Strangers on the Internet often accuse me of being egotistical. I will stipulate that I say and do things that give people that impression. No argument there.
I had to look up the word “egotistical” to make sure I knew what it meant. Some of the definitions involve selfishness, and that’s probably not what people have in mind with me. Then there’s the part about talking too much about oneself, which, as it turns out, is about half of my job description, so that probably isn’t the root problem. My best guess is that I fall into the part of the definition of egotistical behavior involving my “unduly high opinion” of myself.
That’s where it gets interesting.
Just to put things in context, my new book is called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. It’s a full public confession of my incompetence across a broad range of human endeavors. I’ve failed at more things than most people have even tried. And that’s not even counting my personal life. I’m also short, bald, and near-sighted. My Dilbert fame came well after my self-image had been hardened, so I perceive the minor celebrity part of my life much the way an observer would. I couldn’t integrate that stuff with my self-image even if I tried.
But my question of the day is this: Is egotistical even a thing?
If we use the “unduly high opinion” of oneself as the base definition, how does a third party judge what is unduly and what is the right amount? Who among us is sufficiently perfect and wise as to pass judgment on the worthiness of another human?
Answer: No one
So the interesting thing is that you can only be accused of egotistical behavior by someone who has such an unduly high opinion of himself that he thinks he can stand in judgment of your value as a human while simultaneously knowing your private thoughts about your self-worth. You’d need to be enormously egotistical to label someone egotistical. There’s no getting around it.
So, if you think I’m egotistical, I accept the invitation to join your club of judgmental egomaniacs. It sounds fun. And if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to be the only one who gets to talk.