The I in Writing

Is it egotistical to use yourself as your main frame of reference when writing?

Ever since I started using the “drop cap” feature on my blog posts, which makes the first letter of the first word of the first paragraph extremely large, I’ve noticed that I start a lot of my posts with “I”. Does this mean that I’m narcissistic? Egotistical? Or at the very least, self-absorbed?

I touched upon this in a blog post I wrote long ago, when I was kicked out of a storytelling group and the moderator decided to send me on my way with a heaping helping of harsh criticism. I now realize that the guy was an a$$, but I still struggle with the egotism label he decided to place upon me. That kind of self-doubt is a bit of a slippery slope.

Would an egotistical person recognize egotism in her, him, or themselves? I’m thinking probably not. Who would want to knowingly take on that bad look? So, if I’m egotistical, I’d struggle to know it, and… I am struggling.

So I started Googling, as one does, and I found several articles, but this one seemed to resonate the most with me. 15 Signs You Might Be Egotistical felt kind of like a test. I read through it and gave myself points. I figured that the higher my score, the more egotistical I must be. Check out the article for the specific signs, but what follows is my reaction thereto.

  • Well, I’m not a big shopper, and I don’t have any desire to have the latest version of anything. I definitely don’t try to keep up with the Kardashians.
  • But I have to admit that I’m a gossip.
  • I don’t expect lots of praise. In fact, it usually shocks me.
  • I do tend to interrupt a lot, but I also try to check myself when I do, so I’ll give myself a half point for that one.
  • I definitely do not hold a position of power. (Unless you’re a sailboat wanting to get from one side of my bridge to the other.)
  • I don’t think I’m overwhelming. Actually, most of the time I’m overlooked, and I kind of like it that way.
  • I don’t think I hate losing but I do want to understand why I’m being asked to do things a certain way, and tend to chew on the subject until it makes sense to me, which seems to drive those around me nuts.
  • I absolutely adore learning new things from others.
  • I’m always sending out kudos emails when my coworkers do something great, and I genuinely believe that if you allow others to shine, you, too, will look good.
  • I have to admit that I don’t like admitting when I’m wrong.
  • I am definitely opinionated, but I’m always surprised when I find out that people think that means I expect them to agree with me. So another half point there.
  • I’ve never felt entitled to anything in my life, and I’m grateful when good things come my way.
  • I am drawn to unique characters. I don’t pick my friends strategically.
  • I do have a hard time playing on a team, but that’s not because I think I’m better than anyone else, but rather because I’m an introvert. (We introverts are often mislabeled as “stuck up”.)
  • I definitely do have low self-esteem, but the concept of being able to act cool and confident to hide this from others kind of makes me laugh. I have never managed to pull that off.

So, based on my self-assessment, I score a 4.5 out of 15 on my impromptu ego scale. I’m definitely no saint, but I think I can mingle amongst civilized people.

But does that mean I’m in denial? Why does this matter so much to me? Why am I so obsessed with how I am perceived, especially when the person who started me down this twisted path is himself an a$$? And look how many times I’ve used the word I in this post. Am I self-absorbed? Can anyone see themselves clearly? And why do I think you’d care enough to read up to this point?

Well, I can answer that last one, at least. A lot of times I write without considering that there might be an audience. It’s like therapy, and if someone does read it and relates, there’s the bonus that they might feel less alone. That would be wonderful.

At the risk of sounding like I protest too much, I have to say that I spend the bulk of my time alone, so it’s natural that I use myself as my main frame of reference. I imagine myself standing within my body but getting my greatest thrills from looking outward. I am a born observer. I enjoy learning new things, and I am always amazed at how much more there is to know. I love to travel and learn about other cultures, because it reminds me that “our” way isn’t the “only” way, and quite often it isn’t even close to the “best” way.  I like gardening without chemicals, for the benefit of the creatures who visit our yard. I like keeping my little free library stocked and I love seeing the delight on the faces of the people who use it. I try to help others as much as I can, because heaven knows I’ve been helped quite a bit along the way.

Is any of that egotstical? If so, I think I can live with it. But then again, I did just write all about me… so maybe I’m a narcissist. Hmmmm…

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Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

6 thoughts on “The I in Writing”

  1. Dear Bridge Operator (a profession of the highest calling), one of the most valuable takeaways from Al-Anon, for me, has been applying the axiom, “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.” Remembering this frees up at least six days of my week. Women-heavy 12-Step meetings go a far distance in keeping me relatively sane and have since I started down the rocky path of seeking self-acceptance even before I graduated from Woodside Women’s Treatment Center (Class of ‘88, majoring in No More Valium to Dull the Feelings with a minor in Impulse Control). A non-drinking alcoholic since 1977, and an ex-cigarette smoker since 1972, I’ve yet to walk/crawl away from the co-dependency that sneaks up and tyrannizes me when I am not looking. Speaking for myself, a septuagenarian not that far from octogenarian-hood, thus young enough not to give up on seeking Serenity, I must keep an “I” (eye?) on my motives. To proselytize a bit, AA literature proclaims “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” The short version of this is “Live and Let Live.” Which I work on letting myself do every single day. Reading your blog reminds me that we are all in this business of becoming together. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much, Sharon!
      (I’m Barb, by the way. Nice to meet you!)
      I have to say that if you’re not writing a blog yourself, you should be. I can sense quite a few fascinating stories within you that I’d love to hear. And I’m extremely impressed with your perseverance and your survival skills, too!
      I think I over-analyze because as a bridgetender, I get plenty of time to get way up inside my cluttered head. It doesn’t serve me well. But after 21 years in this career, the habit is very entrenched.
      We are, indeed, all in this together. And that gives me comfort, especially when I meet interesting people like you. I hope you’ll continue reading and giving us your insight. Thanks again!

  2. There’s so many times you could’ve dropped an “I” or restructured a sentence to avoid using an “I” but it would probably make your post seem more casual and require your reader to make assumptions. Perhaps your heavy use of I’s, is in your mind, necessary for clarity and to accurately communicate your point to your readers. Try rewriting this post without so many and observe how it makes you feel. You might gain some new insight into your subconscious motives, as a writer, and realize it has nothing to do with true narcissism. I’ve been put through hell by several genuine narcissists and you don’t have a glimmer of their selfish cruelty. You do tend, however, to let narcissistic comments feed the self-doubt that all those abused as children have to conquer daily. Those scars are permanently etched onto our psyches, but we don’t have to let them rule our hearts. We can love ourselves, scars and all, and be proud of who we’ve managed to become with a hundred capital I’s and not be egotistical.

    1. That sounds like a really enlightening exercise. I will definitely have to try that. (That will definitely have to be tried by me? Ugh.)
      And as for the ravenous nature and the unhealthy eating habits of my self-doubt, you are absolutely, totally, completely correct.
      On good days, I reject the judgment of fools. On bad days… not quite yet. We are all works in progress, aren’t we? Life would be so boring without challenges!
      But thank you, as always, for your insight and encouragement. It means a lot to me.

      1. Look! Progress already. You only used two I’s. 🙂 Knowing how much you love a challenge, you could progress further and omit all the “me’s” and “my’s”, but then “you” would disappear and your honesty about your personal struggles is what makes this blog interesting and helpful. Trust your faithful readers to let you know when your me’s, I’s and my’s have taken up too much space on this page.

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