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Where Self Importance and Stress Meet

where stress and self importance meetStress is something I am very familiar with. In fact, I’m pretty sure stress was present at my birth, already eager to introduce itself and become BFFs.

But self importance is an issue I’ve wrestled less with, if only because I’ve been less aware of its role and effects….until now.

Lately, however, I’ve begun to suspect self importance is a bigger issue for me than I would have ever guessed.

Let me explain. Let’s say I catch myself stressing about, well, anything. It could be a huge thing or a tiny thing.

Once I dive in and start contemplating the source of the stress and how to put as much distance between us as possible, I often notice I’ve blown the issue way out of proportion.

For example, maybe one day I have a huge to-do list. I made the list myself, of course (which means I added all those things to it). The list has a bunch of items on it, some quite normal and maybe a few not-so-normal. I look at the list and realize there is really a lot of stuff on it. I start to stress.

This is where I can often catch self importance waiting in the wings to announce its critical role in accomplishing everything on the list. It wants to sweep in and save the day and it is very sure of itself.

Self importance is the quality in me that assigns the same level of importance to going grocery shopping (which really could be done any day) and bringing my sick turtle to the vet (which really has to be done that day).

Self importance is the quality that, when asked how I am doing or how things are going, instantly launches into a long recitation of my many responsibilities and obligations and all that I have to do. “I am so busy and important!” is basically the point of any such recitations.

But the other person probably isn’t really listening to me anyway, because the moment I start outlining my essential role in my own life, they begin contemplating all the things they have to do and how urgent each is and before long, they are just as stressed as I am (and they haven’t heard a word I’ve said).

It is an old, old habit to let stress make these traps for me, hide them in the ground somewhere and wait for me to come by and take the bait. As such, it isn’t an easy habit to break, and I don’t expect it to be. 

But I have gotten pretty tired of letting stress lead me around my the nose (or the ankle, or whichever body part it has managed to capture that day) and make me sick, exhausted, full of aches and pains and feeling oh-so-burdened by what really amounts to a fairly unburdened daily life.

There are really only a few things in life worth the effort of instant mobilization and the stress that often comes with it. If someone (human or non-human) is sick or dying, if there is an impending (natural or manmade) disaster, if the basics (food, clothing, shelter, rent money) are suddenly nowhere to be found – these kinds of events need a hero. Whether that hero is me or somebody else, there is really no self importance involved in fixing them. They are critical mass issues and everything else can wait until they are resolved.

As for the rest, I have made a firm intention as of late to try to catch myself as early on as possible stressing in my oh-so-self-important way about the small stuff (including the lengthy to-do lists I make for myself, whose length and detail I can absolutely control).

When I do catch myself launching into “I’m so busy and important” mode, I will then cease and desist while attempting to pinpoint if there are any actual critical mass issues on my list that day. If there are, I will give myself permission to feel some stress, recognizing that my ancient limbic brain’s “fight or flight” response system is likely going to induce stress whether I want it or not, and so I might as well use those extra spurts of adrenaline to take even prompter action and resolve the issue faster.

As for the rest, they can wait. I can a) do them now, b) do them later, c) ask someone to help me do them (or do them for me), d) never do them. But stressing about doing them or not doing them or asking someone else to do them or when to do them is no longer on the personal books as an option for how to spend my daily allotment of emotional energy.

I am really hoping this intention will both ease my stress and keep me more humble and present in my own daily life.

I suppose in this odd sort of way, stress itself is serving as a mentor to me, showing me how it can affect me and pointing out where I might exert beneficial control over those effects.

(And, by the way, I realize that for some of you reading, “self importance” may not be the right term to describe what happens for you when you get wrapped up in stress. And also, for some of you, you may have far more critical mass issues you are dealing with in your daily life at the moment than I am, and this is not meant as any kind of commentary against your critical role in addressing and resolving those issues!)

Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever find stress ballooning to what seems like out of proportion size in your life? Do you ever find a link between something like the length of a to-do list and the amount of stress? If you have gotten good at not stressing about stuff that really doesn’t need to be stressed about (even if it does eventually need to be completed) I would LOVE to hear how you did it!!


Where Self Importance and Stress Meet

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2016). Where Self Importance and Stress Meet. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Sep 2016
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