definition of conceit, definition of conceited

an original definition by J. E. Brown

  1. Self-deceived.
  2. To be conceited means to believe better of oneself than the evidence would indicate. Often seen in personal ads, esp. of those who believe themselves to be attractive, youthful, or thin, against all photographic evidence to the contrary. Conceit often shows up as denial, as seen in rude people who believe they are good housemates, and in abusive people who believe themselves to be good marriage material. Also in certain talent show contestants who falsely believe that they can sing. ;^)
    Often accompanied by denial that one’s actions reflect badly on one’s character.

  1. Self-deceit.
  2. An attitude of “Other people are judged by their actions; but I must be judged by my self-image and my intentions.” (Double Standard)
  3. Any attempt to deceive others by substituting self-serving alternative viewpoints.
    Example: “I know I robbed that bank, but I really needed the money. And yes, I scared all of those hostages, but I’m really not like that, I’m a good person, I’m just misunderstood. I don’t deserve to be in prison. Please let me go!”
    Example: “No, I wasn’t leading you on; I was only trying to be nice.”
  4. Having a tendency to exaggerate one’s own acts of tokenism, as if they were the pattern of one’s life.
    Example: A person who once gave a box of canned goods to the poor, and now describes herself this way: “I believe in helping the needy.”

Accusations of conceit are popular among verbal abusers.
Example: “Do you think you’re perfect?”

Related: Paranoia. Paranoids, specifically those suffering from delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution, have both been described as having an inflated sense of importance, a sense of having been singled out for special treatment. These delusions seem to be far removed from the land of simple conceit, but sometimes I meet people who fit somewhere in the middle, who make me wonder if it’s all the same continuum; for examples, see the excerpts below.

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

Conceited persons often behave as if their Bible reads:

The rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to you. In particular, even the structure of reality has special rules where you are concerned. And where people other than you are concerned, the rules differ. Consider the man who steals an apple from a neighbor: he has stolen, he has committed an act of theft, and so, obviously, he is a thief. In those four simple words, his action becomes a statement about who he is and what he is. But those same rules don’t apply to you: If you steal an apple from a neighbor, it must be because you were hungry, and because the neighbor left his gate open, and because your neighbor never told you you couldn’t have an apple. :^)

— J. E. Brown

I once changed my answering machine message to say,

“If you’re a friend or family member, press 1 now.
(pause) If you’re a drug dealer, prostitute, or telemarketer, press 2 now.
(pause) I’m sorry, no one is available to take your call. Please leave a message.”

One day a telemarketer called. He seemed really worked up. He left this message:

I am a telemarketer. I am not the enemy. I am not the enemy!

That’s a perfect example of what “conceit” means: Being blind to what you are.

— J. E. Brown

So much of guilt is the process of looking for ways to salvage one’s self-esteem, even in the face of absolute proof of one’s worthlessness or selfishness. Sometimes conceit becomes the replacement for goodness, and enables the recovery of some sense of rectitude, however false and self-serving and delusional that sense may be. This version of the guilt process is very much analogous to the formation of a scab, under which a scar forms, a kind of a self-protective, false, pale, numb replacement for what ought to be there. When lessons are not learned, guilt only produces armor against future conflicts.

Thus, the Guilt Process becomes a way of hardening oneself against feeling guilty for the same crime a second time. It becomes a way of saying “I’ll never apologize for that behavior again. I will find a way to rationalize the wrong I did; I will find a way to spin it. The real crime here is that I was accused. The real tragedy is not that someone else got hurt, but that I was caught without this great explanation.”

For narcissists, the guilt process becomes a way of convincing oneself that “I’m innocent, everyone else is guilty, everyone else is the problem.” For narcissists, guilt is a growth process. Guilt gets twisted into a time for developing rationalizations, not for behavioral change.

If you’re going to relieve yourself of guilt, just be careful who you relieve yourself on.

— J. E. Brown

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2nd edition 16 Aug 2009
1st edition 20 Nov 2005

about the author

J. E. Brown, relationship activist, decided in 1987 that verbal abuse will be wiped off the planet.

He has been working on it ever since.

While writing a book on relationships, he occasionally designs online surveys and writes educational materials for this web site.

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