The number one thing that irks me is being corrected and/or being made to feel stupid. The tendency to think oneself’s a perfectionist and flawless is nothing new for psychology, especially where narcissism and anthropocentric idealism reign in our Freudian superego.

Where does such a mentality come from? A lack of empathy, a willingness to exploit others for personal gain (greed, lust, and envy as precipitants), and an inflated sense of self-importance (induced by flattery, attention, or success). In other words, a complete detachment from our humanity and the natural right of equality, invocation of our liberties at the expense of others, and pettiness.

In psychology, there is something known as “healthy narcissism” or self-love based on confidence and high self-esteem (which for Freud is perfectly natural and reflects the balance between appetite and reason). The ability to learn from one’s mistakes, the humility to admit that someone is wiser than you, and the internalization of constructive critique are all ways to temper academic arrogance and empty ambition. The ability to laugh at oneself is also crucial to admitting one’s own humanity – that is, to err. Therein lies the better part of man: in the improvement of his nobility, grace, and good sportsmanship in the acceptance of his fault and not letting it hinder his progress towards some higher end.

At its heart, narcissism is a mask for loneliness – whether induced by the assumption of leadership or the overcompensation of one’s ineptitudes. Knowledge of one’s own disordinate amount of hubris is perhaps the first step to mastery of it; and then to harness it for the purposes of continual self-improvement and the pursuit of both Aristotelian virtue and Machiavellian virtù.

One thought on “Hubris

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