What Does Navel Gazing Mean?

Navel Gazing Meaning

Definition: Overly focused on oneself; self-centered.

Origin of Navel Gazing

In some cultures, looking at one’s navel is a way to meditate. However, the idea behind the expression is that if one is only looking at one’s own belly button, they are unaware of other views or interests.

Similar expressions have existed since the mid 1800s.

Examples of Navel Gazing

definition of navel gazingIn this conversation, a mother and daughter are celebrating the father’s birthday at his party.

Daughter: Why do you keep glaring at me?

Mother: You keep staring at your phone instead of enjoying the party! We spent all this time planning this event, and you’re not even going to participate in it?

Daughter: What’s the problem? All of Dad’s friends are here. It doesn’t matter if I’m constantly chatting with all these adults I don’t know.

Mother: I can’t believe you’re so narcissistic. You can’t even focus on anyone else for one moment, even on your father’s birthday. Stop your navel gazing, and start acting like a good hostess!

Daughter: That’s uncalled for!

define navel gazingIn this example, two coworkers are discussing a third employee that they think isn’t productive.

Dave: I wish Jonathan wasn’t on our team for this project. He isn’t useful at all.

Ben: Yeah, he spends all his time talking about how smart he is. He never talks about anything other than himself.

Dave: Maybe if he wasn’t so busy navel gazing, he could actually contribute something to the project.

Ben: Too bad there’s nothing we can do to change his personality.

Dave: Yeah.

More Examples

This excerpt is about an award show. The author believes that award shows don’t reward talent. Rather they are a way for people in the entertainment industry to reward themselves.

  • So why do these awards matter? They have become an homage to star power, politics and the ability to schmooze the navel gazing, semi-mysterious cabal called the Hollywood Press Association – a group of just 90 international journalists who bestow the awards each year. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is from a review of a musical performance. The critic thinks that it was good, but too self-reflective.

  • It was all certainly beautiful, perhaps even rapturous. But it also merely went round and round and after a while a listener got impatient with it. One felt locked in an Arvo Pärt-like world of repetition, silence and navel-gazing. –OC Register


The phrase navel gazing describes a person who is very self-absorbed.