This week, I want to warn against the mindset weak individuals adopt. This mindset believes one is “above” certain activities, employment, and opportunities. However, I will argue we are never “above” anything as long as it is virtuous, true, and sustainable.
Are You Above It?
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain
Individualism, like any other philosophy, has its shortcomings. One of these shortcomings is self-absorption. It’s easy to view yourself as a lone wolf, above everyone and everything. Why? Because individualists do forge their path and succeed despite their broken, collectivist society.
However, there is a danger in self-absorption. Primarily, the more obsessed you are, the less focused you are on virtue and accomplishment. The man staring at himself in the mirror all day isn’t working towards improving himself or helping virtuous individuals.
Furthermore, there are dangers in believing you are above specific tasks, people, or ideas because you are intelligent, have improved yourself, or have accomplished great things. To be clear, the charlatans, power-hungry, weak individuals, and collectivists are beneath us. However, no virtuous man or honest work is beneath us.
Today, I want to remind you that virtue is not limited to healthy, intelligent, or wealthy. It is universal. Therefore, I want to discuss arrogance, the value of ego, and the best ways to avoid self-absorption.
The Dangers of Arrogance
Arrogance is a self-obsession with and an over-estimation of one’s abilities. Why is self-obsession dangerous? Firstly, arrogance will delude you. Arrogant people believe they and their efforts are more significant than they are. Furthermore, self-obsessed people are always admiring themselves, but never engaging with the world.
Secondly, arrogance will make you unattractive to virtuous individuals. An arrogant person is always focused on the self and will find it hard to make friends with others. Why? Because virtuous individuals are multi-faceted and not obsessed with themselves and their progress. Furthermore, what can a noble man learn from a braggart who never stops talking about himself? Very little.
Thirdly, arrogance will make you a liar. You do not stand alone. Many have sacrificed to give you what you have. Additionally, talents such as one’s intelligence are entirely beyond one’s control. The collectivists have no claim to your life. However, you are not alone in your success.
Conversely, an arrogant man is not an exceedingly prideful man. Someone who has accomplished great things but won’t shut up about it is annoying. However, he is not delusional. Arrogant people are delusion about their accomplishments to the detriment of their personal growth.
The Value of the Ego
“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” – George Bernard Shaw
All individuals should value themselves and the work they do. Why? Because being virtuous, capable, and competent are not easy tasks. Reason and virtue are not automatic, and pursuing both require extreme mental and physical effort. Therefore, you should be proud when you seek virtue over vice and comfort.
When you understand how valuable your life is, you will refuse to waste time or seek easy distractions. Furthermore, confident individuals are not slaves to their vices or the vices of society. Therefore, many institutions are focused on depriving you of any feelings of pride and accomplishment. If you do not see your victories as important or “yours,” then you are easier to control.
Lastly, individuals who value themselves do not seek guidance or purpose from corrupted institutions or abusive people. The ego is valuable in reminding you of your self-worth. You are unique and a sovereign being. You are not a taxpayer, sufferer of consumerism, or a victim of history. You are an individual, and you can only take control of your life if you value it.
How To Overcome Arrogance
Defeating self-obsession requires pursuing virtuous acts. Pursuing virtue will naturally humble you as having to overcome your vices will remind you of how much works needs to be done. Additionally, the rigorous pursuit of nobility will give you an appreciation of other individuals’ efforts to do the same.
However, there are two ways to further your mindset away from self-obsession and towards humility.
1. Reflect on Where Your Once Were
“I suppose that one reason I have always detested religion is its sly tendency to insinuate the idea that the universe is designed with ‘you’ in mind or, even worse, that there is a divine plan into which one fits whether one knows it or not. This kind of modesty is too arrogant for me.” – Christopher Hitchens
You never hit the ground running. Therefore, it’s crucial to remember where you once were in terms of skill and character. Such reflections will bolster your drive to continue your progress. Additionally, thoughts about your humble beginnings will remind you of the cost of self-improvement. This reminder ensures you appreciate your growth instead of wasting it on pointless bragging.
For example, I frequently think about my days as a cook, a waiter, and a manager. Life was not grand, but I learned a lot and had to grow up. Such reflection keeps me grounded. If I didn’t have such a difficult experience in restaurants, I would take my current position in life for granted.
Lastly, reflecting on your growth can help you better approach people. Maybe a rude, weak individual isn’t as far along with patience as you are. Therefore, help them if you can or smile at their character fault. Hopefully, they will progress as well as you have.
2. Remember That Virtue Is Universal
As Booker T. Washington said, there is honor in tilling a field as there is in writing a poem. However, to a collectivist, only certain people or activities are worthy of respect. For example, to the racist, only specific individuals are worthy of opportunities or praise. This narrow, exclusive thinking does not involve universality. Thus, such thinking can not include virtue or morality.
As an individualist, you must remember how virtue is not limited to a few lucky souls. Everyone can improve their lives based on the effort they can give. No, not everyone can be the best, but we can all give our best. For example, a hard-working cook is more admirable than a naturally gifted artist who does nothing but lazes around all day.
Therefore, virtue and wisdom are universal, and anyone can possess these elements. Don’t let your success cloud your judgment. Remember, being the best version of yourself is a lonely journey. If you see someone traveling the path as well, count them as an ally, not as someone beneath you.
The Importance of Humility
“Arrogance on the part of the meritorious is even more offensive to us than the arrogance of those without merit: for merit itself is offensive.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
I want to conclude by reminding you humility is not the absence of self-worth. Neither is humility subjugation to a “higher” purpose. Conversely, humility arises from gratitude – you should be grateful for the gifts you have, which are not under your direct control. For example, modern medicine, your intelligence, and a relatively egalitarian society are all positive elements of life that you have been gifted.
Furthermore, having these gifts does not mean you are subjugated to those who provide them. It is not arrogance to acknowledge the infrastructure we have as a nation while condemning national debt. Another example: it is not ingratitude to applaud your family’s contributions to your life while rejecting their claims to your future. A gift is a gift; no debt is incurred in something you are given.
However, remember humility is a modest view of oneself, earned through the rigorous pursuit of virtue. You cannot force humility. It is a consequence of significant personal improvement.
Avoid believing you are flawless, untouchable, and above everyone. Keep your mind grounded by focusing on becoming an individual.
- Do you suffer from arrogance? What are you arrogant about?
- Reflect on where you once were. What was your life like? How has the pursuit of virtue improved your wellbeing?
- Are there people who try to make you feel less than who you are? How do you respond to attacks on your ego and self-worth?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.