I was at a friend’s bookstore. A man, a bit above middle age, entered with a very confident stride. My friend said, “I have to introduce you two.” We began to converse. I found him too critical regarding various visual subjects with an attitude that attempted to legitimize his opinions with an air of unfounded expertise. I asked, “So which area do you specialize in?”
He smiled trying to hide his giant ego with a mask of modesty and said, “Oh, I would be embarrassed to tell you.” I looked at him and said, “In this case should I be embarrassed for not knowing you?” he didn’t expect this at all and was truly embarrassed. I won’t go into the details regarding how, for the rest of the conversation, he was able to very comfortably talk at length about the work he did. The main issue is that this gentleman represents a certain group: people who give themselves undue importance.
There’s no doubt that it’s a lovely thing for someone to be proud of their accomplishments and inspire others. However, isn’t it faulty for someone to define themselves only through their accomplishments? Clearly, the only truth behind this man’s manner was that he was an artist and thus expected everyone to know him. But what if he hadn’t produced art? Would he have been nobody?
Or if we had met in Madagascar instead of Istanbul (where he presents his work), would he still have been able to say, “Oh I would be embarrassed to tell you”? Just imagine all the things the other person would assume!
I think overplaying oneself is evidence for major issues in regards to self-worth because there’s always a certain requirement at play, and in this instance it’s being admired for one’s art. In other words, conceit is not the pinnacle of self-confidence or self-worth, but the low point of not having reached those attributes at all.
The other day during yoga, the words “think about the space you take up in this room,” made me think of all this. Doing justice to the space I take up, but being able to stay away from the stupidity of believing that I inhabit the whole room. I’m not sure if that was the goal, but doesn’t the world already consist of how we understand things?
Hoping that we can all live far away from the arrogance defined as kingdoms without crowns,