_31361541When you begin shifting from revolving around others, to becoming a centred self, sometimes the people you previously orbited have a hard time adjusting. They may not enjoy you shifting focus back to your own needs; sometimes this could be because they worry about their own ability to meet their own needs, it might not really be about you at all.

There could be a whole range of reactions, anything from a mild sense of unease to extreme anger and hurt. Being a centred self involves taking responsibility for your situation. Speak your truth, quietly and clearly (Desiderata, Max Ehrmann). Explain your needs and why things are changing. Communicate openly, kindly, and firmly, and then wait, with courage, as a new pattern and way of life emerges.

Speak your truth, quietly and clearly (Desiderata, Max Ehrmann)

How coaching can help you achieve your personal growth and development goals

Need help becoming a centred self? Personal development coaching, also known as life coaching, is a great way to facilitate the changes you want. To get started on your personal development journey, or to make self development a part of your daily life, visit

New Shoots Coaching offers personal coaching (life coaching) to individuals and businesses in Berkshire, UK, and beyond. Find out more about how coaching could change your life here.


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