“Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it – what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellowmen. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.” ~Carlos Castaneda
This quote has always resonated with me. I don’t know about you, but I for one struggle with the right balance of healthy self-respect for myself and being a humble and patient man when others intentionally offend me. In my mind, the Clint Eastwood in me wants to light a stick of dynamite with my cigar and toss it at the offender while I walk off into the sunset, but the rational side of me genuinely wants to respond like my real-life heroes by being a classic gentleman and just counting it as a moment of weakness in the person’s character. I’m torn between standing my ground and showing some backbone while my cape blows in the wind like Superman, or being the mild-mannered Clark Kent who exudes self-control and knows how to bridle his strength.
For men, confidence and self-respect are traits of masculinity that are promoted and encouraged as a badge of honor and admired by others when displayed in the right context. It’s no wonder we men earnestly pursue these attributes, though we may stumble and miss the target of our intent. Real confidence for me starts with being honest with myself in knowing the limitations of my character and abilities, and not masking or minimizing my own flaws. My self-respect is defined by who I am behind closed doors, not who I am when others are around.
I continually conduct my own mental debrief after situations that don’t turn out too well, and I usually find the common denominator is my exaggerated sense of self-importance. If I’m honest with myself, it’s much easier to accuse others of a lack of consideration, sensitivity, or social graces. Blaming others for my own actions will always leave me suffering as the victim and feeling helpless to change. My feelings get hurt, I respond selfishly, I get the same reaction from the offender, and then I wonder why things always end up the same. It’s the proverbial flawed condition of humanity of hitting your thumb with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop.
Self-importance always carries a presumption that others will treat me as I think I should be treated, and it always disappoints. Self-importance makes me even more vulnerable to things I’m trying so hard to avoid like hurt feelings, being taken for granted, not being taken seriously, resentment of others – and the list goes on. On the other hand, being humble and unpretending offers me a healthy approach in relationships by reminding me of my own weaknesses, and to respond with the dignity and sensitivity I seek from others because our failings are similar. When I take a step back and allow more room for others to make mistakes, I find the increase in tolerance gives me a much greater capacity to find forgiveness and acceptance for them and for myself.
When I think my sense of self-importance is a proficiency that has facilitated any type of success, I must remember all strengths become a weakness when they’re overused. Self-importance can be a poison to my character, which numbs my ability to love, feel content, and use my common sense.
As I see it, if I have to tell others how important I am, then I’m not as important as I may think. The bottom line is to not take yourself so seriously. See your physical therapist and have them adjust your funny bone so you can find more to laugh about, starting with yourself. I realize this may seem elementary and just a “Band-Aid” remedy for much deeper issues, but even a Band-Aid starts the healing process.
As I walk my journey to be a better man, I must choose to swallow my pride as I would a life-saving medicine, so I am fully restored to make the necessary changes to be the man I’ve always wanted to be.
Dennis Muñoz is a freelance writer, local author, and family man