Know thyself is for philosophers. Love thyself is for politicians.
To be an effective ruler requires confidence. Being able to make decisions that impact a large number of people mandates it. Governance, however, is optional in American politics, and becoming a politician appears to demand a narcissistically inflated sense of self esteem (which is notably more peacocky than self confidence). Hyper-ego is first required in order to enter politics in the first place, and second in order to bring government to a screeching halt by means of being a prideful idiot.
Self Esteem Is Not Self Confidence
It’s important to get this out of the way quickly: I’m all for kids and people being confident, but confidence must be earned. It’s like the difference between building one’s own business and inheriting one. Self esteem is a fabrication that for some reason overly concerned parents of this world think can be injected into their children like a drug packaged in a blue ribbon. The problem is, those kids get addicted and the withdrawal is a bitch. Self esteem is a billion-dollar pop psychology industry, and a trillion-dollar pharmaceutical one. Self esteem is not good for the psyche – self confidence is.
Arrogance In Politics
In many ways, the stereotypical American politician’s ever-increasing bombast (and consequential ignorance of Other as a result of the blinders worn by the ego) is a direct result of modern society’s strive to raise “special” children; all of whom graduate high school (though some I’d like to see proof of their diploma) with countless participation ribbons, self esteem mantras, and a convexed sense of self importance.
Who do we blame? Over parenting, big pharma, and pseudo psychology? (There was a time in America where being sad every now and again was actually OK, you know.) I’m not sure what to blame, honestly, but youtube, facebook, and celebrity for the sake of celebrity definitely fit in the equation somewhere.
It takes eyes that love a mirror to spawn a desire for a life in politics (if they can’t make it in Hollywood, anyway). Mirror love (self esteem) is different than knowledge of one’s abilities (self confidence) – especially in modern American politics. Of course, narcissism in politicians nothing new. Even the most humble among them walk a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Two and a half times the age of the United States centuries before the birth of a carpenter, senatorial politicians in Rome were already caught on twitter analogs with ribbons in their hair and too much makeup. Instead of steak houses it was bath houses. Their caste system was a bit more transparent, but the fundamentals of the stage and its players are the same.
Society’s Self Esteem Pedestal
In culture, overwhelming ego seems to come in waves. Ironically, the size of a culture’s ego tends to be inversely proportional to the proximity of time to its large successes. Traditionally, the greater the ego of a culture the more damage the culture does unto others as an expression of justifying its own existence. Just look at the mess Mesopotamia is in.
After great wars are won there are brief moments of ticker tape and woo hoo high fives, but then a society tends to settle down and be humbly grateful for at least decade or two. In the mirror, when a country has been living off its laurels without significant achievement for a long period of time, the ego swells. The longer the blank timeline between social achievements, the bigger the ego must be to compensate. Yes, even Culture has big-truck syndrome. It needs to put itself on a pedestal so that it can see that much farther down the timeline to glimpse its most recent success.
For those with means, the pedestal is a high-rise building to signify Better in this world. For those without means, the pedestal is a claim to be closer to God in the next. Individuals with the most meaningful and regular achievements, however, tend to be the ones living closest to the ground. They don’t need pedestals. To find meaning they don’t have to look very far.
Unfortunately, we’re forced to work with governments that have pedestals built into the very architecture. Small towns to giant nations, all are packed full of men and women who live their lives with boosted self esteem compensating for their lack inner meaning. When the House of Representatives is in session it is literally packed with 435 people who believe they are absolutely correct, yet are terrified of ghosts lurking around the corner. They are special, they are powerful, and they are adored. But they are also scared out of their minds, because their pedestals are so damn high that very ground on which they were born now seems foreign and even threatening.
Whereas self confidence and wisdom enable a person to recognize when they are wrong and yield to that which is right, self esteem and ego make a person more stubborn than three-year old and blind to any ideas not pre-fabricated to fit their own. The very characteristic that motivates a person to go into politics is the one that makes it not work.
A Culture Based on Boosting Self Esteem Brings Bad Luck
I was raised in the “we’re all winners” culture introduced as a socialized compensation for America’s continually shrinking middle class and dwindling test scores. I was lucky, though, in that my parents still demanded I work by ass off. Many were not.
The self esteem pedestal acting as a pop psychology compensator for American mediocrity has resulted in generations of very lonely souls who feel as entitled as a New England Kennedy, but have had as much equal opportunity as a Compton born Hernandez. The problem with being told you’re “The World’s Best ____” your entire childhood is that once you are not… your psyche believes the world has collapsed. Anti-depressant drugs and social media have helped maintain a sense of “being special”, but by and large, the more a person is taught to love the reflection in the mirror, the more mirrors they end up breaking in the process of their life.
Self esteem is little more than a brain-training way to ignore our own shortcomings in relation to what society has told us defines success. There’s nothing wrong with a good sense of one’s own faults. Embrace your faults. Understand them, but never love them. Don’t mask them with self esteem placebos: fix them. Then maybe a few less mirrors will get broken in this country.