…..and how our culture might be inadvertently contributing to narcissism…
In the old paradigm, we were taught that any form of self-flattery is egotistical. And when someone compliments us, we’re to contradict their compliment with self-deprecating language. All this under the guise of “modesty”. Anything to avoid appearing like we like ourselves. God Forbid! Acknowledging someone else’s strengths or gifts is fine, but acknowledging our own is an unforgivable sin. How much sense does that make?
Faux modesty, even today, is the culture. We are only suppressing the admission that there are some things we can do well because it is the culture we have been brought up in. We might do it to be viewed favorably to others. Since it is bad to like ourselves — especially out loud, we now need to go out of our way to be liked by others using manipulative tactics such as faux humility, faux positivity… lots of fauxes! Humility is necessary, but it has to be authentic for it to be true humility. Humility does not mean putting ourselves down to manipulate someone into liking us. It does not mean propping someone up because they gave us a compliment and we “have to return the favor”. Contrary to popular belief, humility is about acknowledging that we are all great, that we all have something to share, that we are all Equal in value. You can say that you are a great singer and still be humble. You can admire your good looks in the mirror saying “I’m so damn sexy today” and STILL be humble. You can admit that you are a good friend and …still… be humble. You can admit you are more quick witted than some people and still be humble.
When we coerce each other through social engineering to be fake humble, all this does is teach our egos to display our greatness in more passive sideways manners. The ego is still there, but probably going to be more obnoxious and annoying since it cannot be honest.
People assume that if you acknowledge a gift you have that it automatically means all others are inherently an inferior mold. THAT’S the problem. We need to realize that just because someone says they do something well doesn’t mean others cannot; it doesn’t insinuate you are made out of better quality goo than others. Even if you admit you are better at math than others, that is not a sin. I am a better swimmer than you probably are. Big whoop. That’s not egoism. That is the truth. I am a better swimmer than others. You are probably a better cook than I am. Admit it! You cook better. Big whoop. Doesn’t mean you’re a better individual than me… just a better cook. Who cares? We might only get offended by other’s self-acknowledgments because we might feel so small about ourselves. And that is not their problem; it’s yours. If you dislike yourself, of course another’s self-flattery is going to offend you. You’re going to read stuff into it that is not even there.
I got scolded on FB for saying I’m a writer. I kinda knew it was coming and took the risk anyway. But it happened. I was told I was egotistical. If I say “I am a writer”, this doesn’t mean that I am better than everyone else. It means I live to write. I am driven to write. I am good at writing. I sometimes will wake up from my sleep at night if I think there is something to write about. I will be in the middle of cooking and have to go straight to my computer to jot a thought down for a future writing. I am a writer. It’s what I do. I don’t need authority to validate me and I don’t need a piece of paper from someone who is supposed to be better than me to claim that. I claim it. Why is that so offensive? It’s only offensive because we might have been taught that it is. We teach our young to suppress their thoughts of greatness and then later wonder why people struggle with self-acceptance.
There is a huge difference between saying “I can paint really well” and “I can paint better than anyone else in the world”. The former is healthy behavior and the latter is egotistical. I hope more people see the difference because in the meantime, we have an epidemic of self-loathing and self-flagellation in this culture We have learned faux humility at the expense of our own self-growth just to please those still suffering from their conditioning.
There is no sin in self-acknowledgement in a world where self-loathing is modesty.
And what the hell? Some people ARE a bit egotistical. I used to frequent a French Bakery and I told the baker “You make the best croissants!” and she replied saying “I know”. I loved it. I loved it because even though egoism is uncool in our culture, SHE WAS HONEST. And I think it is much healthier to be honest than to reduce to fake humility to manipulate others for their approval. And if I get offended at someone’s egoism, that might be because I am still insecure with myself. How we view others often narrows down to how we see ourselves.
While there are people out there who do think they are better than others, it is coming from a place of inferiority and that is how they survive it. Some survive their smallness by thinking they are bigger-than and others survive their smallness by thinking they’re less-than. Telling people they cannot acknowledge their own gifts ironically might contribute to egotistical behavior.
We can teach our kids to love themselves — not think they are BETTER than others… but to actually love themselves because IF they truly love themselves, humility and the realization that we are all uniquely gifted is a natural byproduct. To reiterate, egoism does not come out of self-love, but from feeling inferior to others.
You are more evolved than some people. That’s the truth. Others are more evolved than you. That is also the truth. It’s life. There will always be someone who does something better than you and you will always be able to do something better than another person. And it isn’t’ a sin to make peace with that, even out loud.
So, pray tell.. what are YOU good at? Have you been suppressing your greatness? Why don’t you now take the time to pat yourself on the back and acknowledge your gifts? Because really? That’s not other people’s job to do that; it’s Yours. Brag on, almighty one! Shine that light bright and blind me with it. :)