As I hold my baby daughter at four in the morning, feeling the softness of her cheek against my own…
Think for a moment about someone who’s self-obsessed. All this person can think about is her own petty concerns – her weight, hair, clothing, wealth (or lack of it) and status. She anguishes over how people perceive her, or whether she’s being noticed at all. Life for such people is like existing inside a miniature room, decorated floor to ceiling in their own image. Barely taking a moment to step outside of this windowless prison, life becomes limited, monotonous, and more desperate by the day.
A sure-fire way to go insane is to self-obsess. There’s ample evidence to suggest that the more you cut yourself off from the world, thinking only of your own needs, the more miserable you will become.
Child psychologists often look for cues to assess a child’s development – sharing, acknowledging others, and forfeiting things to attend to another’s more pressing concerns are signs of a flourishing human being. To stay selfish one’s whole life is to stay developmentally stunted.
By embarking on a social project of change you can escape the windowless prison of the self. Regardless of how ridiculous your quest may seem to others, by committing to social change you can affect the world around you – instead of playing a bit part as consumer of products, shopper, or client at the hair salon and nail clinic.
But your quest for social change shouldn’t just be about you; it’s not about giving speeches, signing autographs and getting on television. Instead, it’s about peeking outside the windowless self and beholding a marvellous place. As Robert G Ingersoll once said: “Reason, observation and experience – the holy trinity of science – have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so.”