Thought Catalog

Romanticism, Selfishness and Hypocrisy

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On International Women’s Day I went to a Toril Moi lecture. It was about a novel by Simone de Beauvoir and it was being given in honor of a fellow at another college who had died recently. The first thing I thought when Toril Moi stood up on stage was, well, she’s hotter than I thought. I felt that I should not have thought that. But why did I think that?

I combine chauvinism with prudishness. That could be a definition of Romanticism. Why do I tell myself I’m proud of the fact that I have never slept with somebody I didn’t love? It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. I would have slept with Toril Moi in a second. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Maybe it would have felt weird and wrong. Is this feeling of pride just a way of excusing myself for not having slept with more people? Why would that warrant an excuse?

In High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character cares mainly about men, not women. When he finds out his first girlfriend got married to the boy who stole her from him, he is happy. Being dumped for the future husband is like being knocked out of the playoffs by the team that will go on to win, and that’s okay. So is it all about some great big score-board in the sky?

I lose interest in girls when I hear they’ve slept with people who did not love them, or whom they didn’t love, or really anyone. I hate the thought of anyone I know sleeping with anyone at all. Except me, obviously. I think that the saddest thing about love is knowing that there were other lovers before you. I don’t even allow myself to think there will be others after. Does that mean I’m just worried that I won’t live up to the memories of other men?

Love is a way you can escape from being crushed by not being the best. There’s always someone better than you, even at the thing you do best in the world. I find that hard to live with. But the thing about love is that you can find someone for whom you’re the best person in the world. But what if you’re not? What if she’s thinking about someone else? How can there be more than one best person?

I think a part of love is trusting someone totally. I think it is, unlike most things in life, about intentions and not outcomes. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t buy the flowers that you wanted to buy or if the shop just happened to be closed (look up the Wendy Cope poem, “Flowers”). But it does matter if you want to sleep with someone else, even if you don’t. Is that true? And so then why wasn’t I completely trustworthy when I felt like I was in love? How can love be about trusting but not be about being trustworthy?

Shyness is an excuse, maybe, but it’s also a kind of narcissism. In my experience, the really humble people are often the most outgoing. They are more interested in other people than themselves. Like the believers who walk out into the road without looking, they know that if they die (out there, on that stage) they’re going to heaven anyway. In bed at night when I feel lonely, I think of someone being there with me, not of me being there with someone.

I want to perform (and frequently imagine) romantic gestures of great scope and artistry. For someone? But mainly to make myself look good and to justify myself. I only want to put one point up on the score-board. But it has to be the greatest, most magnificent, most virtuosic, timeless point that anyone has ever scored, because it’s all about me. TC mark

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More From Thought Catalog

Romanticism, Selfishness and Hypocrisy is cataloged in , , , ,
  • YO

    (unreal tournament voice): FIRRSTACULARRRRRR

    • LO


      • YO

        undiluted 14-year-old testosterone is throbbing through my aorta
        enhanced by dorito dust crystals

  • federico

    i love that picture, the one used as a thumbnail

    • YO

      -it's by romanticist painter Caspar David Friedrich.
      -most famous for the painting on the front of the barnes and noble classics edition of “thus spoke zarathustra”.
      -high school bros see this guy on the mountaintop and think, “that's how I feel”, and copy “He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary” out of the “from inside “thus spoke zarathustra”” section into their moleskine
      -moleskines are ok notebooks.

      • federico

        i dont like that one

      • sharksaregreat

        the original picture was also used for islands first disc, return to the sea

  • kdub

    “Shyness is an excuse, maybe, but it’s also a kind of narcissism. In my experience, the really humble people are often the most outgoing. They are more interested in other people than themselves. Like the believers who walk out into the road without looking, they know that if they die (out there, on that stage) they’re going to heaven anyway. In bed at night when I feel lonely, I think of someone being there with me, not of me being there with someone.”

    i am a little high, but i really thought this insight was amazingly accurate.

    also liked the rest of the piece. thanks a lot.

    • tomc759


  • Wilf

    Life is so sad. There is an inherent sadness to love that does not last a lifetime. But you have to find the hope in each love, and know that for the time (and hopefully a long time afterward), you were best for that person. They chose you. And you chose them. You can think someone is hot. A fleeting thought is different from a malignant intention. Actions do matter. And /real/ intentions matter. You're not any more of a terrible person than anyone else. And love is real, even if it's not the first.

    • tomc759

      Thanks Wilf. Did you know there's a charater called Wilf in a commonly-used set of early-learning children's books here in England? Remembering them is making me smile. Anyway, I appreciate your comment, I feel like you sincerely want me to feel better, and so I do.


    This shouldn't be buried on a Friday night.

    • tomc759

      Thanks, that's nice of you to say!

  • megan

    sex really is the only important thing in life, isn't it?

  • Wercyk

    great, thank you.

  • Guest

    best new dating site ever! craigslist personals who?

  • Sarah

    “Shyness is an excuse, maybe, but it’s also a kind of narcissism. In my experience, the really humble people are often the most outgoing. They are more interested in other people than themselves.”

    I agree that shyness is a kind of narcissism, but I think just as many outgoing people can be thoroughly narcissistic. Maybe you could have positive and negative narcissism. Whereas a shy person would be negatively narcissistic (he assumes that there is nothing about him that would interest someone else), the outgoing person could be positively narcissistic (he assumes that his life is inherently interesting and everyone wants to hear about it).

    • tomc759

      I think you're right. It's definitely true that not all outgoing people are humble. But is it true (as I claim) that most humble people are outgoing? I think what I'd like for myself is to be both humble and outgoing, so maybe I'm just projecting that as a 'type'.

      • Sarah

        Is humility the same as unselfconsciousness?

      • tomc759

        I'd rather say that unselfconsciousness is a symptom of humility.

  • RamonaCC

    This is really, really lovely.

  • Pfft

    jesus christ, get over yourself.

    • Charley

      Ironic because the painting chosen as the thumbnail, by Friedrich, is all about celebrating our devleopment while admitting that at any time some higher power (mother nature) can destroy us. There's nothing wrong with thinking you're great, and if anything, I think this piece shows the author's acknowledgment of his realization that he's not…

    • tomc759

      I feel like this is what I'm trying to do here, but if you think I haven't succeeded yet I guess you'd be right.

  • anonymous

    Nice and narcissistic, just the way the laydeez like it.

  • dhth
  • Juliejc5

    Re: “Shyness is an excuse, but it's also a form of narcissism…”

    Shyness when it comes to relationships or shyness in general?

    • Ruthlezz

      shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life that you want too…

    • tomc759

      Well shyness only occurs in a social context, which entails relationships of some kind – but not necessarily romantic/sex relationships, so in that sense yeah the point is general I think.

  • AlexR

    I think this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. I am, truly, a shy person, and when I first saw your comment on another page, I immediately clicked on the article to read and prove your theory wrong, but, now that I've seen the overall article, I have to say that I agree with you in saying that shyness is a type of narcissism, even when you don't want to approach someone because you might feel inferior or whatever, it STILL is you thinking of yourself. ::nods approvingly, even though you don't need it or ask of it:: Really made me think… I'm so quoting you in a conversation sometime in the future.

    • tomc759

      Hey, thanks for this, it made me feel good. I hope the effect was to make you feel less like being shy!

  • devin howard

    one brief question: are you questioning the moral or ethical implications of your own self-diagnosed narcissism, or are you questioning the socialized disapproval of narcissistic behavior? I did like it though.

    • tomc759

      The first, although the second is interesting too; it's just that what other people have correctly said here – that there are different kinds of shyness – makes the broader social dimension problematic.

      • devin howard

        Yeah, what I found interesting is that, contrary to what we are culturally and socially conditioned to believe, there really isn't anything inherently wrong with narcissism or self-interest. Thats a broad and general statement, I know, but it seems that narcissism or selfishness has the same objective worth as any other mode or 'type' of personality shy of things that directly harm or oppress other people.

        Ok, let me try this: what I am saying is that narcissism is Amoral not Immoral, despite the fact that it is typically associated with or characterized as part and parcel of immorality or unethical behavior. I think your piece does a great job of making that distinction, of exposing a misconception.

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