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.


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Oct 29, 2013
I think this safely falls into the category of "It takes one to know one".
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 29, 2013
My wife uses a phrase that I love. Instead of calling someone egotistical, she says, "He's very pleased with himself!"

Oct 29, 2013
My favourite comment from my wonderful dad, about a recent arrival to his home town, said in all seriousness without a whiff or irony or self-awareness.

"That man is so arrogant, he doesn't even know who I am."
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 28, 2013
Hey Phantom,
I'm just curious; are YOU "intractable" in your belief that God exists?
Or do you allow for the possibility you're wrong and there is no God?

And if you're intractable in your belief of God, is it okay to have intractable beliefs?
Oct 28, 2013
Perhaps by egotistical, the person meant that when presented with negative feedback about yourself, rather than absorb it, you might be the type of person who'd resort to a dictionary or other reference book in order to simultaneously deflect the criticism and establish yourself as the superior intellect.

Just a hunch...

[I couldn't absorb it until I looked it up. -- Scott]
Oct 28, 2013
Sigh. There you go again.

Scott, you often try to prove your argument by redefining the terms. If I define a cat as being a dog, and I can get you to agree, then I can prove that there's no difference between cats and dogs. Redefining terms to fit your argument is not proof.

You have redefined egocentric with circular logic, to wit: only someone egocentric is qualified to judge if someone else is egocentric. By that logic, only someone who is always angry can determine if someone else is always angry.

In many areas of law, the "reasonable individual" standard applies. In other words, would your average reasonable person find a certain behavior to be outside normal and acceptable bounds? If so, that can be taken as proof when an action or state of being contains either situational variations or ambiguity.

Take the recent attack by bikers on an SUV driver in New York. As the driver was fleeing the attack, he ran over and severely injured one of the bikers. Normally, if you run over someone you are responsible for the injuries you caused.

But there's a self-defense exception, and it's based on whether a reasonable person would feel that their life was threatened to the point where they had to escape to protect themselves. In a similar way, I would opine that most judgments of a particular person's actions or state of being may be resolved by applying the reasonable person test, regardless of whether or not said judgmental person has that particular trait.

Were you to ask me, I would say that the average reasonable person would say that you, Scott Adams, are, in fact, egocentric. As evidence, one would present the intractability of your beliefs, your desire to redefine terms and the use of false syllogisms to 'prove' your case. Your use of inductive reasoning further enforces that opinion. As a final piece of evidence, you have just written a book about you, and you continue to mention it in each blog post.

Before the Scott defenders pile on, understand that I am not saying that being egocentric is either a good or bad thing. That is a different discussion. I will say, however, that the Bible (which Scott appears to intractably dismiss) says that it is better to be humble than to be egocentric. The often-misquoted Proverbs 16:18 states, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." The word 'pride' and the phrase 'haughty spirit,' in fact, do fall under the heading of egocentrism.

Not to bore anyone with theology, but I will, just a little. The reason humility is considered to be preferable to pride is because all things come from God. Taking pride in your accomplishments without acknowledging He who allowed you to achieve them is placing yourself above God.

Scott is in an interesting conundrum, here. He neither acknowledges God's contribution to his success, nor does he seem to acknowledge his own, directly. I mean, how many repetitions of the 'meat robot' theme do we have to read to realize that Scott thinks he's just some kind of automaton who randomly bounced his way to success?

In a way, that explains a lot. Scott's God appears to be the activity of random molecules. There is no free will; there is no creativity. There is only illusion. So I guess Scott is actually like the fabled quantum computer: he is both egocentric and lacking ego at the same time!

I predict that Scott will become a subject of considerable interest to the Physics community once this fact, or random action of molecules, becomes known.
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 28, 2013
What's interesting is that you don't really have the profile of someone who would have emerged from childhood with undo confidence. Your career path made you a public figure which left two options; exploit Dilbert by generating content and lay low so as not to attract public attention to yourself OR use the visibility Dilbert has brought to express opinions that will invite both public admiration and derision. I wonder if what separates an 'egotist' from most people is that the lure of public admiration outweighs the pain of derision?

Your post reminded me of something Bill Simmons wrote a long time ago about famous people (in a post about Tiger Woods in 2007)...

"This seems like a good time to mention my theory about celebrities: Take the dorkiest people on the planet, make them famous, and within four or five years, they wouldn't be dorky anymore. Why? As soon as they became famous, their entire lives revolve around awkward interactions with people who are either (A) terrified to meet them, (B) kissing up to them, (C) interviewing them or (D) just as famous as they are. They become conditioned to it after a while. Eventually, their confidence swells and they morph into someone else -- in any situation, in any room, they're usually the alpha dog, and they know it... That's what fame brings, a distinctive poise from being in control all the time. Eventually, you can't help but become secure and self-assured. It's inevitable."
Oct 28, 2013
Applying the word is tricky. There are those whose high opinion of themselves, justified or not, makes them eager to share their superior gifts with mankind. This can produce selfless leaders, geniuses and other benefactors to mankind. It also produces friends and relatives who, with sincere and generous intent, seek to improve your appearance, your work, your diet, and other facets of your life where they perceive your capabilities as inferior to their own. Much like the well-meaning cat bringing dead animals to his masters, who in his mind need to learn to hunt.

Or they seek to favor humanity with the fruits of their other talents. This produces great artists. Also the guy who brings his accordion to parties.

If somebody's self-esteem represents an extreme minority opinion, or even an objective disconnect with reality (the confident inventor blissfully unaware of certain consequences of Newton's laws of motion), we may laugh at his/her delusions. But we don't call them egotists -- yet. Depending on their personalities, we may find them admirable and pleasant in their honest generosity, or even in their misplaced confidence.

I think it's possible to be an egotist with a realistic or even a negative view of one's own capabilities and character. Egotism is perhaps a very weak form of sociopathy, logical self-interest mistaking itself for the state of the universe. The egotist believes the world DOES revolve around him; and chooses to ignore that pretty much every sentient being uses that as a working principle. The difference from the sociopath is that the egotist still craves the approbation of society. Ideally, he wants society to agree that his personal concerns, his opinions and his tastes do supersede those of others. And that everybody should find these more interesting than their own.

The egotist is the guy who gets snotty if other people actually want to listen to the guy with the accordion. The egotist is the speaker at the funeral with a long story that only peripherally involves the deceased. The egotist is genuinely shocked when his opinion is not enough to resolve an issue.

Egotist joke: "But enough about me. Let's talk about what you think of me."

If Mr. Adams were a serious egotist, this blog would be more about running down other cartoonists and authors. Instead, it's about airing ideas and picking fights over eccentric questions that don't accrue to the greater glory of Adams. But in a world awash in Dilbert books and merchandise, his estimation of his place in the greater scheme of things may understandably be a bit higher than average.
Oct 28, 2013
In this context, I think calling you egotistical is just a fancy way to say "I don't like you" As adults we need fancier ways to to say these things so we don't sound like 3 year olds.
Oct 28, 2013
Sounds like an "I know you are but what am I?" argument. Oh well, welcome to the club.
Oct 28, 2013
Scott says:

Who among us is sufficiently perfect and wise as to pass judgment on the worthiness of another human?

Answer: No one


Wrong! The right answer: Me!

The fact that you believe you know the answer and are so certain of it that you publish it for the world to see without even bothering to substantiate it, and the fact that your answer is wrong, proves that your opinion of yourself, at least in terms of your ability to answer this question, is unduly high. Meaning, for those who failed connect-the-dots class in kindergarten, that you are egotistical (at least in this context). (BTW, I assume that Dilbert readers all excelled at connect-the-dots).

"If I tell you I'm good, you would probably think I'm boasting. If I tell you I'm no good, you know I'm lying." -- Bruce Lee
Oct 28, 2013
I've worked with many people over the years who appear the have an "unduly high opinion" of themselves, despite much empirical evidence to the contrary. By broad consensus, these people are bad with interpersonal relationships and incompetent in their jobs. But nothing seems to disrupt their complacent belief in their own self worth.

By your definition, one could call the egotistical, but I usually just called them as&%$les.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 28, 2013
I vote this as the funniest comeback for an unwarranted attempt at charactor assassination that I've ever heard.

"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."
Oct 28, 2013
You're overanalyzing. When folks call you egotistical-or anything else-they arent referring to a definition out of a dictionary but to the definition in their head. Kind of like what you just did right now in defining what it means to have someone tell you you have an unduly high opinion of yourself. Folks dont have to have an unduly high opinion of themselves to tell if someone has an unduly high opinion of themself.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 28, 2013
Like all authors, Scott needs to self-promote in order for his writing to be financially successful. That can seem egotistical to an outsider.

n.b. Harlan Ellison (http://harlanellison.com/heboard/unca.htm?num=100) has written about this topic more eloquently than I ever could. You just have to dig through the pages on his site to get to the juicy bits.

Oct 28, 2013
I think I would add "thin-skinned" too.
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Oct 28, 2013
I thing labeling someone as egotistical typically means the accusee is doing something the accuser wishes they could also do but can't.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 28, 2013
I think labeling someone egotistical means the accusee is probably better at something that the accuser deems important enough to feel jealous or envious about.

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