Yeah, you muthaf%^$#s.
I am all that!
How can he be so skinny and live so phat?
You wanna know why?
Cause, I’m the maestro
The Beastie Boys
I am I am I am Superman
And I know what’s happening
I am I am I am Superman
And I can do anything
I am good looking; I have beautiful deep dark brown eyes and bronzed olive skin; I have full wavy hair; I have eyelashes that most women dream about; I am talented; I inspire others; I play guitar, I occasionally paint, and I write poetry; people see my life and wonder how I make it look so easy to live happily; I am well-read, educated and have good taste in film, food, décor, and music; I try to dress in a creative way; I am an excellent teacher; I am a good friend, husband, and son; I write well; I am not ordinary; I am a well rounded person with a variety of interests; people find me interesting and want to hear my stories; I am sensitive and funny and kind and fun to be around; I take powerful photographs; I am an artist; I see the world in a unique way; I follow the beat of my own drummer; I am happy with the direction of my life; I respect, admire, and love myself.
The question I would like to ask is, is this list a bad thing? Do you read these observations and think of me as arrogant or overflowing with an unhealthy pride, narcissism, self-importance, conceit, egotism, haughtiness overconfidence, condescension, self-absorption, or self-satisfaction? This is quite a potent list of synonyms. If vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others, than where does healthy self-love lay?
I have chosen vanity as my flaw this week, although, I am not quite willing to label it as a defect. I like that I love myself. I love that I love myself. To be honest, I do not see this as an imperfection at all. Hence the paradox, I suppose. You must be thinking that it takes a pretty egotistical man to point out traits in himself that others are surely to identify as flaws, but then deny narcissism within himself. Let me explain.
I think arrogance is rooted in insecurity. People who are annoyingly overconfident are trying to hide their insecurities by overcompensating false talents or traits. I am open to the argument that maybe this is what I am doing as well, and I will attempt to tackle this argument in next week’s challenge, however, although I have scribed an exhaustive list of what I think are my many admirable traits, I do not feel that I am arrogant, because I am honest with my insecurities. We are all riddled by uncertainty, but most people present themselves to the world by crippling themselves with doubt and self-loathing. I choose not to live this way. They compare themselves to celebrities who they feel are better than themselves, and they live shallow, angst ridden lives, never allowing for the possibility that they could simply be attractive and not be a model, or they could dress like a rock star and not be famous. They have confined themselves in a world where fame allows other people freedom to express themselves, but because they are not famous, they must remain ordinary. Or maybe they simply allow their limited talents to restrict their dreams.
I refuse to do this. I can hardly play the guitar, although I have been playing for over ten years; I barely play a few chords, yet I will not allow this to stop me from recording songs, because I love to sing. I am not a very good painter; I have a horrible grasp of grammar, although I write constantly and teach eighth grade English, but I choose to allow the yearning I feel to take control, and when it comes out, regardless of the results, I am proud of my work. People have repeatedly told me that they find my work inspirational, and I suppose in a way, I need their assurance, but I would be fine without it, because I know that what I am doing is worthwhile. Does this make me conceited?
This brings us to my next paradox. After years of varying levels of self-love and loathing, I have finally settled into a self that I respect and admire. But the more I read about Zen, the more I realize that it is this very attachment to the self that causes me to suffer. So what to do?
One reason I hope that I don’t come across as vain or arrogant is because I have realized that this passion I promote within myself is bigger than me. The same love I graciously afford myself is the same love I have for all beings. This enthusiasm for life, this zeal, and this fervor I feel for the human potential is real, and I merely reflect it through my actions. I am not in love with myself; I am in love with what we can all be if we release our fears and allow ourselves the ability to love each other indiscriminately. I love myself because I see all of you in me. I try to show people who they can be, by being themselves. We are one being; I honestly believe this to be true. It is time we learn to love ourself. (Ourself, is not a word my Word spell-check recognized, but I think it is an important new word we should contemplate.)
So am I vain, because I realize I touch everyone who comes in contact with me? Is this narcissism? I’ll let you be the judge, but come on look at this picture: You have to admit I look good, even with a goddamn mustache.