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Saturday, 5 October 2019

A Culture of Putting Ourselves Down

Ask a pretty woman if she's attractive and she'll instantly say she isn't, or downplay it, or say you're prettier than her. No one likes a show-off, but a simple acknowledgement of one's looks, talents, and intelligence is not a bad thing.

When Mohammed Ali became a well-known boxer, he was very brash and outright about his greatness. One could argue he was arrogant, egocentric and full of himself. But contexually, Ali was around during a time where black people were fighting to be seen as equals in a white dominated society. Him crowing about his prowess as a boxer was a way of allowing black people to take pride in themselves; their beauty, talents, and skill set. When people said 'black is beauty' and 'black is pride' they were fighting against the cultural view that black equated to unattractive or stupid.

Likewise, the pop-singer Madonna has always been someone who uses her image to cultivate a social standing. She's taken on the image of femininity and used it in a way to show women in different lights and varieties. She's opened up acceptance for gay culture and reinvented herself many times to highlight woman-hood in different ways. (Not saying I personally like or agree with her, just describing what she's done.)

Maybe this is just me, but men seem more likely to acknowledge their looks and capabilities than women, as if women are expected to be 'demure' and unassuming about their talents. Thus having artists like Madonna, Nina Simone or Grace Jones subvert the 'feminine ideal' in an artistic way can free up a one-sided narrative of how women 'should' behave, just like Mohammed Ali did for black people.

I use the above examples to contrast between how people are socially conditioned to behave. Particularly in the UK, it is seen as 'boastful' or 'arrogant' to proudly own one's accomplishments. Britons have always carried a false sense of humility, of carelessly brushing something wonderful as 'alright' or 'not bad.' Compare this to Americans, who carry a 'yes man, yes we can!' go-getter attitude.

But why do we do this? Why should we have to 'put ourselves down' or 'downplay' our achievements? Being humble and gracious is not the same as being really good at something and then claiming to be shit at it. Ever seen a really good singer insist they can't sing? It's infuriating but it's also shallow and irrational, and makes the person come across as fishing for compliments.

Or think of the classic Mean Girls situation - Regina George, skinny and gorgeous, insisting she wants to lose weight, coaxing her friends to tell her otherwise, and then telling them to shut up. I can't stand this petty behaviour and find it pathetic, but we're all probably guilty of it. Fact is; for some odd reason, society has considered it 'smug' and 'arrogant' to merely state that you're good at something. Thankfully, with the rise of self-love, compassion, and healthy self-esteem, things have begun to change.

Again, no one likes a show-off, but ignoring other people's opinions, 'showing off' is in itself a sign of insecurity. A person truly happy and proud of their accomplishments owns them frankly but feels no need to crow about them. If someone says that they are an excellent tennis player, that person will smile, say thank you, and then continue with their day. No, 'Oh, I'm really shit!' or 'I'm like the best tennis player in the world.'

Fact is, self-deprication can be fun for humour's sake, but a person who constantly puts themselves down comes across as deeply insecure and uncomfortable to be around. Does anyone want to be around a person who constantly needs to be reassured that they're not ugly, stupid, lazy, or boring? Again, acknowledgement of personal insecurities is healthy and understandable.

Me saying 'I'm a bit emotionally unstable' isn't me fishing for someone to say otherwise, it's me genuinely pointing out something about my character that I find challenging. On the other hand, me saying 'I'm a stupid ugly moron' just sounds like I'm begging for the entire world to insist otherwise, and makes me sound vapid and emotionally immature.

I say own your achievements, be proud of yourself, and have a sense of security in who you are. Humility does not have to be at the expense of your gifts, and a little pride can be well-earned.

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  1. Heya, been a while since we had contact hasn't it? ^^
    Just wanted to say I agree fully.
    I like to make fictional characters and one of them is exactly all about self confidence.

    1. Hey mate! Glad you liked the post, and that's really cool! What kind of fictional characters? In a cartoon, or stories?

    2. Stories mostly because of the fact i'm not good at drawing, heheh.
      Well the character i'm talking about is a Purple alien girl named Purpur.
      She is onlt 148 cm tall and 20 years old but she has adventures hopping from planet to planet and.
      While small and weak her determination (and support from high technology) helps her do great things.

    3. That honestly sounds so cool! If you ever want someone to have a look at your stories and give some feedback, feel free to shoot me an email?


I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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