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Showing posts with label Self-Help. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Self-Help. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 May 2019

My Experience With Unbound Publishing

My Experience With Unbound Publishing

I’ve written a book! My second book, boast be told. But it's not a silly fictional vanity piece this time! It's a real book! With potential real-life prospects which could potentially help real-life people! Amazing! So cool! Big stuff! Loud noises!

It’s called Heartbreak Sucks! How to Get Over Your Ex in 30 Days and, truly, how could I summarise the content any better than a sentence that specific? Oh boy, the pride excreting from my pores was measurable only in buckets. It took me years (off and on) to write and perfect this collection of pages until I believed they were strong enough to prop up such a bold title, and when I came out the other side, I sat back with this overwhelming aura of wowness. I knew I had something solid on my hands. I had done my research and any competing publications were nothing but a miserable dribble of condescending psychobabble and/or tongue-in-cheek solutions, either scraped hollow of humour and compassion or exclusively reliant on humour with no actual educational benefit. I had cracked the code! I managed to balance empathy with hilarity and I was going to save the whole fucking world with it!

Wherefore art thou, rodeo? I had written a book before, sure sure. It was called This is Your Brain on Drugs and my knack for self-explanatory titles was not lost here either. I self-published that jobby thanks to the generous fingers attached to curious hands attached to (mostly) actual friends who were good to other friends. Such lovely faces they were, sponsoring money over Indigogo until I had a big enough pile to get my thoughts printed and shipped all by myself. And to those who were there back there when, I still salute you so hard that I bruise my forehead. But while that approach worked perfectly for that moment in time, something about this particular path felt like it would be doing Heartbreak Sucks a slight disservice. This piece needed a larger cannon because it had a much greater chance of breaking into some sort of a popular market. And that meant MONEY. I mean, of course it also meant helping people too. But MONEY also.

Hence why I packed my hypothetical suitcase full of beans and embarked on a mission which ultimately turned out to be as painstaking as writing the book itself. I tried to find a publisher. I contacted quite a few in the end, sending each one a nice stack of documents according to their requested criteria which usually consisted of a personalised cover letter, a synopsis, a proposal, a writing sample, chapter summaries, a list of competing publications, my credentials, and whatever other custom text their eyes so desired. Hey, would you like this blatantly lucrative masterpiece of modern self-help literature? It might surprise you to find out that most companies never returned my message. Many others did, perhaps even an automated email simply to reject my proposal (which I appreciated anyway). However, there were three or so bigger names who did express definite interest in the project, but the conversations kinda fizzled out when our visions couldn’t quite align. Please note that none of this discouraged me in the slightest. On the contrary! Every worthwhile author’s story is built from a paper mache boat consisting primarily of refusal letters. If anything, this whole neglection process made me feel even more like a genuine writer, and I planned my award speech accordingly. You shall rue the fucking day!

My Experience With Unbound Publishing

This adventure took an interesting turn when a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder and pointed in a slightly different direction, pulling apart some bushes to reveal a glimmering utopia in the distance. It was a company called Unbound and to call their business model unique is a fair word while calling it genius is fairer still. How it works is simple, and can be split into two phases. First, they function almost identically to Kickstarter or Indiegogo, setting up a crowdfunding page where you can drive traffic, encouraging people to pledge money towards the book until you hit the target, nothing new there. However, if you managed to raise the cash, then the process flips into the more traditional publishing side, where Unbound print and deliver the product, as well as pushing additional copies into bookstores, leaving the author to sit back and relax, watching the magic happen with a glass of wine in one hand and a laugh in the other. What’s important to note is that it is next to impossible to convince stores to stock your writings when you’re a self-published author, so that was the aspect which truly salivated my teeth and reshaped my eyes into heart emojis before I even submitted the text. But then I pulled myself together, submitted the message, and was dismayed when the robot on their side informed me that it would take up to two months before they got back to me. Argh, why is everything so slow? I want it all and I want it now!

Actually, in this case, that kinda happened. An Unbound representative sent me an email the very next day, informing me that she was halfway through the book and she absolutely adored it! Say what?? We moved into the Skype dimension and made Wifi eye contact as we chatted about exhilarating prospects, this friendly lady throwing colourful confetti into my pupils, showering my work with praise, informing me about how excited she would be to take the project on. Oh my God, this was it! This was everything I had been waiting for! A professional company actually believed in me! I always knew those decades of interviewing myself in the shower would eventually pay off, and here I was, on the cusp of becoming a bonafide author who could walk into a bookstore and scribble his signature in the cover without getting arrested. Oh, the power! Oh, the irresponsibility! Naturally, I was ready to jump through whatever firey hoops and bark like a dog just to get this going, and I eagerly agreed to join the Unbound family pretty much right away. And with that, we set out a collaborative plan to take my voice to the masses.

First things first, she told me, was that we needed to raise £15,000. If I could go back in time to the moment this information was passed, I would have intentionally taken a big sip of coffee just so that I could dramatically spit it out like I was a cartoon. £15,000?? Jesus Chrysler Voyager Miles Davis, that’s a lot of money. In fact, as a full-time writer, that’s a fucking fortune. A figure that size could cover every one of my bills and meals for a year, and I was expected to raise that for a book? Noticing my O-shaped mouth, Unbound lady was quick to laugh it off, reassuring me that this is a large amount but they had achieved this many many times before. This was their job, they’d run hundreds of successful campaigns in their time, and all it would take was their extensive connections, my dedication, and a strategic approach in building a buzz. I eventually started breathing again. The steps seemed digestible and logical, as we compiled a list of potential promotional avenues, such as writing relationship articles for likeminded blogs to spread the word or attempting to create some sort of a viral marketing ploy where people told us their worst heartbreak stories ever. Certainly, these were fantastic ideas, and the calm this lady provided gave my confidence the space to grow.

My Experience With Unbound Publishing

Of course, as life has gone on, I have become very proficient at ignoring red flags, as have you, I'm sure. One of the most glaringly problematic of these flags was the increasing levels of difficulty trying to get hold of this representative. I’d estimate that I’d get one reply per every three of my emails, which was usually over a space of one week. I got so many Out of Office bounces from this account that I began to wonder what she even did for a living. Furthermore, my book was pdf-print-ready-to-go, but whenever we managed to converse she often spoke about replacing my artwork with someone else’s artwork, and what’s more, she asked if I knew anyone who would be willing to do so for free. There was also other small talk about changing the title, reordering the pedantically organised steps of my guide, and rewriting entire sections to be more focused upon my own personal sob backstory. My creative energy cringed at these suggestions, I felt the cells in my throat tense up in defence mode, but I nodded with a compliant grimace. I figured, hey, business is business, right? This is how it works in the life of artists. It’s about compromise, and at the end of the day, they’re the ones who have done this before, not me. I managed to convince myself that this was a learning curve and better days were just around the corner, even when I received the contract which included a clause granting them the first refusal for whatever my next book was going to be or else. Still, it’s easy to point fingers but I have spoken to people who work within the industry, and I’ve been assured that all of the above is completely standard. Certainly, there was a wall of internal resistance inside of me, but I can’t reasonably hold any of this against Unbound. This is regular publishing stuff, apparently.

Still, this did not exactly ease my mind, and when our decided launch date of Valentine’s Day kept rushing towards us with very little work completed, my courage dwindled into a thimble. I even have this in writing as I chatted with my sister around this time, whining about my gut instinct which was blaring warning alarms throughout my chemical pouches. Everything was wrong! There was less than a week to go and we were nauseatingly unprepared while my representative was nowhere to be found! Then, suddenly, she reappeared, exploding into my inbox with a flurry of demands, the most notable of which being that I needed to put together a video of me selling my book RIGHT NOW. My terror blasted me into action and within a day I had submitted her a script of what I thought accurately represented me and my product together as one. She responded by ruthlessly stripping out those sparkly Jared characteristics and signature humour while highlighting other essential info I somehow had to squeeze in there too. “Oh, and by the way, try and make sure it's under a minute in length, ok?”. I knew this was impossible short of speed-rapping her requirements alone, but I gave it a go and ultimately submitted a 2:30 video. It was the best I could do. But not good enough. She told me that I needed to trim another 30 seconds off at least. This was days before launch now. I had an actual job to do which actually paid me. But, eventually, somehow, by trimming literally every .5 second from any breath I could, I managed it. What choice did I have?

And then the stress finally hit the full stop punctuation point and stopped. By some miracle, the campaign was released on Valentine’s Day. We did it! I mean, I didn't love it, but we did it all the same. Unbound had reworded much of my provided bio text (while still referring to me in first-person, literally putting words into my mouth) and the imagery chosen was so off-brand that I wonder if she’d actually read the damn thing, but the point still stood. We did it. The overall encompassing vibe of the moment was a nice one. None of my friends knew about the project either so it brought me tremendous pleasure to finally announce that I had written a new book and, what’s more, a big company was involved. It really felt like I was on an escalator to a higher floor of artistic progression. It felt like it meant something important.

The response was immediately promising too, at least in words. Some of my friends got involved super quickly while others were having bank issues due to the heavy lifting of Valentine’s Day, and “promised” to jump in on payday. Regardless, the money was trickling in, at times with sizeable amounts, and I’d like to take a moment here to send a massive shoutout to David Whitney, Ammr Khalifa, Milz Dechnik, and Adam Hartley. You guys are everything, I have so much love for you, and what you contributed will not go unrewarded, that I promise! However, after the days passed, then the weeks passed, it became obvious that something was not quite working the same as it was in my dreamworld.

My Experience With Unbound Publishing

Just under a month later and we’d raised £856, which is good money, but in Unbound terms, a fucking terrible amount, stalling at only 4% of the required total (after tax). And by this point, I had started to nurture some truly harsh negative vibes within me. Looking at the stats now, 19 of the total 20 pledges were my friends and yet I still harnessed this instinctive pain to blame my friends for the lack of momentum. Payday had come and gone, endless reassurances had been made, but there was a severe absence of support from my mates. But once that unjustified feeling of animosity began to fade, the truth was as clear as L. Ron Hubbard. I actually didn’t want my friends to buy or even read this book unless they were suffering from heartbreak. This wasn’t some fucking charity plea here. I put together a legitimate self-help manual which was designed to assist people out of the pit of breakup depression. It was never intended as some avenue where friends could prove their worth to me by paying for my ideas. If I wrote this for my friends, I would happily give it to each one of them for free (and I still might). But even worse than this, was the spam. Oh God, the spam! Perpetually posting about this product on my social media feeds was filling my mouth with vomit. It was against everything I stood for, I felt shame every time I did so, and I felt that I shouldn’t need to plug something which spoke so loudly for itself. I truly think that if you have to incessantly beg for backing then your output simply isn’t good enough, which is a polite way of saying that, pretty soon, this whole project felt like an embarrassing failure before it had even been born. The depression monster received the invite and started tapping on the window. I looked over and I could see that he was vaping my pride, then blowing out a big cloud of strawberry flavoured humiliation. And in that moment, I became acutely aware of how much happier I had been before this dismal campaign entered my life.

I kept Unbound up to date with my concerns and when they finally responded a week later, the tone had sunk into more dismissive regions. Gone were the bright-smiled promises and optimistic back pats. Instead, there was an aura of slight disappointment and a, “Hey, look, you’re just not trying hard enough. Remember all the things we discussed from before? Finding places where you can write articles? The viral marketing crusade? Asking your parents for money? You’ve got to go and do all those things now.” Wait, I thought you said we were going to do all of those things? Like, together? Now you want me to go out do all of this by myself? I mean, it’s worth noting that you guys are TAKING 50% OF ALL PROFITS, and now you’re telling me that you’re not going to even help me to promote this anymore? What is it that you actually do? Why aren’t I just doing this all myself and getting all the money while I'm at it? And that’s when I realised... oh shit! I wasn’t a partner! I was a fucking customer.

By this time my emotional supply had sunk into a cold basement filling up with despair and the only relief I could locate in my mind was that fantasy where I pull the plug and the icky water swirled and drained and disappeared into gone gone land. Hence why when I found myself sucking on the dirty ceiling just to get oxygen, I knew I was losing some internal battle, and I did it. I wrapped my big toe around the chain and I pulled that plug. It was the path of least resistance. It was the only move I had left.

My Experience With Unbound Publishing

Unbound weren’t stoked, how could they be? Naturally, there was an immediate reaction of, “You signed a contract, child!” to which I scoffed, “Actually, if you check your records, you may find that you guys are so slack that you didn’t even follow that up, and I never signed anything.” Truly, somehow, this campaign went live on their system without me ever committing my name on anything. They sent the dotted line for me to sign, I said I would sign it, and then I changed the topic. Misdirection at its finest. That’s a little trick I’ve learned in my extensive years of playing business, don’t sign shit if your tummy is doing wobbles. And so now, as far as the law was concerned, there was never any agreement and my book was still my book. But like, LOL, hows does this even happen?? You would think a legit company would know better but I guess this is another big red warning flag towards their professionalism. Or, at very least, a lesson for them. You’re welcome!

Unbound agreed to remove my campaign off of their indexes but because the financing part of the operation is a different department, they said we’d have to wait until the campaign ran its 150-day course before they could fully shut it down and reimburse the money already raised. I’m not sure how much I trust this information, but short of getting upset, what is the solution? This means that if you were one of the kind souls who put cash towards my project (once again, thank you!) then you can expect a refund by what I estimate to be the 14th of July 2019. I’m sorry this won’t happen earlier, but I have no reason to believe that Unbound would fail at delivering this. No matter how unsettling my experience was, they are a legit organisation at the end of the day, and to steal £856 hardly seems worth the effort. I also want those who supported me to know that your names have been recorded in a special Google Doc for future reference and I will not let this act of generosity go uncompensated. I do this out of gratitude for your belief in my product, but I also do this because I want those who didn’t support it to feel immense regret. The devil is still a worthy ally when it comes to good ideas.

UPDATE: it has just come to my attention that Unbound DO NOT automatically refund the amount. Instead, you get "credits" on your account to spend on more books, but you can contact them and request that YOUR money be returned. I swear I will do everything I can to ensure this process takes place with minimal effort on your side, but EVERYONE, please use this information as a further precaution as to how strange this company is with many of its policies!!!

I'd like to wind this article down by emphasising my deepest respect for Unbound. At the time when my campaign was launched, famed MSPaint artist Jim’ll Paint It was just rounding up his own release on the platform (Of Mouse and Man: The Best of Jim'll Paint It) which was 242% funded when I last checked. I have no doubt in my mind that Jim was treated like royalty by Unbound and that his work was highly promoted in every way they could muster because that’s essentially how they operate. They’ll probably launch anything, it’s very little effort on their part to do so, and if it gains speed, then they’ll push it with all of their biggest muscles because, in the end, the printing costs automatically get covered by pledges and then they snatch 50% of the profits too. It’s clever and it makes sense. But if your campaign doesn’t show immediate promise, then you are a penny in the dust to them. If you can’t inspire that initial interest running in your favour, then why would they waste their resources on you? And I honestly have nothing against this strategy. But the thing is, for them, my book was just another potential egg which tumbled on their radar, which is something I fully understand. But for me, this book represented a very specific period of my life. A lot of personal pain live on these pages and it took a fuckton of strength to figure all of this out. I was not willing to strain myself trying to convince people of its worth, least of all a company who had 0% interest yet 50% to gain. Fuck that, even if it is such a shame that they will probably never work with me again.

The good news is that the book still exists and it's completely under my control. And what’s even more important to recognise here is the educational aspect of this whole mess, something which I already knew but has once again reaffirmed itself in my source code. It’s that I must never ever let anyone else ever touch my art ever ever again. I felt my creative self being churned through a meat grinder during this process, and nothing is worth feeling like a hotdog, especially when you’re a vegetarian. Sure, I want money and I want fame as much as the next guy, but if I receive such things on someone else’s terms by following someone else’s pathway, then we better be talking trucks of money and fame, neither of which Unbound could possibly promise me. This book is my baby and I want to treat it the same way I treat the rest of my creative spawn, and that is basically via the fuck everyone ethos. Don’t tell me how to raise my creations. Only I know what’s good for them. And if I’m wrong and I die as a hungry unknown, then so fucking be it. I will suckle on my integrity and my eventual spirit will enter the next realm twisted but with every piece in place.

Which is to say, the book is coming! And it will come how I want it to come, which is exactly how I like to come. What's more, the profits will be mine all mine. Watch this space. Don’t stop watching. Never turn away. Don’t even blink, or you lose this game.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Narcissism

Narcissism

In my experience, most people misunderstand what narcissism actually is, as did I for a large portion of my life. Usually, we tend to regard the archetypal narcissist as someone who carries an unreasonable gigantic sense of self-worth, probably to the point of delusion, demanding adoration due to some belief of entitlement, aggressively boasting about their achievements, dominant in conversation, ruthlessly chasing recognition, if you disagree, you are wrong, they are right, end of fucking story. Does this definition sound accurate to you? It should. Because it is. What we are looking at here is known as the “grandiose narcissist”, a behavioural trait which can often be somewhat of a blessing, successfully utilised by many celebrities, politicians, and other high profile figures to demand what they want until they get it. Donald Trump has become the quintessential example of this subcategory of narcissism, and for very good reason. His fantastical ego is so loud that it even managed to convince other people around him of its self-proclaimed value, and then the guy proceeded to rise up the ladder until he became the President of the United States of America. Regardless of your opinion, that’s an impressive feat. I have never met anyone who has become the president of a country before.

Due to this general preconception of what narcissism is, it has become quite an ugly term, synonymous with arrogance and an aura of superiority, which certainly is true. But what people always forget is that this is a legitimate mental illness, diagnosable and destructive, on par with other such cerebral disturbances to the likes of schizotypal PD, OCD, and paranoid personality disorder. And yet, we are much more likely to dissociate this particular disorder from its darker counterparts, which truthfully, is somewhat understandable. It's because narcissists are selfish assholes, and for the most part, they don’t seem to think they have anything wrong with them. On the contrary, they think they have everything right with them, as is the very core of the problem.

Of course, it is human nature to label things to the deepest of levels, and with a small amount of research, you’ll soon discover that grandiose narcissism is just a box within a box within a box, and there are other boxes which may not be as colourful or noticeable than this example, but they deserve to be observed all the same. And with that, may I introduce to you the box which I am going to be focusing upon today, which is known as “vulnerable narcissism”. The reason as to why I am going to concentrate on this particular box, is because I, myself, am a vulnerable narcissist, hello.

These two specific forms of narcissism are often lumped into the same category because they have many similar manifestations. With both, you are looking at a morally questionable individual with a high level of arrogance, so much so that they will feel superior to anyone they meet whilst lacking a significant amount empathy towards anyone else’s troubles unless they somehow benefit the narcissist's own journey. It’s terrible when you break it down like that, but what’s even worse is, as a narcissist, you can’t believe that other people don’t see these things from your exact perspective. Why aren't they completely agreeing with everything I say? It’s madness.

Narcissism

However, as subtle as it may seem at first, there are various approaches you can use to tell these two subcategories apart, the most obvious of which would be self-esteem. Grandiose narcissists have all of the self-esteem in the world. Vulnerable narcissists have none of it. Challenge a narcissist’s achievements and if they get angry and possibly attack you with belittlements, then they are probably dealing with the grandiose nature. Meanwhile, challenge a vulnerable, and we will just about have an emotional meltdown. We can’t face criticism, we live in permanent fear of rejection, and we require a constant flow of external validation simply to feel like a normal human being, a justification we simply cannot create ourselves. This whole mess stems from a timid place of inadequacy which we overcompensate for by puffing out our ego chests and hoping someone will notice our brilliance. Attention, recognition, and reassurances are the fuel for our lives, and if we don’t get it, we melt into a bowl of depression and do not possess the tools needed to pull ourselves together again. Not quite the shouty narcissist you had in mind, right?

The good news is that the vulnerables are far easier to get along with than the grandioses, because we’re more modest, more introverted, and more likely to believe that we’re better than you in silence. The bad news is that our little mental issues frequently hold us back, unlike our grandiose narcissistic box partners, who are propelled forward by their “ailment”. I definitely feel like I got the short end of the narcissi-stick here, but nobody chooses to have problems. It’s always your parents’ fault anyway, isn’t it?

Speaking of which, it was since forever that I knew something was fundamentally wrong with me, but I was always so proficient at blaming other things. Without delving too much into my personal background, the most immediate indicators of my troubles came from two very predictable sources: social media and romantic relationships. As far as my online presence is concerned, my every move is in some way designed to encourage validation from my followers, which was fine, because I usually get it. Furthermore, I hear millennials have a similar validation problem, but they call it “simply using Instagram”. Regardless, there have been occasions when I don't receive the validation I requested. I post something which nobody responds to, and my reaction to this tragedy may be a little too dramatic for a 34-year-old male, some might say. Time slows down and I’d immediately equate my entire self worth to be measurable by this one single post, forgetting everything else in my life that I have ever done, the past was irrelevant, I am now this post, nothing but this post, and this post is nothing. There were times that half an hour would slide on by without a single Like and my world would have already crumbled. My anxiety would choke my breath, I’d curse my lack of personality, I'd realise that I was never funny to begin with, people were finally catching on that I had never said anything funny ever before, my friends were sick of me, they all hated me, it was inevitable anyway, I had a good run, my day had come. My finger then hovers over the delete button, it is time to quit social media for good. And then, for whatever reason, the Likes would eventually dribble in, potentially even just a delay on the server side, and suddenly my self-perception would shift and the sun would shine again, evaporating whatever that silly doubtful hiccup was only seconds ago. Actually, come to think of it, I knew that post was really funny!

With all that said, social media is easy come, easy go. If a post fails, you can always post another one, keep on batting until you hit a home run, it only takes one to tango. But relationships with other individuals? That’s a much more complicated game. Especially in regards to an intimate romantic partnership between two people, because that's where you are looking at a breed of validation so all-encompassing and intense that it is impossible to recreate using any other form. Here is a human being (usually an attractive human being, because I’m shallow and I have taste) who has publicly announced that you are worthy of their love. They have taken a moment to turn and face you and dedicate their time and mind and body to you, agreeing that you are so cool that a fixed agreement is in their benefit. They want to share their foreseeable future with you, granting you the honour of being the first person they speak to when they have news, as well as awarding your genitals with the exclusive access to their corresponding genitals. And by allowing them the same, then there is this magical love thing which grows, which is, without a doubt, the best way to verify every corner of your existence. Because if this perfect specimen, chiselled by the hands of God himself, has approved your being here, then who gives a rat’s fuck what anyone else thinks, right?

Narcissism

The ugliness comes when these relationships end. And in my case, this always happens, point proven that I am currently single as I type this, and I am also in the middle of destroying any chances of ever finding love again by using this very blog you read now. Like everyone, I’ve had varying degrees of breakups in my life. Some were a flaming aeroplane nosediving into concrete, while some were pathetic fizzles like coughing on a candle. But there was always one similar pattern which has festered throughout each and every one of these upsets: I’ve struggled to let them go, which is a polite way of saying that I have never let any of them go, not one of them, ever. With each dissolution, there was a vacuum which opened up inside of me and licked my ego down to the wooden centre stick, completely discrediting my worth as a person to such an nth degree that no amount of social media reactions could even begin to stitch my former me together. I’ve spent so many years attempting to fill that hole much the same way any crack addict would: with more crack. What's worse is that my self-esteem is so forever crippled by the narcissism infection, that my confidence falls down in turn, meaning that I lack the courage to ever hunt a new vagina, because why would anyone hook up with someone so unvalidated as myself? Hence why I’d so often spend those darker times spinning on my heels and then moving backwards, chasing former lovers with the foam of desperation drooling from my mouth. And I don’t just mean, like, the immediately previous ex-girlfriend either. I mean all of them, even the ones I broke up with over a decade ago. At times I would catch myself texting two or three exes the exact same hopeless message in the space of 10 minutes, a mournful cry for reconciliation with someone, anyone, anything (which, by the way, has never worked). Stranger still is that I can easily step out of myself and rationalise that my reasons for doing this are not because I actually want to be with these people. It didn't work before, it won't work again, I know this. Rather, it’s because I am weak and I know these girls were happy to fuck me once upon a time, so surely I’m closer to the finish line with them than any others? I've obviously already fucked every girl who would ever fuck me, I’m useless, people are figuring it out, I’m full of shit, they are seeing through me, I fucked up, I should have married her when I had the chance and now I am going to die alone in some embarrassing masturbatory position.

As it is with everyone, the initial raw wounds do crust and scab and get better over time, but until I get into another full-fledged relationship, there is this perpetual blistering agony within my life which will remain open and sore. It’s officially known as “relationship-contingent self-esteem” and if films are anything to go by, it’s a fairly common human condition. Curiously, none of my ex-girlfriends seem to have this problem, but that's probably because they can't stand me. Regardless, if this is something you relate to you, I want to give you some advice and warn you to not do what I'm about to tell you, no matter how positive it may initially seem.

In my experience, it only takes roughly a million crazy thoughts before your brain automatically goes into defence mode and starts to reprimand you, shoving an endless strew of evidence into your face, illustrating how senseless you’ve become followed by an urgent request that you develop a plan to sort this mental mess out. And so here’s the story of how I attempted to do just that. I went online and compiled a list of all the personality and mood disorders I could find, and then I proceeded to complete online quizzes after online quizzes of each of these examples, using them to evaluate just what I might be dealing with here. Guaranteed accurate results, right? Actually, you’d be surprised, as many disorders quickly fell off of the list as I laughed at how far away I was from their tormenting claws, haha, sorry for you! Meanwhile, certain tests did blast big red flares into the air and then I’d explore those issues further, using other test sources as well as reading online medical journals to uncover their trademark symptoms, locating deeper and deeper boxes within each box, endless fun really. Some factors rang true, some rang sort of true, and some did not ring at all, but pretty soon it became undeniably clear that I was suffering from a vulnerable narcissistic personality disorder, which I think is something I may have mentioned before, spoiler alert hindsight oops.

I confided in one very clever friend about this discovery and she was quick to brush it off, using a smart analogy to the effect of, “Look, Jared, there are alcoholics in this world, and then there are people with drinking problems. Alcoholics have a disease. Narcissistic personality disorder is an illness. You're certainly a narcissist, but your narcissism is just the equivalent of drinking too much. It’s probably not an illness”. She definitely had a point. For here I am, shouting out that I have this debilitating mental issue like it was a doctor who told me, whereas truthfully, it has been self-diagnosed. No medical professional has legitimately stamped my forehead with the term. However, you must believe me when I tell you that I have read extensively on the topic. I have studied it using papers which these very medical professionals would have used. I may not have a degree in psychology but that's because I don’t have any interest in studying every brain complication known to man. I’m only interested in my own brain complications. Sure, I can understand why this lack of professional evaluation may damage my case, but allow me to guarantee you right now that I could walk into any therapist's office, lie down on that hypothetical couch, and get this official diagnoses within one single session. I have done the investigation and this is what came out. I did not go seeking this particular ailment, it found me, and I was legitimately surprised by the result (even though it makes so much sense when I reflect upon my entire life). But fuck me and fuck you, take my word for it or don’t, it's not actually that important. Because whether you think I have this disorder, or whether you think I do not, or even if you couldn't care less, there is more to this story anyway. I've only just started.

Narcissism

What it came down to, was this: once I had concluded that vulnerable narcissism was my enemy, I skipped on my merry way with a cartoon-sized magnifying glass, determined to locate clues, unearth footprints, accuse the potential causes, and then defeat these engrams by using Wikipedia’s Treatment section. This is a rare pathway of recovery for any narcissist to pursue because, usually, narcissists don’t pursue any path of recovery whatsoever. They don’t think they have a problem, they just think they’re the greatest. But me, I was greater than that. I was the greatest narcissist ever! That was a joke. What wasn’t a joke, however, was that I slowly but surely began to successfully unravel bits of this jumble, and when I did, all hell broke loose.

Here’s another fun fact! Almost every narcissistic personality has actually been developed by the mind as a defence mechanism, and reportedly 25% - 40% of these cases are due to a much darker underlying issue known as borderline personality disorder. There are plenty of similarities between these two troubled nuisances (the insecurities, the abandonment issues, the destructive relationships etc) hence why they often get confused with one another. But, there are several exciting highlights specific to borderline that you should know about, and here are just a few of my favourites: feelings of emptiness; feelings of being unlovable; major anxiety and depression; flipping between intense love and intense hatred for another individual; self-destructive behaviour like drugs or promiscuity or self-harming; bouts of extreme paranoia; and a general sense of suicidal everything. Hmmm, those do sound familiar. It’s no wonder, then, that so many borderlines sharpen their inner turmoil towards a place where they are the King of the Universe, otherwise, how else were they supposed to function with that many painful worlds inside of their heads?

Just for the record, I’m not saying that I’ve diagnosed myself with borderline personality disorder as well. I feel like such a claim may be acting out of my jurisdiction. I might as well diagnose myself with PTSD while I’m out giving free mental illnesses here, because then at least I could prescribe myself diazepam. But what I’m getting at is that there was definitely something lying beneath my narcissism, something I had never seen before, and it wasn’t friendly. For as I began to erode away at this defence mechanism, a crack of my deeper self was exposed, and then there I was, staring into the eye of one of the most disheartening discoveries about myself that I had ever met. It was that I most likely suck.

My whole life has been mobilised by an inner voice, an inkling of sorts, assuring me that I was something special, something great, destined for an eventual position on the highest of podiums. And while a predominant characteristic of narcissistic behaviour is that we tend to exaggerate our accomplishments to make them seem bigger to other people, I truly believe that I have never done that. Although, that’s what a narcissist would say, right? Regardless, my CV speaks for itself and if anyone has cared to follow my artistic journey, they would have to admit that I’m not all talk and I do work really hard. Please forgive me as I spend the next while boasting about these achievements, as it is important for the paragraph after the next. Bear with me, we’re nearly at the punchline. But the truth is that lots of people talk about starting bands and recording albums and playing shows, and yet some of them never do. I’ve written and recorded hundreds upon hundreds of songs by now (solo and with bands) and played many shows (solo and with bands) even once at the O2 (mumble Academy2 Islington mumble mumble). Other people have a life ambition to one day author a book. I’ve written two, one of which has already been self-published, the next one coming soon (I hope). On that note, any writer would be happy if millions of people read their work. I’ve written single articles that have surpassed the million mark, and my own personal blog (this one!) has hit over a million eyes on its own. Not to mention that I write scripts for a cartoon company, each episode hitting at least 3 million views (otherwise something is very wrong) with my current single script high score sitting at 80 million. Moving on, I know friends who have been talking about creating a movie for a decade, whereas I am already a quarter way through a full-length film of my own creation, done completely by myself. And, I mean, how many people dream about travelling the world while they work? Everyone? I’m currently sitting in my 8th country since December 2018. Plus, I draw one-panel comics for Instagram every working day, I sell digital artwork on shirts, and I have been known paint acrylic pieces on the regular (some of which were even featured in an exhibition once upon a time). Great! So what’s my point? My point is that to someone who believes creativity is life (I do), there is a certain amount of action-oriented evidence that I’m not trying to convince anyone of my abilities using words. I am doing so using numbers.

Narcissism

Sorry but there's one more paragraph worth of arrogance onslaught coming your way. Deep breath, because this one is even worse: I honestly do believe I am God’s gift to women. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s not my fault, it’s your fault. I paid attention to what girls claim they are looking for in a romantic partner, I uncovered the buzzwords, and then I strived to tick every single one of those boxes. Let me know if you’ve heard any of these before: I, {enter female name}, am seeking a male who is ambitious (see previous paragraph above), has dreams and follows them (see previous paragraph above), is financially independent (see previous paragraph above), is well-traveled (see previous paragraph above), has a sense of humour (I have been told that I have this), is intelligent (I have been told I am this too, oh, if only they knew...), focuses on their health (exercise and nutrition are my only prozac), has a decent body (contact for photos), is relatively tall (I am nearly 6 foot, but FYI, girls who put 'tall guys only' in their Tinder bios cannot complain about dudes who refuse to swipe right on fat chicks), who knows how to fuck well, who knows how to go down on a girl, and has an amazing dick (I have multiple A-grade report cards on these very specifications), is open to talk about his feelings (ref: this blog), is open to people of all backgrounds (without exception!), has their own style (this might actually be to my detriment), writes and speaks good, is compassionate (I don’t eat meat anyway), has good friends, is on good terms with all of his exes after a breakup, will shower his girlfriend with affection (I will spend all of my money on you and make art about you), and, most importantly of all, is modest (I am more modest than anyone, I'm the most modest of them all). Based on this information alone, if I am not 100% exactly what you are looking for, then this is because you are not being specific enough. I AM ALL OF THE THINGS. I learned what the things were and then I worked fucking hard to become those things. And now here I am, perfection personified. You are welcome.

Yeaaaah, so here’s the thing... once you realise that you are a narcissist... you suddenly start to recognise that the voice in your head was your own all along. It’s not Jesus whispering encouragements into your ear. It’s your own brain basically wanking off inside of itself. And that’s when all of those awesome achievements and personal features suddenly don’t seem all that awesome anymore. Hang on, if it’s me telling me how great I am, then where is the actual proof of anything? I am making this up, citation needed. Actually, come to think of it, the evidence is piling against me instead, I was just too blinded by my own sequins to notice. I am 34 years old, and despite having all of those elaborate creative projects under my name, and despite checking every box in the Man of Your Dreams cookbook, here I sit. Still not rich. Still not famous. Still not discovered. Still not in love. Single. Alone. My God, those previous self-appointed praises weren’t proof that I was great! On the contrary, they were undeniable proof that I suck! If I was even remotely good at art, statistically speaking, then something surely would have broken by now. And if I really was the romantic catch I seem to think I am, I wouldn’t have this empty feeling of loneliness where I perpetually crawl back to my ex-girlfriends, only to have them pat me upon the head with sympathy, they’ve moved on because I wasn’t what they wanted. I'm not what anybody wants. Because here I sit. Still not rich. Still not famous. Still not discovered. Still not in love. Single. Alone.

Following this grand “awakening” of my shitness, the inevitable followed. Art and love are my life, and so if I was neither a talented creative nor a desirable gentleman, then I was reduced to absolutely nothing. As a response to that, I fell deep inside of myself where the inescapable duvet of depression consumed me and I decided to quit. Not, like, suicide or anything, even if that did cross my mind (although, when doesn’t suicide cross my mind? I’m so complex and dark in that way). Rather, I decided to quit art and give up on everything, stop trying, it’s not working, let go of the dream, maybe start watching TV, eat the food I want to eat, start smoking again, lower my standards, marry a 6, have a baby or two, find fulfilment in some religious movement, die at 53, my wife weeps at my funeral, my close friends agree that I was ok, someone mentions Lily Allen in my eulogy, they cheers my life over a pint, my name is never spoken again within five years of my burial. Believe it or not, there was a genuine vibe of relief in these thoughts. No more self-imposed deadlines. No more stressful nights where I develop marbles of muscle tension in my shoulders trying to finish a project that only nine people will look at. No more need for validation because there would be nothing left to validate. Excellent. So I started to take the necessary steps towards the shedding. I hastily and dramatically cancelled the crowdfunding campaign for my up-and-coming book which I was working on. I decided that my film would be shelved indefinitely. I even announced my departure with this vague #legobiscuit. I was throwing it all away. I would finally be free to live a normal life, accepting myself for what I guess I always was: a normal person. No more deluded sense of self-worth. No more superiority complex. No more unwarranted belief in my capacity whatsoever. Time to see what it was that other people actually did with their lives.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this brief period of resignation did not work. The days following my big decision felt way worse than whatever had spurred it on. My depression grew stronger and those skull voices shouted even louder about my uselessness because now they had proper ammunition. Without art, I was nothing. I served no purpose to the Universe or to myself. Everything I had ever valued had now been discarded and that hollowed me out like a crayfish, unable to see the beauty in life anymore which was something I was always able to do no matter how bad things had sunk. If there was a permanent off-switch, I would have pressed it. If it didn’t hurt, I would have pulled the wires right out from my wrist. I didn’t want to die, I wanted to dissolve, no mess, no fuss. I Googled how to disappear completely and only found a Radiohead song, which didn’t help in the slightest.

A few of these miserable emo days passed, and as it so often happens, I started to become used to my bleakness and my brain nestled into some reasonable level of comfort, a certain desensitised groove of despair, allowing my mind a moment to think. And what it told me was very interesting. It explained to me that the meaning of life differs from person to person, but the end goal is always the same: to find happiness and satisfaction in the days of which you are here. An argument could be made that art is what makes me happy, but on an even more fundamental level, what I truly enjoyed was the potential that each art piece came with. Was this drawing going to be the one that finally went viral? Could this particular song turn out to be my legacy? Was this book destined to be a bestseller? Whether they did or not wasn’t the primary importance. What was important is that it was like playing the lotto, and each and every day, no matter how unlikely, I opened up the gate of possibility and met the Universe halfway. Regardless of eventual outcomes, it was so much fun to imagine the happy ending, and that was when I clicked back into place. Why was I even trying to get rid of my narcissism? Maybe I was living in a fantasy world, true, but it was my fantasy world, and I loved every fucking second of it. Furthermore, if I didn’t believe that I had some future possibility of becoming recognised for my creations, no matter how unrealistic that may seem, then life truly was an empty place void of any reason to be here. So the choices were that I simply had to end it all, or I needed to retreat back into my world where I am fucking awesome and godlike and everyone else is stupid because they just don’t get me yet. Is it real? I have no choice but to believe that one day it could be. But does it make me happy? In some unhealthy way, yes, it does. Hence why surrendering to my self-admiration seems like the very best solution. Alright. Here I go again, covering my eyes with narcissistic hands, shoving my ears full of cotton wool soaked in compliments, nananana, I'm the best, I can't hear you. Except, this time, there is one vital difference... I am going to push it harder. I am going to try and become even more of an egomaniac.

My plan is to change tracks like a train, shifting from the vulnerable narcissist I have established myself to be, and aiming towards the grandiose narcissist we discussed in the first paragraph. How hard could it be? The leap can’t be too drastic if they’re both touching shoulders beneath the same narcissism umbrella, right? And the key in doing so, I imagine, is to learn how to validate myself, outside approval no longer needed. I read a few articles about how to achieve such a feat, and it looks like it can be done with a careful mix of focusing on short-to-mid term goals (granting a steady stream of personal accomplishments coming in), being brutally honest to a fault, welcoming conflict as a chance to grow, saying “no” as often as possible, never saying “sorry” ever again, and essentially not giving a fuck about anything. I also believe that this can be achieved with an element of humour, ensuring that my own self-love can at least offer the benefit of entertainment to others. Furthermore, it is my full intention to, at very least, feign a sense of interest in other people's lives, refusing to use my self-appointed self-importance as an excuse to be an asshole. I think it can be done! I THINK I CAN DO ANYTHING! I VALIDATE THIS MESSAGE WITHOUT YOU! Please bear with me as I calculate how to do this, I really do feel like it will work out better in the long run. Anyway, so that's my news, how about you?