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The Barrier of Modesty

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 have an expectations of its members' self-image. They expect equality where there is little of; they expect modesty, while modesty undermines one's importance in the world, and self-love in general is frowned upon as it seems narcissistic.

On a personal note, I understand now why I was kind of a coward most of my life. No matter how much I tried acting according to the norms, some people still saw me as arrogant, even though all I did was to act naturally. Based on my experience, this whole pretention of modesty is wrong because of two main reasons.

The first being, not all will be able to adhere to it no matter how hard they'll try (like I did), and secondly, modesty is itself an act you put on yourself just to either preserve the norms or make people respect you.

Modesty has its own importance, but not when one has to put on a mask just to impress others. It is what it is, at least partially - a show you put on to avoid making people uncomfortable by presenting your love towards yourself. Some people are indeed unaware of their own pretention in the intellectual fields, but that is not true about everyone who believes that they have a more unique role in existence.

We are not equal in our merit and in our capabilities. Equality only appears when it comes to rights and to laws, at least in democratic countries, where everyone is expected to be under the law. Because of this inherit inequality, it'd be only natural that some people have more value than others IN CERTAIN FIELDS.

I'm probably not going to be a parent, because I believe I'd be a terrible one, but I do believe, based on introspection, that I have a more unique role in this world. It doesn't mean that I'm better than you as a person, and it doesn't mean I consider myself superior. Let us distinguish between superiority and individualism.

Likewise, inheriting inequality means that people are special in fields where others are not, and vice versa. The same goes for uniqueness itself, meaning that there are some people who are more special than others. The Barrier of Modesty tries to undermine this by encouraging us to show that this is not the case.

Because of said barrier, I've grown a coward most of my life, as I've written before. I haven't realized my full potential at all, because I've seen myself as inferior to many of those who have tormented me over the years, from neighbors to the cold-hearted Ms. Chen, about whom I've written in some previous articles. My self-esteem was low because I was expected to see myself as a normal individual, which I was -- and am -- not. It was only when I met a certain psychologist that he told me that I might be a genius.

I've been living in my mind most of my life, so to speak, and I've seen myself as not that important in the grand scheme of things. This perception, enforced by the said barrier, is what eventually drove me to depression from time to time, and even to have suicidal thoughts. Why? Because even today, by default, I've learned from society to see myself as a "bug,". As a quiet human to be left alone, and sometimes even to be harassed or bullied.

Then, as life went by, different things happened, beyond my expectations. Some people began admiring me, even considering me a savant, or master; one of them even began constantly analyzing me from a numerological perspective. A recent reviewer of my site described me as the "Einstein" of today's philosophy.

And yet I fail to understand my own greatness, if it even exists, all because I was taught to be modest. I may be an individualist, but I am anxious about the possibility of breaking even a single social norm. And yet... I did that, repeatedly, without any intention of doing so.

I wish to become less modest, so I can better understand my role in this world, my so-called "destiny". I'm tired of being a failed pretender. I'm tired of being afraid of yelling whenever I hear them, as if I were a kid in kindergarten.

And still, there's something that's holding me back, and that is the socialization that I received. I've seen other students, back in high school, being yelled at, for breaking the rules, and being dysfunctional. And here I am, a symbol of great individuality, even though I fear being extravagant in my description.

But it seems that, no matter what I do, I'll still be seen by some as condescending. I guess that I cannot change the world, but at least I can try to prevent the world from making me someone who fears the possibility of being abnormal. It doesn't really matter, does it? Perception is beyond one's control, and I had my fair share of "beatings" for being me, as if being me was wrong.

There is something toxic in modesty — toxic in having to keep your pride to yourself, because people don't like other people who are proud of themselves. It makes them uncomfortable. I guess that all this show of modesty, of forcing oneself to be one with the norms, is but a gamble one makes in order to appear more appealing to certain people -- especially those who are quick to judge, which there are a lot of.

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 keep anything, in fact, to us, in a world that is uncomfortable, nonetheless? 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 react.

If I was told not to shut up those who yell and cause me distress, why would you or anyone else try to shut me up? This is not fair. Discomfort is not that bad when it is temporary. Even when I am distressed by yells, I hear, I just move on, without telling that stranger on the street to shut up. No matter how much I suffered, I still introverted my way of life.

I had enough of being told to shut up, and keep things to myself, all because it makes some people uneasy, all because I have certain qualities they don't, and vice versa.

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 one of both understanding and practicality.

Should you be told to "know your place", how would you thrive? 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?

Comfort, you see, is for cowards. It is for people who find themselves anxious at the thought of having uneasy moments. And yet, as my life went by and I heard yell after yell, it was then that I realized that a life of cowardice is not a life worth living! And that's why I've been depressed and silent, trying to repress myself, and give myself to the temptation of being good!

I should better understand myself beyond society's socialization, as should you. Socialization is there to adjust you to a society that, at large, cares little for your own individuality. Why, then, desire such a society, that expects you to see yourself as small, as if being small is truly the human way to be "human"?

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 it imposes itself on you and on others, that you can create a uniform community or nation.

Stop the show, stop the pretending. Be yourself, and be prepared to face the consequences of those who fear foreign authenticity!

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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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