A Collection of Brief Essays on Various Social and Moral Topics

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Chapter 2 (v.1) - The Dangers of Excessive Self-Esteem

Submitted: December 13, 2011

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Submitted: December 13, 2011

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The Dangers of Excessive Self-Esteem

"Hubris": That word refers to the excessive pride, confidence and ambition, which have together led to the downfall of so many great figures throughout history. Think of Julius Caesar being stabbed to death by the Roman senate, Napoleon Bonaparte being exiled to the island of Elba, or Adolf Hitler shooting himself when he realized that he had lost the second world war. Those are just a few examples of individuals who were destroyed by their own overconfidence and excessive ambition. Our society continually tells us that we are able to do anything which we may aspire to do, if we only believe that we can do it, whereas I find that our own confidence in our abilities to do things often makes us complacent, thus frequently leading us to act without giving due thought to our actions, because we are convinced that we will succeed no matter what should come to pass, so that we inevitably fail in our endeavors, due to our not having given them sufficient thought or planning. If you are confident of success in any endeavor, that confidence does in reality only make you more likely to fail, due to the aforementioned complacency. If you are confident of failure in any endeavor, that confidence also makes you more likely to fail, because if you are confident of failure, you then see no purpose in attempting to succeed. Therefore, you make no effort in mind or body to succeed in your endeavor, and thus you have failed in your endeavor even before you have attempted it. Children today are so often taught that they can achieve anything to which they aspire, only so long as they believe that they can achieve it, yet I believe that this belies a most fundamental truth of existence, which is that life is fraught both with opportunities and with limitations, and that although almost anyone may achieve something or other if they are only willing to do what is required of them to achieve it, no one can always achieve everything which they desire, no matter strongly they should desire it, or how they should go about attempting it. I have found that success in any endeavor does most often come not when one is confident of success in that endeavor, nor when one is confident of failure in that endeavor, but rather, when one is aware both of the possibilities for success and of those for failure, and considers both thoroughly. Even the most humble of people may easily learn to perceive themself as a deity, so long as that perception is supported by enough of their peers, yet in the end, we are all mortal and flawed. What is more, those of us who are the least aware of our own flaws, are usually the most flawed of all. In the end, I believe that it is better in all things to undervalue yourself than to overvalue yourself. Wise people humble themselves in the presence of others, only to be uplifted by others who are able see their true worth. In contrast, foolish people uplift themselves in the presence of others, only to be humbled by others who recognize that they are not worth so much as they think that they are.


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