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The Relationship Between BPD and Selfishness

Behaviors associated with BPD, often perceived as selfish or manipulative by others, stem from deep-seated emotional pain and difficulty regulating emotions. These challenges in emotional control and relationship stability can manifest in ways that others interpret as selfish. It's important to recognize that these behaviors are rooted in underlying psychological factors rather than deliberate selfishness.

In this article, we'll explore whether people with BPD are truly selfish, unpacking the misunderstandings and shedding light on the challenges they face in their relationships and emotional well-being.


Selfishness and Self-love in BPD

The common concept of a selfish person is the image of someone who only cares about themselves and takes pride in neglecting the needs and feelings of others. Selfishness describes someone who prioritizes their own wants and needs over those of others, often associated with narcissism and, therefore, commonly criticized or looked down upon.


There is a stereotype that people with BPD lack empathy. From my own experience and observing others with BPD that I've met and worked with, I've found that we often have even more empathy than the average person. This can leave us vulnerable to giving too much to others without getting enough in return to replenish ourselves. However, it's also important to note that when someone with BPD gets triggered, whether by trauma or emotional triggers, they may temporarily lose all their empathic behavior, which can further perpetuate the misconception that individuals with BPD lack empathy.


Self-care is something we often overlook, but it's actually a crucial skill. It helps us build a fulfilling life. Self-care actions, like setting boundaries or taking time for oneself, can be misunderstood as selfishness, especially in cultures or relationships where people are expected to prioritize the group's needs over their own. In a society that praises overworking, many feel pressured to keep pushing themselves without taking time for self-care. This societal expectation may lead others to perceive self-care as selfish. Nonetheless, it's crucial to recognize that self-care is not inherently selfish.


Self-care is not only effective, but also fun, important, and life-saving. Engaging in self-care activities can benefit your life, recharge you, and allow you to keep going. Many of us think of self-care as special activities we do for ourselves such as taking baths, making our favorite meal, buying ourselves a gift, and going out with friends. But self-care can also include doing the tasks that help us live our daily lives such as paying bills, going to the doctor for a check-up, staying home if we are sick, and cleaning the kitchen. Self-care also doesn’t need to take a very long time. Taking a few minutes to do some deep breathing will help you refocus and change the tone of your day.


Why Do People With BPD Appear to Be Selfish?

People with BPD are not self-centered, but they can be seen as a self-centered type of person because of how they deal with their emotions and due to their splitting behaviors. A lot of the pain and anxiety someone with BPD feels stems from insecurities they have about how they affect the people around them. People with BPD tend to assume they are burdensome and constantly worry they are making people unhappy, which upsets them and can trigger an episode. If anything, people with BPD care too much.


BPD Symptoms Associated with Selfishness Behaviors


Emotional Instability: People with BPD may experience intense and fluctuating emotions, leading to unpredictable reactions in social situations. This emotional volatility can sometimes manifest as self-centered behavior, as individuals with BPD may struggle to consider others' perspectives while in the grip of intense emotions.


ImpulsivityImpulsive behaviors, such as overspending, substance abuse, or reckless driving, are common among individuals with BPD. These behaviors can be driven by a desire to alleviate emotional distress or seek instant gratification, often without considering the consequences for others.


Fear of Abandonment: One of the hallmark symptoms of BPD is a pervasive fear of abandonment. This fear can lead individuals to engage in manipulative or controlling behaviors to maintain relationships, which others may perceive as selfish.


Black-and-White Thinking: Individuals with BPD often struggle with black-and-white thinking, viewing relationships and situations in extremes of either idealization or devaluation. This can result in difficulties empathizing with others' perspectives and prioritizing one's own needs over those of others.


While these behaviors may appear selfish on the surface, it's essential to recognize that they stem from underlying challenges in emotional regulation and interpersonal functioning inherent to BPD.


Supporting Individuals with BPD without Enabling Selfish Behavior

Supporting a loved one with BPD involves understanding the complexities of the disorder and providing empathetic support while also setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Here are some strategies for supporting someone with BPD without enabling selfish behavior:


Encourage Professional Help: Encourage your loved one to seek therapy from a mental health professional who specializes in treating BPD. Therapy can provide valuable tools and strategies for managing symptoms and improving interpersonal relationships.


Set Clear Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with your loved one and communicate them openly and assertively. Boundaries help protect your well-being while also providing structure and consistency for the individual with BPD.


Practice Empathy: While it's important to maintain boundaries, try to approach your loved one with empathy and understanding. Recognize that their behaviors may be driven by underlying psychological factors rather than intentional selfishness. Encourage your loved one to engage in healthy coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness, journaling, or engaging in enjoyable activities. These strategies can help regulate emotions and reduce impulsive behaviors.


Frequently Asked Questions


Are all people with BPD selfish?

Not all individuals with BPD exhibit selfishness, just as not all those without the disorder do. A BPD diagnosis doesn't imply inherent selfishness. While some behaviors associated with BPD might seem self-centered, they often stem from deeper struggles with emotional regulation and interpersonal dynamics rather than deliberate selfish intent.


Is it fair to label someone with BPD as selfish?

It's important to recognize that behaviors associated with BPD while challenging, are often driven by underlying psychological factors rather than intentional selfishness. Labeling someone with BPD as selfish overlooks the complexities of the disorder and can perpetuate stigma.


What are some strategies for individuals with BPD to overcome behaviors that others perceive as selfish?

Engaging in therapy, practicing mindfulness and emotional regulation techniques, and learning to communicate effectively can all help individuals with BPD navigate relationships and manage behaviors that may be perceived as selfish. Developing a strong support network and seeking understanding from loved ones can also be beneficial.

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