“There is only one real misfortune: to forfeit one’s own good opinion of oneself. Lose your complacency, once betray your own self-contempt and the world will unhesitatingly endorse it.”
― Thomas Mann
Searching for another of Thomas Mann’s quotes, I stumbled into this one and found it most appealing. If you’re unfamiliar with Thomas Mann, he was a German novelist, philosopher, philanthropist, and Nobel Prize laureate in 1929.
The educator in me is always grappling with the tenuous balance between self-confidence and overblown ego. Most of the trips down the path of self-love that we have witnessed in our lives were offensive, unpleasant, and unseemly. But those who self-attack are equally offensive.
We have been taught since we were very young that it’s not nice to blow your own horn. My recollections are that on the few occasions I attempted to do so in front of either of my parents, I was quickly reminded that compliments should be delivered by others to you, not you to yourself. But Mann’s quote gives us a different and enlightening dimension. If we self-disparage, the world will quickly find reasons to join in on that process and contribute to the negative feelings that we are experiencing about ourselves.
And so, how do we strike the balance between self-deprecation and self-adoration? The answer is moderation – exactly what we practice in most other contexts. Somewhere between gluttony and fasting is eating what you need and want. Either alternative on the far ends of the scale are unattractive.
We are also wise to practice moderation in other contexts. Too much or too little discipline is likely to result in children running wild or being afraid of committing the smallest of infractions. Managing a budget is also done best in moderation. Saving money is always a good thing but there is no harm in the occasional indulgence or treat.
It’s clear that Mr. Mann has a rather negative opinion about those around him and it is probably realistic to wonder if the world is as hostile as he would have us believe. In any case, it’s a good idea to promote a healthy and positive self-image. Sometimes it’s easier to live up to your expectations than down to them. Shalom.