“Well you can’t fix stupid either and you proved that”!! That intended insult was lobbed at me in a Facebook note about a year and a half ago. It was from someone who had at most a few superficial conversations with me and certainly no chat about the issue that was at hand at that time. Not that really knowing me, nor that person having full knowledge of the details then changes the bottom line.
I admit I was somewhat shocked at that charged-up energy coming at me. There are all kinds of ways to respond, but at the time I was more engrossed in the issue that precipitated the results of her research and it didn’t really register.
I re-read the post later and when I came across those words again, I actually ended up smiling. They reminded me of a personal motto that I used to say to people: “I hope I’m the dumbest one in the room”. In return I usually got a look like maybe they had just found her. What I really meant was that regardless of whatever activity or endeavor I was involved in, I wanted whomever else I was working with to be that much wiser, knowledgeable, and creative than me. I was sure that would get me the opportunity to learn something great, and hopefully a lot of it. Yes, I do know what that shot’s intention was, but I know myself well enough to be confident in what I may or may not be.
That exchange had interesting timing. Some friends and I had been having conversations about self- esteem, particularly in girls, and the often misinterpreted difference between assertiveness & confidence and self-centeredness & aggression. There are many examples of how these characteristics are practised, but in these chats we narrowed the issue down to the ability to stand up for oneself. It’s this point we felt that usually illustrates most of the differences between those two approaches.
We partially surmised that self-centredness starts with feeling some sense of entitlement or an innate belief that one can do no wrong. The world better be good to me first or the world is gonna hear about it. “Don’t confuse my personality and my attitude because my personality is ME and my attitude depends on YOU”. No one better cross me or else! Ohhh snap! Or – Oh snap!, snap!, snap!- if they are particularly perturbed. This is more of a passive/aggressive or aggressive/aggressive defensiveness beyond my Psych 101 capabilities, or more to the point, patience levels.
On the other hand, real confidence says I will be good to you and if you are unkind in return, I can walk away with my self-respect fully intact without having to bring you down a peg to accomplish that. I would add that that also exhibits dignity, not an unworthy effort and something I wish I could have attached myself to much earlier in life.
Confidence asks how does whatever this is really matter to my life or me? Most of the time, whatever it is doesn’t make a bit of difference to anything.
Confidence also includes the element of humbleness. It says sometimes I may be wrong, but that does not diminish that I am a good and decent person and I will fix what I can fix about it. By the way, the fixing action includes offering genuine apologies. I’ve also noticed that people who cannot apologize are masters at becoming the victim in all their stories.
Self-centredness mistakes the element of humbleness in confidence as weakness. That mistake is the weakness that truly exposes lack of self-esteem.
In the interest of full disclosure: some time after sending the note, my ‘insulter’s’ defense was that she responded to something that she interpreted as being negatively said about her. I did my best to reassure that this was far from the case, noting that the discussion in play wasn’t even about her. No matter, once her reaction was on the table for all to see, the never-intended reason became fact for her forever. One less Facebook friend. Too bad she didn’t take the minute to ask me about my intentions before she posted that over the top response.
Yes, it was interesting that that whole scenario played out right in the middle of those chats about confidence. I guess you could say that a couple of us learned more than we were expecting at the time. There is far more to the depth of these issues and their needs than I can, or care to, note here, but if you were to ask me what would I say in return to that hotly lobbed insult now? In short, up your self- esteem!
Hopefully the Dumbest One in the Room