Seeping Arrogance

No one simply decides to be arrogant, even though the obnoxious nature of some may convince us that such a deliberate decision was taken at some point. Arrogance is one of those under estimated traits that contaminate our character as we progress in our efforts for success in this life. The more correct answers we have for the struggles of others, or for that matter the assistance we are able to render to those less fortunate, or even the spirituality that we manage to garner in our efforts to be detached from worldliness, all lead us a step closer to growing pompous about our achievements or the value that we believe we add to the lives of others.

Having anything to share is a step towards arrogance, especially if the motivation to share it is forgotten. I find myself grappling with what was once, in the not too distant past, easy concepts and principles to apply in my life. Being patient with those less grounded, or having a kind word to follow some tough love used to be easy. But this year has seen all that and more being taken for granted as I found myself immersed regularly into situations where my willingness to contribute was being abused, and my due rewards were being dismissed or denied. Rewards are not always material in nature. Sometimes it can be as simple as seeing our contribution appreciated, implemented, or shared further. Our egos require such fickle affirmation otherwise it becomes that much more difficult to subdue. 

At some point, it becomes easy, and understandably so, to justify why endless sacrifice is not a worthy strategy to bring about the change we wish to see around us. A touch of arrogance, or perhaps narcissism is needed to maintain a balance of sanity. That touch relates to the belief that we indeed have something of value to share. Some could argue that this is confidence and generosity of spirit, rather than arrogance, but if we consider that such a notion is based on how we perceive our self worth, then I could easily counter argue that it is a belief that we have regarding our skill or attribute being superior to that of another. Arrogance follows very closely behind such a belief. The difficulty lies in recognising what value we are capable of contributing so that we give back to the society from which we took, versus assuming that the level of success we achieved was exclusively a result of our own efforts. Dismissing both and believing that we have nothing of value to contribute is an exercise in ingratitude, and an unhealthy ego, which in this context would be the antithesis of arrogance but equally destructive. And of course is the leading cause of depression and anxiety. 

If I look at someone and wish that they were more like me because I think that I’ve achieved something noble or impressive that others will admire, then I’m simply feeding my ego by seeking opportunity to validate the value that I have placed on my own achievements. The more grateful recipients I find for my contributions, the more superior my contribution can be perceived, by others and myself.

However, the fact that arrogance is largely a perceived trait rather than a practiced one adds its own complexity to the debate. As just one example, I can’t count the number of times when I was perceived and accused of being arrogant simply because I chose to actively resist common wisdom. For me, it was an attempt at convincing others to reconsider something that I believed was flawed even though they believed that it was a widely accepted truth. I felt a need to resist the common thinking because accepting it would not only compromise my principles about not following blindly, but also my desire to improve on almost anything and everything that I encounter. Of course to them, I was simply being argumentative because they assumed that my motivation for such a challenge was driven by a need to be right, or a need to be different.

This makes me wonder if arrogance is ever truly arrogance in intent, or is it in fact a reflection of the arrogant nature of the one observing the so-called grand behavior? I’ve previously stated that arrogance is a defence mechanism. It’s a tool employed to distract attention away from a weakness or vulnerability, or to demand significance when we feel threatened. But within the context of this discussion, it’s that weakness it vulnerability on the part of the ones passing the judgement of arrogance, or on the part of the one perceived as being arrogant? I’m inclined to believe that it is the former.

Perhaps arrogance is never one sided? Perhaps it only comes into play when the observer refuses to look beyond the obvious in order to understand what is driving the apparently arrogant behaviour so that we first seek to understand before we judge, rather than assuming that we’re better without even trying? 

Those Damned Assumptions

I have a reputation of making people feel awkward, or as some would describe it, infuriated (stop nodding so feverishly, you may lose your balance!). I take a particular pride in knowing that I am viewed this way, because it merely cements my views about the nature of the average Joe that I meet on a daily basis. This came to the fore a few weeks ago in a discussion that I had with a colleague which subsequently spilled online as well.

I often feel compelled to challenge incorrect assumptions, or to persist in a point that I believe is important until I am certain that I have reached a point of mutual understanding, or at the least, am able to walk away knowing that I tried. So I choose my battles, but I also choose more battles than most (I can see you nodding again!). On this one occasion, I spent a fair amount of time trying to get someone to understand why the point that they were making was actually contrary to what they were trying to achieve. And so I kept asking probing questions and prompting them to consider an alternate perspective so that they may realise what it is that they were doing.

Some in the room came to me afterwards and suggested that I really shouldn’t bother. Some assumed that I was being argumentative or just simply difficult (stop it already!). Meanwhile, the truth was far from both of those assumptions. While I speak for myself right now, I suspect that many others may be able to relate to what I am about to share.

When I engage with anyone on any subject, my default assumption is that they are capable of processing the concepts and themes that I feel passionately about. As the discussion progresses, if I see that they’re not grasping my point, I assume that I’m either not explaining myself well enough, or they’re distracted by a bias that is not directly relevant to what I am trying to share with them. My knee-jerk reaction to this is to try to clarify my point so that they may be able to share in the value of what I think is important. In short, I assume we’re at the same level of understanding, but are experiencing a communication gap.

Unfortunately, the most common assumption in such a situation, especially by those with a low self-esteem, is that my efforts to attain clarity is in fact an attempt to either make them look stupid, or expose how stupid they really are. At no point do they consider that perhaps I simply assumed that their level of understanding was the same as mine, rather than me assuming that they’re beneath me. Their perceptions of themselves informed their observations of me, and while they thought they were judging me, they were in fact judging themselves.

Of course, if  I were to point this out to them (as I do on occasion, often just for fun!) they would feel justified in their views about my supposed arrogance, or condescension. The turning point in my life regarding my self-worth was when I realised this troublesome truth about people. From that point on, I found it easier to rise above the unqualified criticisms leveled against me, and instead, continued to focus on the passion that I had about the value that I wanted to realise for me and for others. Often, this resulted in the offended party recognising the point I originally tried to make, but only after they had enough time to get over their own insecurities about the interaction. For this reason, I almost always do my best to allow for a graceful exit from such contentious discussions.

The times that I don’t allow for a graceful exit are the times when the offending moron is pretty much a confirmed bully who just won’t back down. That’s when my favourite philosophy kicks in. Treat an arrogant person with arrogance so that they may taste humility.

Back to the topic at hand. Assumptions are made all the time. Some are informed, most are not. Another poor assumption on my part when I originally started contemplating writing books on leadership and mentoring others at the office to take leadership roles in their areas of influence was that in doing so, I may work myself into a position of irrelevance. In other words, like the fickle-minded, I thought that I was working myself out of a job. You know, that scarcity mentality thing where we assume that the success of others will rob us of opportunities for our own success? Well, fortunately I snapped out of that mindset soon thereafter when I realised that leadership is so rare because conviction is lacking in most people.

In general, people want to be associated with greatness, not because they want to be great, but because they want to be with the crowd that is also associated with such greatness. One of the important lessons I learnt in the process is that despite giving someone the golden handbook of how to achieve greatness, and giving then the opportunity and environment in which to achieve it, their deeply ingrained insecurities will prevent them from embracing the opportunity. Everyone wants to be liked, or popular, or part of a group. Except for a few that see the futility in that, and decide to forge their own path in life. They don’t necessarily set out to be leaders. In fact, I would go as far as saying that leadership finds them, while everyone else tries to mimic the assumed journey of the new leader in the hope that they will achieve the same.

People that set out to become leaders usually lack authenticity. Authenticity is by far the most important leadership trait ever. In the absence of it, you simply have authority and resources at your disposal, but will fail to genuinely influence or inspire others, except for those that aspire to similar levels of materialism. Perhaps this is why we have the leadership void that we have in this world. Perhaps this is why the worst of us has truly become the leaders of us, because we celebrate the wrong attributes, and dismiss the detractors that challenge the status quo.

We make assumptions negatively about others when we assume that their flaws are the same as our own, while not being willing to acknowledge or own our own flaws. Criticism that has little to no constructive basis behind it simply feeds the ego. It does not encourage growth, nor does it forge new avenues of understanding. When someone takes the time to extend their engagement with you about a topic that they are passionate about, recognise their passion before assuming that they’re simply being arrogant. The biggest mistake most people make is that they fail to recognise the difference between passion and emotion, and are too ready to dismiss a passionate soul as an emotional being. That is the burden on society of a weak mind. It degrades sincerity in favour of popularity. And that is how society ends up being something that everyone wants to criticise, but no one wants to acknowledge being an integral part of it.

Troubled Peace

Maintaining composure, and by extension, achieving a sense of peace can often be difficult in spite of my best efforts because of the persistent gnawing of those intent on using me to express their rage at the world. Their world is often so constrained in perspective, that my small contribution to it becomes its defining experience. A failed relationship or missed expectation is all it takes to consume some to the point of total obsession. And it seems there is no shortage of destructively obsessive souls these days.

One of the most persistent struggles of my life has been rooted in the requirement to dismiss the insistence of others that I am responsible for their woes without dismissing the reality of any rights they may have over me. It’s a difficult balance of trying to remain responsible and true to my convictions, while not finding understandable reason to simply walk away in search of peace.

I can see good reason why many abandon the rights of others, not because they have no inclination to fulfil it, but simply because those that have rights are often prone to demanding it more than they are to fulfilling the opposing responsibility that accompanies such rights. One of the most important things I’ve learnt about rights is that it is always paired with a responsibility on our part. So demanding rights, for example from the state, without being a responsible citizen in return, makes the sustainability of maintaining those rights untenable. There has to be a balance.

Balance, however, is usually absent in those that demand as opposed to those that offer. In other words, the demanders are the ones that operate from a position of expectation and entitlement, while those who offer are the ones that usually expect little in return. It’s no wonder then that the hand that gives is superior to the hand that receives (all debates about sincerity of intent aside).

My troubled peace is found in moments when I’ve made peace with what has gone before, accepted the accountability of the outcome and my contribution to it, but continue to be consistently harassed by demands to compensate in cash or kind on a scale that far outweighs the impact of the outcome or my contribution. I realise that this post is probably cryptic to the point of being meaningless, so to state it plainly, those that place demands on others are often malicious enough to only be satisfied if such demands are fulfilled with visible duress on the part of the giver failing which the sweetness of revenge remains unfulfilled.

The point I’m struggling to make is simply this. The smaller our world, the greater the impact of small actions by others, while the greater our world, the less impact the actions of individuals will have on it. This is most evident in those relationships where we make someone the purpose of our existence to the point where any disappointment becomes earth shattering. Consider this within the context of a failed relationship, and then consider the motivation that one has to exact revenge. It quickly becomes plainly clear how some sell their lives in favour of avenging a defeat that was their own making to begin with while blaming the ‘world’ for their sorry state.

It truly is a sorry state, because not only is it a wasted life on the part of the one that is riddled with hatred and revenge, but more importantly it wastes away the lives of those who are making a sincere effort to grow beyond their failings because the puny minded cannot bear to see others progress beyond their own limitations.

A troubled peace is found when only one party is focused on peace while the other is focused on getting even. A troubled peace is found when we indulge others out of goodwill, while assuming the best of their intentions, only to learn that their motivation was selfishly driven to begin with. A troubled peace, in the absence of others, is found when we’re at odds with ourselves. A troubled peace is what drives a restless soul to move forward, while it anchors a complacent soul in the past constantly waiting for the world to lift them out of their misery.

The Rabbit Hole of Insecurity

I’ve always found that there is no shortage of people to advise you on what to do in life, but very few that can show you how. I see people telling each other all the time to be happy, don’t stress, be confident, don’t feel overwhelmed, and so much more, but every single time I’m reminded of how such advice is almost entirely pointless unless the recipient is clearly aware of what they’re doing to get them into that unpleasant state to begin with. But we’re so used to taking comfort from distractions that even now when presented with such empty advice we find comfort in it. Not because the advice is useful, but because it implies that someone cares enough to notice that we’re not in a pleasant space. How fickle.

Fickleness is pervasive. But like I always maintain, pervasive ignorance should never be mistaken for collective wisdom. Just because we are able to console each other with vague gestures of compassion or concern does not mean we actually do care. We give more of ourselves when we share the lessons of the weaknesses we hold, or have succumbed to, than when we hand out trinkets of wisdom that merely embellish the façade of composure or success that we wish to present. Because that is exactly what it is. I’ve found that when I grow oblivious to my ego due to a lack of attention over an extended period of time, I quickly develop a deep seated confidence in my overt state as being the real me. What I present to the world I am convinced is in fact what I embrace within. Fortunately something or someone usually comes along to challenge that assumption of mine which leaves me unsettled enough to recede while abandoning my pompous disposition.

The problem lies in the how. But beyond that, the bigger problem lies in our lack of courage to embrace the reality of how unaccomplished we truly are.  When we accept that we have achieved less than we were able to achieve regardless of our best efforts or greatest reasons for having been hampered in our endeavours, only then will we be truly open to learning more than the average life teaches us. I am constantly reminded about how late in life I am gaining the realisations that would have served me well much earlier in life. At times I dismiss it as being irrelevant because my mishaps and failures groomed me into who I am today, ignoring the arrogance that accompanies such a profession, at other times I wonder how much further along this path I may have been had I started out learning some of those lessons from the mistakes of others instead. That would have set me off on a firmer footing that I could have developed further, as opposed to finding it out for myself. It felt like life wasted away in those moments, but my gut suggested otherwise.

I look at those that are gluttons in their search for knowledge and devour volumes of the sciences of varying interests achieving a state of professional regurgitation and eloquent verbosity, while struggling to apply even a fraction of the gems of wisdom that were revealed between the covers that they repeatedly cracked open purely focused on ingesting, with very little emphasis on applying. Perhaps what restricts our ability to apply the knowledge we have acquired is not necessarily our inability to grasp its essence as needed, but instead it is our insecurity in our ability to execute what it demands that drives us towards complacency, or more accurately, meekness.

Insecurity is not only unattractive, it is repulsive. Quite literally as well. I find myself repulsed by those that are chronically insecure because of the burden of expectation and indulgence that they solicit, with very little to offer in return. The insecure polarise towards each other and establish circles of back-slappers that reassure each other about their distractions so that the façade they maintain is strengthened through collective practice. The secure ones are often found in smaller groups, if in groups at all. They are the ones that hold a conviction in their beliefs and perspectives which lend them an insight into the frailties of the former group, which in turn prevents them from seeking the validation of those that appear to prevail.

The masses are weak. By their very nature they thrive on validation and affirmation. They reciprocate in great measures because the exchange is a self-sustaining cycle. It is possible to go through an entire lifetime needing nothing more, and that is perfectly acceptable, unless you are inclined to change the world in your wake. If you wish to improve the state of your self, and in turn, the state of those around you, being a meek member of the masses is never an option. You will thrive on understanding how you found yourself in that pathetic state that jolted you into action, rather than cringing at the thought of being seen as weak.

The rabbit hole of insecurity is a deep maze that allows little light in. It sets us on a course of distraction that leaves us oblivious to the destruction or even the injustice that we leave in our wake. Courage is defined by our conviction to act on the values and principles that we subscribe to. Those values and principles can only be sufficiently formulated if we choose to see the world with a critical mind. Blindly following others is a symptom of disease. Not only does it rob you of your agency to act consciously, it denies those around you of the value that you are supposed to contribute in their lives and towards their growth. Insecurity is a convenient exit clause from the harsh reality of life. It is a choice, and nothing less. But because it is probably the most common choice made, we have fooled ourselves into believing that it is in fact human nature. If it were human nature, it would not leave us diseased with fear, ill health, and impotence.

They miss the point!

I have a tendency to seek the potential in people and then proceed to encourage them towards realising that potential. I do this because I am naïve enough to believe that that is truly the aspiration of all of us. You know? That age old claim that says that we want others to believe in us because we’re so precious and we have so much to offer but we’re just waiting for the right opportunity and the right support and the right everything to come along before we can take that pathetic step forward to suggest that we actually have something to offer. It’s all bullshit.

I’ve realised that the most gut wrenching and draining thing you could ever do is apply yourself towards the upliftment of others. Why? Simple. People are lazy by nature. They’re lazy and un apologetically uninspired because the few that pursue their passions are mocked and ridiculed for being different, while the rest are preoccupied with fitting in and being ridiculously unique just like everyone else.

Yes, I am annoyed and disheartened. More so at the fact that there is always an overwhelming chorus of people chanting for change, but as soon as the choir breaks up, they’re the first to run home to enjoy their celebration of mediocrity while living life through the achievements of their icons that are nothing more than fictional tales they see in the gossip columns of the tabloids. The stench of puny thinking is repulsive. People look at things and immediately decide what is good enough to get past what they’re faced with, while just a small group will actually consider how can they take what they are faced with and turn it into something larger than life.

I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to understand the human psyche because of a naïve notion that suggested that it is fear and nothing else that limits us in what we can achieve. I thought that by understanding those fears I would be able to help them see past that limitation and thereby unlock a beauty that would amaze even them. Of course understanding their fears was always only ever a result of me seeking to understand my own first. But they never get that. The default assumption is that if I am able to articulate what constricts them, then I must be free of it myself. I must have never experienced it hence my ability to seemingly trivialise what they feel.

They just don’t get it. In all my efforts I’ve tried to demonstrate to them that they are innately capable of greater things without the need for a guide or mentor or other pillar of strength to lean on. However, I didn’t realise that in doing so, they automatically turned me into their crutch to achieve more. That is not nearly a compliment to me when considered within the context of the disappointment it spawns. Each time I believe they’ve reached a new level of confidence and capability, I’ve found that they were only acting out of compliance with what they deemed to be my expectations rather than because they had a sincere conviction in the values that I thought we shared.

This is an unapologetically self-indulgent rant. It is a trickle of what needs to be vented in order to regain some balance in my perspective on life and people. I have trusted in the human goodness that is often celebrated, but each time it has resulted in the degradation of relations because the burden of expectation was greater than the willingness to be true. The impossibility of perfection should never be reason enough to dissuade us from its pursuit. Unfortunately, too often, we’re prone to believe that only icons or celebrated leaders are capable of such accomplishments, while conveniently forgetting that a human exists behind the façade that they have imposed on them.

Repeat after me:

dionthesocialist:

  • Mental disorders are medical conditions.
  • Mental disorders are not personality quirks.

Repeat after me…

  • Labels will give you mental disorders
  • Labels will reinforce your submission to a condition 
  • Labels will destroy you
  • Labels will imprison you
  • Labels are just that…labels

Now, let’s try again…

  • Stop labelling your state of mind, it’s the same as stereotyping someone and expecting them to act differently
  • The more we ‘recognise’ so-called mental disorders as valid medical conditions, the weaker society becomes in dealing holistically with social ills because every bad experience can suddenly be ‘fixed’ with a pill
  • Neuroplasticity is proof that mental ‘disorders’ are merely a state of mind that can be altered based on experience and introspection
  • Experience has confirmed that insecurity and fears of insignificance are the most common underlying causes of symptoms of a troubled mind (a.k.a. mental disorders) and not some chemical imbalance
  • Chemical reactions are triggered by thoughts and stimuli, not the other way around. Simple proof of this is a smile. It’s confirmed to release feel-good hormones regardless of your ‘mental disorder’

Separate the symptoms from the root cause and never confuse the two. Far too often, especially in western medicine, symptoms are almost always the focus of treatment with a holistic view shunned as being a quack’s approach to good health. The mind and body work in tandem, and not independently. Abuse one, and you’ll automatically abuse the other. Treating a physical ailment without considering the psychological or emotional triggers that caused one to be predisposed to the ailment is like taking energy drinks when you know you’re not getting enough sleep. It really is that simple.

Give yourself a chance. You deserve to believe in yourself, because people are strange like that. They rarely believe in you unless you believe in yourself first. Think about it, and give yourself a break.