Friday, 24 May 2013

A life in balance 12: Arrogance vs. Humility

No one likes a big-head, but then again dealing with a shrinking violet tends to be frustrating. The arrogant, who try to dominate the world through bullying and an uncivilised 'might-is-right' approach, find that civilised society will come up with laws, rules, regulations, to keep them in check, and to keep unbridled arrogance in check. (Humour, incidentally, is a great weapon to keep the arrogant in their place.)

Countries where the arrogant can ride roughshod with impunity over those with lower self-esteem tend to be more corrupt, poorer, less well developed.

In other words, unbridled arrogance is a bad thing for communities and nations.

But a certain degree of pride in oneself is needed. Debasement, low self-worth, can lead into a spiral of negativity. As an attitude, 'I am not worthy, so I will not strive to improve my lot" is also bad for communities and nations.

Across the spectrum of the population, from the proud, bold people with their gold wrist-watches in their big, black SUVs, to the humble who are put upon by their greedy bosses, there exists a delicate equilibrium. If pushed too far, the humble, who go through life saying sorry, will rise up and find new people to boss them about (cf. the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution etc).

The arrogance-humility spectrum is to do with self-confidence. You need to have plenty of it in life to survive and thrive - but not too much.

There are thousands of books telling people how to be more self-confident. There are hardly any aimed at arrogant people telling them how to rein back, how to avoid being seen as arrogant, boastful or proud. I'm amazed at the number of people without the self-criticism to note how boastful they appear to others in everyday speech.

This is Most notable when I'm about to go on TokFM radio's business-and-economics talk-show, EKG. Before going on air, the guests will try to out-boast one another with tales of their skiing holidays in Gstaad or the Himalayas, their new Harley-Davidson motorbike or their latest i-gadgets, acquired in New York, Dubai or Singapore.

But even so, when it comes to setting the slider, I would err on the side of arrogance. It is indeed a competitive world, and if you don't fly your own flag, no one else will. (Well, your parents will always say you're marvellous - and that does help!). But keep that arrogance in check. Don't just hide it - analyse it and master it. Remain self-confident, but temper that with a healthy dose of humility.

At the other end of the spectrum - if you wallow in self-doubt, bow low to all and sundry and suffer from low self-esteem, take a look at this task-oriented approach. Work out what you're good at; build on that, gain self-confidence in that area and stand your ground. Then extend that approach to other areas.

A wise Rabbi once wrote: "you have to accept two contradictory statements as being simultaneously true. One - the universe was made for you. Two - you are as insignificant as a grain of sand". Learn to balance the two, and you will find harmony and purpose.

This time last year:
Warsaw looking good ahead of the football-fan influx

This time two years ago: This time three years ago:
Heron over Jeziorki

This time five years ago:
Present rising, future loading

1 comment:

student SGH said...

Excellent musings Michael, particularly the point about self-confidence. It takes a lot to get through when necessary without throwing one weight about, it takes a lot to turn down a proposal politely. There's much to do about the art of assertiveness, very useful in life.

Looking forward to similar stuff :)