Through These Eyes: The Narcissist

By Justin Jones September 20, 2012

Categories: Dating & Relationships, Our Lives

Warning! Irony ahead!

When I was a boy, I sought everyone’s affection, and when I failed to find it, I whined. I stomped my feet and locked myself in my bedroom. I would have none of the subsequent coddling that came from my family (and later my friends), and I would listen to no one who said, “Not everyone’s going to like you.” In my mind, for whatever twisted reason, if one person didn’t like me then no one did, and, even more immaturely, no one ever would. Remnants of this way of thinking stay with me today.

I’ve grown up a lot since then, but I’m still sometimes that boy under his sheets, whining about the world and slipping into quiet “me, me, me” tantrums. This is especially true when it comes to love, when every moment–every word, every action–is up for analysis: a selfish and constant reaffirmation of “yes, he really does love me.”

After reading this thought, some of you will say, “I see myself in that light, too. I too sometimes feel like a child when I don’t get my way or not everyone likes me”—the thought resonates with you. Others will opine that the preceding admission is itself an admission of narcissism. Some of you will think that this public confession is proof of that very point: that I’m self-aggrandizing via false modesty.

I encourage and welcome both thoughts. As a writer, I am inherently telling the world (or at least a tiny fraction of it) that I have something worth saying, something that others will want to hear, something that is in some way differential to what others will say. This is egotistical of me, but this is true of all writers–from commentators to poets, we all think our words are worth something to the world, if only on just the paper they’re written. Why otherwise put so much effort into it? It then follows that being a writer, especially in a public forum, means welcoming criticism worth reading… and engaging. A reader gave me pause recently when she said she thought I was narcissistic for writing so often about myself. And it got me thinking… what constitutes a “narcissist?” And am I one?

As I see it, the signs of a narcissist are, in no order: mastery of vanity, relentless insecurity, general obsession with oneself, and the ever-present need to exalt unto the world one’s own perils and triumphs, no matter how modest their portrayal–all largely without regard for other people. The true narcissist is thus, at his worst, most nearly a sociopath.

My description is as scientific as it is precise (and it is neither): an admission any critic would welcome, as itself contains a validation that I, audacious enough to define the word, am narcissistic.

“Narcissist” is a term we use freely, and when we are being honest, we readily ascribe it to ourselves, partially.

Are you a narcissist? Quite likely your answer is no. Even if you are one—under anyone else’s definition—you’ll find a way out of fitting your own criteria. But neither would you deny that you have some of the nasty vices we outline a narcissist having—our appreciation for hearing praise for ourselves, for example, though not an attribute exclusive to the narcissist, is no doubt a prerequisite.

I ask myself: am I narcissist? If I must meet ALL the requirements of my proposed definition, I say no, I am not, but if a simple majority suffices, I say yes: (1) Check, I am vain: I have not “mastered” vanity, but I give it far more than its fair share of my time. (2) Check, I am self-obsessed: I am obsessed with myself in the sense that I want to be better at everything I do, and I focus on this objective—I want to be a better writer, a better friend, a better dresser, a better hair-styler, a better worker-outer. (3) Check, I do concern others with my personal tragedies and triumphs, but unlike the narcissist, I strive not for sympathy or a pat on the back, but for solidarity, and not just for myself. We all crave to know that we aren’t alone in our thoughts or experiences, no matter how selfish, immature, pitiful, or tragic those may be. I aim to show others that they aren’t alone.

But most importantly, (4) Unchecked. My greatest obsession is other people. My most damning characteristic, since childhood, is the need to please others, to make sure everyone around me is happy, because, and this is corny as fuck, I can’t stand to know that someone else feels alone. I know what it’s like. And I know you do, too. 

13 Responses to Through These Eyes: The Narcissist

  1. Peter Jackson says:

    you are a cliche’ gay man who attends social events with his pilot arm candy seeking attention wearing bright clothes to ensure everyone sees you. you write nonsense like “Diary of a slutty dude” (I smell Pulitzer!) you are obnoxious and queen of the “plastics”! you are what the heterosexuals hate and use to stereotype us self respecting gays. vanity, narcissism & self obsession are your good qualities. you care only about other people if they can benefit you. ish, shame on you!

  2. Justin Jones says:

    i would love to have a chance to change your mind, peter jackson. next time you see me, let me buy you a drink and we can chat. i bet you’ll be surprised:)

    it’s all perception, you know. i’m surprised you didn’t comment on the irony of this column, though… it’s a column defending myself against charges of narcissism and it’s all about me!

    i’m a total dork, and a pretty nice guy i think… so maybe a sweet, cliche narcissist then? 🙂

  3. Paul says:

    Peter seems to live in a pretty dismal world… I want no part in a movement that seeks to placate the heterosexual norm by tucking away any aspect of homosexuality that might make closed minded straight people “uncomfortable.”
    My hope for this world is NOT that we move towards a place of gays being tolerated…. my hope is that we move towards a place in which ALL people- regardless of sexuality, gender identity, race, religion, etc.- are respected and appreciated for who they are (assuming that being who they are does not put other people in harm’s way).

    I appreciate your writing Justin.
    Yes- your experiences and concerns don’t always line up with mine. Yes- you throw your insecurities and shortcomings on the wall for everyone to judge…
    But that’s all part of your voice and personality.
    And I enjoy hearing your dialogue as you wrestle with a task that you seem to truly love; writing.
    The world needs more passion- keep on sharing yours!

  4. Dr. Vandershmidt says:

    TO: Mr. Justin Jones

    Some people are afflicted with a severe narcissistic personality disorder. Here is the clinical definition:

    “Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which there is an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one’s self.”


    A person with narcissistic personality disorder:

    •Reacts to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
    •Takes advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
    •Has feelings of self-importance
    •Exaggerates achievements and talents
    •Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
    •Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
    •Requires constant attention and admiration
    •Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
    •Has obsessive self-interest
    •Pursues mainly selfish goals

    I am not insinuating that you suffer from this disorder nor is it my place to diagnose you as such. However, as I re-read your articles, the bulk of the thematic content, if you will, seems to center around YOU and YOUR relationships. Since you are writing in this department, for a GLBT audience, then it seems wise to be inclusive and diverse in your perspective as well as in your “style, theme, and content” as Susan Sontag prescribes.

    It is my understanding, after reading your rebuttals, that you are trying to DEFEND your stance against someone who accused you of being a narcissist which then morphed into a more collective stance in which you assume that we are all narcissists to some degree or that anyone can fit the definition.

    Freud wrote about the EGO, SUPEREGO, and ID. Many homosexual men have been accused of being too egocentric and I recall a specific episode on “WILL AND GRACE” in which Will tries to debunk the myth of the homosexual narcissist.

    Still, there are some issues here that are unclear to me.

    I am not clear why you used your column to defend yourself.

    I am not clear why you are claiming “to be or not to be,” just to paraphrase “Hamlet,” a narcissist by definition.

    I am not clear why you are protesting her claim in a public space such as LAVENDER.

    I am not clear why you felt the proclivity to contest her claim.

    “Me thinks you doth protest to much…”

    These are questions that only YOU can answer and by all means don’t feel inclined to.

    I just thought I would write what was unclear to me as a practicing shrink, that’s all.

  5. Justin Jones says:

    Hi Dr. V,

    This is not a defense in any way. My columns seek solidarity. My column’s title is “Through These Eyes,” which indicates that I am speaking from personal triumphs and tragedies–these are what I know–but these are triumphs and tragedies that are not mine alone. No matter how raw, embarrassing, humiliating, nostalgic, or simply wonderful my experience are, I wrote about them as brutally honest as I can.

    You’re right: 90% of my writing is about me–most confessional columnists do this, even in this magazine. But my aim is to explore things that I’m often not so proud of, that aren’t crystal clear, that will resonate with other people. We are most ourselves, I think, when faced with perilous pr unfortunate circumstances, whether it’s our doing or out of our control.

    I appreciate your perspective, but I cannot answer every question. I never will be able to. Because that’s how life works.


  6. Justin Jones says:

    And I hope my response doesn’t come of as flippant. You are the expert here! I’m just giving my side.

    It all boils down to, I cannot–and will never have the audacity–to write about something I don’t know.

    To address this column in particular, I look introspectively into the question, “am I a narcissist?”–but my question, while phrased personally, doesn’t mean I am or should be by myself in asking it.

    Solidarity is a word I use way too much, but it’s what I offer.


  7. Justin Jones says:

    (Pardon all the typos–doing this from my phone!)

  8. Ralph says:

    Hey there Justin!


    Don’t press that panic button!

    Boy George was slammed as not only being a narcissist but a misogynist too. He was court ordered to see a therapist for his issues, in fact. Don’t worry, many artists get publicly bashed for being too egocentric. Maybe it just “comes with the territory” as Arthur Miller wrote in “Death of A Salesman.” Madonna was recently minced for being too egocentric and then they tried to link this type of thinking to homosexual men which is a scathing stereotype. Deep down, I think that one knows if they are too self-obsessed and self-absorbed. Either the mirror will crack or people will just bolt out of the room because they know that this person will wind up talking about themselves non-stop in a marathon session be it in a (bar, club, etc.)

    Here are some links to lighten your dark load:

    BREAKING NEWS: Madonna is a narcissistic cunt


    What Makes Narcissists Tick – “All con artists are thus protected by the pride of those they con…”

  9. Heidi says:

    Hey JJ:

    Have you ever heard the song SUCH A BIG EGO?

    Beyonce made it popular.

    I love this song!

    These lyrics truly speak to me:

    It’s too big, it’s too wide
    It’s too strong, it won’t fit
    It’s too much, it’s too tough
    He talk like this ’cause he can back it up

    Let’s face it, some people have BIG EGOS and some people have little egos. Either way, it may be something that we can control or it may not be. It seems like a lot of famous artists have BIG EGOS. Damn, I am jealous. I want a BIG EGO too! I really do.


    Oh baby, how you doing?
    You know I’m gonna cut right to the chase
    Some women were made but me, myself
    I like to think that I was created for a special purpose
    You know, what’s more special than you? You feel me

    It’s on baby, let’s get lost
    You don’t need to call into work ’cause you’re the boss
    For real, want you to show me how you feel
    I consider myself lucky, that’s a big deal

    Why? Well, you got the key to my heart
    But you ain’t gonna need it, I’d rather you open up my body
    And show me secrets, you didn’t know was inside
    No need for me to lie

    It’s too big, it’s too wide
    It’s too strong, it won’t fit
    It’s too much, it’s too tough
    He talk like this ’cause he can back it up

    He got a big ego, such a huge ego
    I love his big ego, it’s too much
    He walk like this ’cause he can back it up

    Usually I’m humble, right now I don’t choose
    You can leave with me or you could have the blues
    Some call it arrogant, I call it confident
    You decide when you find on what I’m working with

    Damn I know I’m killing you with them legs
    [. From: .]
    Better yet them thighs
    Matter a fact it’s my smile or maybe my eyes
    Boy you a site to see, kind of something like me

    It’s too big, it’s too wide
    It’s too strong, it won’t fit
    It’s too much, it’s too tough
    I talk like this ’cause I can back it up

    I got a big ego, such a huge ego
    But he love my big ego, it’s too much
    I walk like this ’cause I can back it up

    I, I walk like this ’cause I can back it up
    I, I talk like this ’cause I can back it up
    I, I can back it up, I can back it up
    I walk like this ’cause I can back it up

    It’s too big, it’s too wide
    It’s too strong, it won’t fit
    It’s too much, it’s too tough
    He talk like this ’cause he can back it up

    He got a big ego, such a huge ego, such a huge ego
    I love his big ego, it’s too much
    He walk like this ’cause he can back it up

    Ego so big, you must admit
    I got every reason to feel like I’m that bitch
    Ego so strong, if you ain’t know
    I don’t need no beat, I can sing it with piano

  10. Doug Holloway says:


    I enjoy reading most of your articles. The ones that resonate are the those where you write with compassion about others: the older gay friend who was going through a tough time, the rather ordinary gay “boys” in the bars who are barely noticed, etc. I realize your column is “Through These Eyes” and I believe you’re at your best when you are looking through your eyes at others and their experiences and writing from that good place within you and not looking at yourself.

    I hope you don’t interpret what I’ve written as mean, snarky or bitter. I hope you continue to stretch yourself as a writer and grow. We need great writers not only in the gay community, but in society at large.

    As for the mean spirited critics, we all have them in our lives. One of the greatest but hardest traits I have learned is to completely ignore them. They’ll always exist and they’ll never be worth a response. Let them soak in their own abuse.

  11. Mark Johnson says:

    TO: Mrs. Justin Jones

    Indeed, you seem to exhibit a pattern of severe and sustained egocentrism in your articles.

    Recently you disclosed that you are a “promiscuous bottom” for an androcentric magazine.

    Next, you go on to describe how you anchor/position/prepare yourself sexually which is an extremely private issue. Yes, you evoked both “gender shock” but “sex shock” in me! AH!

    True, the majority of what you write about is filtered “through your eyes.” However, we are bombarded with your sexual stories, relationship lamentations, and dating scenarios that all pretty much circulate around YOU. It all boils down to “how you felt” (date at a swanky art show with borderline alcoholic) and what “your reaction was” (cowboy lover…) and what “your impression is” (about narcissism).

    Being labeled a “true narcissist” isn’t as easy as just looking at the definition and then seeing if it applies to you. There must be a sustained pattern in which you exhibit these symptoms.
    Again, this is a private issue which isn’t Kosher for a cultivated GLBT Lavender audience.

    You seem very defensive, in fact, when you write which evinces insecurity or perhaps even an inferiority complex. On one side of the equation, you don’t wish to be labeled a narcissist by an outside reader, yet you deduce that poets, writers, and others are narcissists by trade and then automatically conclude that we are all narcissists to some degree and that you are now part of narcissism which contradicts your original premise. I am assuming that you wrote this piece in retaliation to her accusation and are asking us to determine if you are, in fact, one through your chain of logic.

    Otherwise, what was the point or writing this piece?

    In the end, it is best to keep your personal issues in the closet or for your diary (of a slutty dude…)

    I don’t believe that your topics are suitable for Lavender and I hardly see how they assist or enlighten others. I have read them all.

    Finally, I also wonder if you truly know the difference between “verisimilitude” and “veracity.”

    After all, people do KNOW the difference.

    “When speaking the truth leave elegance to the tailor.” ~ Einstein ~

  12. Justin Jones says:

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the passionate response! I appreciate the thought you put into it, and I appreciate your civility. Your thoughts challenged me. Below follows a response, but is in no way a defense. I can only do the writing, and my intentions don’t always translate into how I thought they’d be perceived, so defenses on matters like this are really meaningless.

    This article is ironic for two reasons:

    – It is a response to a criticism of narcissism addressed to me, but the article–the whole thing–is about me

    – I haven’t even used the dictionary definition of “narcissism,” or one provided from DSM-IV (which, as I point out, is a ridiculously ego-inflated thing for me to do).

    Veracity, we have departed! Veracity will have no bearing here (sounds dangerously like the Romney-Ryan ticket, doesn’t it? Yikes!)

    So in the beginning I clearly assert myself as a narcissist, and, as with all of my pieces, this is opinion and personal experience only. Our headline editor shows this irony even further in our print edition , if you’re interested.

    With that out of the way, the more pressing question in my article suggests still lingers: “Am I a narcissist?” And, what this really translates into, is “who is a narcissist?” and it inevitably, as these comments show, provoke a reflection on narcissism, if only as a criticism to me.

    My goal with any article is to resonate in some way with other people. Sometimes what I write, I suppose you know, is heartfelt, it’s sometimes tragic, and it’s sometimes absolutely brutal, mainly in its capacity to show my imperfections (a la, as a former promiscuous bottom, to borrow your example, or to show myself as an egocentric). With the audacity of the latter, I expect criticism. Surely you don’t think I wrote this article under the impression that I’d only get rainbows and unicorns in return.

    The question then becomes, does what I write resonate? And the answer is NEVER the same for the same person. Last issue, I wrote about a swing on my grandmother’s front porch, and got many messages from people telling me how it reminded me of their own childhood. Did it tell their stories? No. But that doesn’t mean it was about me alone, despite it specifically being all my memories.

    In this issue, I challenge myself to an ironic, introspective debate in which I most nearly contradict myself in its very essence. It provided the response I was expecting, and further implicates internal debate. I will never say that my goal, stirring this question of narcissism in other people by doing it–almost satirically–through myself, was met. This article then is simply a photograph of me naked in all my egocentrism. Am I a writer to hide this? Nope.

    And when you reference how I ALWAYS talk about how “I” felt and how “I” perceive the world, again, you’re absolutely spot on. This is the world through these eyes–my own–because these are the only eyes through which I can see. And while I can only convey MY experiences, feelings, reflections, and the like, I know that I am not the only one who experiences these things. If they are harsh or embarrassing to me, that judgment was quite likely made because my reader had a sense of what those things look (and feel) like.

    If you read this as false modesty or a lackluster defense, that’s cool with me. I won’t defend myself from these claims. I can only convey my intention, and if this results in a completely different perception on your part, so be it. Through These Eyes–through mine, through your own, through [insert name here]–we experience things incongruently…. we see them same, but we perceive them differently.

    Take it for what you will.

    I appreciate your impassioned response, and I hope you’ll stick around for more. Thanks for making me think:)

    Very truly,

  13. Justin Jones says:

    and again, pardon the typos.

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