October 16, 2006

Self-Portrait: Imperfectly Vain

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.


  1. You were probably taught self-esteem in school. maybe you can't read but you don't hate yourself. That is the mantra of this generation.

  2. Priceless bz, I love this post. The first thing to make me smile in a few days. Thanks dude.

  3. The dalai lama once said that it matters less what you do in life than why you are doing it. This is the difference between someone who loves themself and someone who is vain and arrogant. For instance, if you were to write the same intro paragraph to mpress everyone with how great you are - that's serious arrogance. But writing what you wrote to open a discussion and get people to think about vanity, self-admiration and self-esteem is completely different.

    P.S. I think a soul patch would look better -


  4. Anonymous7:54 AM

    I read several blogs and have never commented on a post before, but you made your point - this point - beautifully.

  5. I believe beauty lies in balance. If I had to choose between self loathing and arrogance, I would choose the latter. But, you have found harmony - real confidance. You know your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and that my friend is real beauty.

    Photographically speaking, I love this photo. It is dark and exotic. Well done.

  6. i love that you love yourself.
    you are not vain.
    nor are you arrogant.
    you are confident and honest.
    you are alive and aware of your gifts and the gifts of others.

    all that you shared here about yourself is what draws me and others to you. you are real. you are HUGE in spirit yet not at all intimidating to me.

    you are a richly beautiful person and it fills me with joy that you know this, feel this and do not take it for granted.

    i am glad you recognize the difference between arrogance and confidence.

    always learning from you...

    love to you,
    boho girl

  7. Vain \Vain\, a.
    L. vanus empty, void, vain. Cf. Vanish, Vanity, Vaunt
    1. Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying.
    2. Destitute of forge or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual; as, vain toil; a vain attempt.
    3. Proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments; having a high opinion of one's own accomplishments with slight reason; conceited; puffed up; inflated.
    4. Showy; ostentatious.
    Syn: Empty; worthless; fruitless; ineffectual; idle; unreal; shadowy; showy; ostentatious; light; inconstant; deceitful; delusive; unimportant; trifling.

    Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)


    And, by the way, I might even let you away with wearing that goddamn mustache. But only because the cute dimple in your chin counteracts its effect!


  8. I agree with the above posts that in your comments, you do not show vanity. Confidence and honesty are not vanity, right? In fact, I think inappropriate doubt and self-loathing is a kind of vanity -- kind of like holding yourself to an unreasonable standard as though you are special.

  9. I enjoy reading your thoughts.

    Acceptance and self love is the best gift you can give to your loved ones.

    The photo is beautiful as are you.

  10. I love it! This is so honest it made me laugh out loud! If only more of us recognized our gifts and talents and potential, the world would be a better place.

    I'll write my own list. whether I keep it private or not, I haven't decided--I wouldn't want someone to think I'm VAIN!!:)

    Yes, you are a handsome devil.

  11. this is a very powerful post and you have done a beautiful job of relaying your points. i love that you've listed the things that you love about yourself. i'd love to see everyone's list. too often self-esteem is not taught but learned and we're all students. reading about your relationship with yourself gives me more confidence to stay on the path i'm on. thank you.

    ps--i don't think the mustache is all that bad...

  12. Your words and images always find a way to settle deep wihin my core, to marinate there for a while, so i can soak them all in. You are not vain or arrorgant, or any of those ugly words....you have a wonderful air of self confidence and love....you are a rich soul indeed.