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The Barrier of Modesty -- How It Hinders Us

Updated: Mar 10

A face of a fat toy.

Why Self-Worth Gets Lost in the Pursuit of Social Expectations

Looking back at past experiences, along with observations of society itself, it appears that people are not fond of people who think highly of themselves. They view them as pompous, pretentious, arrogant and so on -- and all based on the insufficient fact of this self's "high-thinking". Why is it insufficient? Because not all people who do, necessarily look themselves as superior to others, even though that is the most common assumption regarding this subject.

That is what I'd like to call The Barrier of Modesty. Society at large has an expectation of its members' self-image. They expect equality where there is little of it; they expect modesty, while modesty undermines one's importance in the world, and self-love in general is frowned upon as it seems narcissistic. And as the frequent Philosocom readers already know, impressions are the tragedy of philosophy.

Should we stop underestimating our capabilities so much, we have the power to improve the world further, making it a better place. As such, the intellect, while it is viewed as intimidating, has the potential to better the lives of both us and others. Undermine your own intellect because of societal expectations, and you can unintentionally hinder your moral potential.

And the same goes for any quality or merit that has much altruistic value. Undermining it due to collective tradition... seems a bit too counter-intuitive, is it not?

Embracing Authenticity in a World of Modesty Pretenses

On a personal note, I understand now why I spent most of my life feeling small. No matter how much I attempted to fit social expectations, some still saw me as arrogant nevertheless. It was as if simply existing authentically was a violation that I should feel ashamed for. Based on this experience, I believe this societal obsession with modesty is fundamentally flawed for two key reasons:

  • Firstly, not everyone can conform to this fabricated humility, no matter how hard they try. I was living proof. This enforced modesty becomes a mask, forcing us to suppress our true selves in a futile attempt to appease others. And there are consequences to repression. By the way, some people, like my late grandfather, can't conform either way. They are just too eccentric to fit in. You therefore can't realistically expect everyone to be able to conform. And this shows the potential, anti-human potential of norms, but I digress.

There's a crucial distinction to be made between arrogance and individualism. Some may be genuinely unaware of their intellectual pretentiousness. However, not everyone who believes in their unique contribution to the world is harboring delusions of grandeur. And of course, not every self-lover is a megalomaniac.

Wouldn't a true self-lover won't see a need to be an "energy vampire"?

We are not all equal in merit or capabilities. This inherent inequality doesn't necessitate a hierarchy of worth. Equality is a cornerstone of democratic societies, ensuring equal rights and legal protection for all. But within specific fields, recognizing natural differences in talent and potential shouldn't be equated to a display belittlement.

Eithr way, we do need to be people of great merit, when said merit allows us to survive better. We've entered an age where self-promotion and marketing in general is crucial, and where having social media followers is an important resource. We might need to promote ourselves not in the name of vanity but as a means to an end. Importance can be seen as but a tool.

The Barrier of Modesty seeks to erase these important point, pushing a false narrative of universal sameness. It's time we shed this mask, embrace our authentic selves, and celebrate the inherent diversity of human experience.

Breaking Free from the Toxic Culture of Modesty

There is something toxic in modesty — toxic in having to keep the pride in your accomplishments to yourself. It could be people don't like other people who are proud of themselves. It makes them uncomfortable. Ever considered the fact that they wish to limit us because they could be projecting their insecurities? Because they don't want to face the truth about their own vulnerabilities, so they shift the blame on you, for not being as insecure as they are? Because you're reminding them what they could be, but are struggling to become?

In an ideal world, where lack of comfort wouldn't be such a bad thing, there would be no social need to appear more modest than one is. After all, we humans are capable of great feats, aren't we? It isn't just me, right? If we dedicate much of our time and effort, great things can happen, and if they are as great as we claim them to be, why keep them to ourselves? Why not celebrate them? What is actually wrong in being happy that we did something that we are proud of and/or that helped others?

Why keep anything, in fact, to us, in a world that is uncomfortable, either way? So what if you don't want to hear something someone says? Shutting them up isn't your duty, nor is mine when I hear someone yell outside my windows. Do you think I like living in a world of yelling? No, and yet I was told, throughout my life, to simply deal with it.

Discomfort is not that bad when it is temporary. Even when I am distressed by yells, I hear, I just try moveing on without telling that stranger on the street to shut up. No matter how much I suffered, I'm secluding myself from the world at large because I can't change the behavior of which others are entitled to by right.

Pretending modesty is the way of the coward, and a coward I was. Looking back at school, and the little social life that I had, it appeared that my anxious loyalty to the norms did not matter at all, because people kept stepping on me like an ant, without regard for my own sensitivities. The Barrier of Modesty is requires an understanding of it to a degree that would oblige you to oppose it in the name of undermining the norms.

For the norms have little regard for the overly-different, no matter how much good they're doing. No. It has only regard for what is "proper" and what isn't. The overly different can easily be rejected for their "insanity", while those who act decently will be rewarded accordingly. Don't you think that we humans fake too much?

Should you be told to "know your place", how would you thrive? How staying in the same place nurtures societal contribution and self actualization? If you are told not to elaborate too much on yourself, how else can you realize your full potential as an individual?

All this repression, just to keep a rotten set of behaviors that don't do well anyways -- what's the point of it, if it damages the individual in the name of collective comfort?

When you are freed from your societal obligations, such as school, university, the military, and the job -- that is when you have the time to shine beyond the modest proportions you are required to wear as a mask, during your visits at the external world. It is when you can realize that you are more than socialization, and more than the ways this process imposes itself on you and on others.

Stop the show, stop the pretending. Be yourself, and be prepared to face the consequences of those who fear authenticity! Only by having the guts to reveal who we are to those whom we value as people, that we can appreciate, if not love, them better. As such, modesty minimizes the value of honesty.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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