Having a balanced life is generally considered a good thing (except by people whose lives are way out of balance). You want a clean house, but not smelling like bleach. Work and play. Everyone shares in the conversation. Determination and laughter. The idea of balance has a lot of wiggle-room, but there are some things that aren’t a part of balance, such as using a little bit of meth being okay.
As a baby and small child, humans are very self-focused. That’s a survival technique shared by most animals. At first all you know is “Me,” which eventually becomes “Me” and “Not me,” and then all the Not-Mes eventually have labels or names. Parents begin teaching their toddler children about sharing, indoor voices, and hopefully about not being violent. In a balanced household toddlers begin learning about waiting, as in lunch will be ready in a few minutes but they will get to eat. If the child goes to pre-school, or when they go to kindergarten, they learn more about balancing what they want with what others want. At this point it’s still a very self-focused sharing, because if they get along better with their parents, teachers, and other kids, they won’t get in trouble and perhaps people will be nicer to them. At about 7 or 8 years old they care a lot about what is fair, but mostly they care a lot about what is fair to them. If their parents have modeled being fair to other people because that is what you do, they may pick up on that. But a true moral sense reasoned from the abstracts of what is right or wrong doesn’t usually show up until they are about 12 years old, and hopefully continues to develop as long as we live.
The primary task of a teenager is to figure out who they are as a person — what they like, dislike, what matters to them, that sort of thing. This requires a certain amount of rebellion. Teens who have been brow-beaten into obedience by parents, teachers, or religious dogma may just accept that “X” is what they are supposed to do, and this will get positive reinforcement from those parents and teachers. But there is a high probability they will rebel at some point later in their life (even if it is just passive-aggressive behavior), because people are individuals and rarely does one size fit all.
So what does all this have to do with balance and self-focus? Adults (especially those who work with kids), be aware that kids tend to be self-focused, and this is normal. If they make faces at themselves when they look in the mirror, this is normal. Who is it hurting? If they do it out in public, you might mention that the rest of the world doesn’t need to see that scary/silly/whatever face, so they should save that for when they are home or with friends. If it’s the end-of-the-world for them because X doesn’t like them, remember they are still relatively new to the whole social scene, and everything that happens around them still seems like it relates to them. From the time they are little, develop the habit of talking with children; ask questions and listen to their answers. Take time to answer their questions. First ask them what they think about a situation, acknowledge what they’ve said, and then ask them if they want to know what you think about the situation.
Allowing a child or teen this time for self-focus means they can figure out who they are and what they want out of life. It’s not being conceited, or “full of themselves,” it is a necessary step in their growth as a balanced human. Better to figure this out as they are setting out into the world, when they can take the time to listen to other people and show them respect even if they do not agree with them, than never to discover it at all. Or perhaps discover it when they are 60 or 70 years old, and the results of their unbalanced life are catching up with them. A life is more apt to be in balance when we allow ourselves a certain amount of self-focus as well as focusing on the needs of others. It’s not one or the other — it is both.