“A university lecturer, huh? So, how much do you make?”
I almost choked on my wine, narrowly avoiding showering my shirt with red droplets . In the UK, where I lived at the time, this was a question you would never, ever ask – even your best friend. And yet, the cute girl from abroad had no qualms about it, although we had only just met. I managed to slip away at the first chance I got, rattled by what I perceived as a regrettable lack of manners.
I was reminded of this when I recently fell out with a good friend. She is the kind of person who has little trouble announcing her worth to the world. She will tweet about her book daily, announcing to the world how it is the best thing ever written. Indeed, she will not hesitate to pick a fight with anyone disagreeing with her own sense of worth.
I, on the other hand, immediately shy away from anything remotely seen as blowing my own trumpet. Indeed, in my mind, doing so only reveals one’s insecurities. Naturally, her behavior made me shake my head, and one day I told her as much.
“That’s a terrible thing to say,” she exploded. “I am a strong, confident woman. I believe in me and my work, and have worked hard to get where I am today. So, why shouldn’t I be proud of my achievements?”
There’s no real answer to that, I realized, and I could see that she meant every word. It also dawned on me just how much my cultural references have to do with my reaction to her boisterous nature. My upbringing can be summed up nicely in the words of Lord Chesterfield, 4th Earl of Stanhope, as written to his son back in 1748:
“Above all things, and upon all occasions, avoid speaking of yourself, if it be possible,” Lord Chesterfield wrote. “Never imagine that anything you can say yourself will varnish your defects, or add lustre to your perfections. But, on the contrary, it may—and nine times in ten will—make the former more glaring and the latter obscure. If you are silent upon your own subject, neither envy, indignation, nor ridicule will obstruct or allay the applause, which you may really deserve. But if you publish your own panegyric upon any occasion, or in any shape whatsoever, and however artfully dressed or disguised, they will all conspire against you, and you will be disappointed.”
So, was Lord Chesterfield wrong and my friend right? Or was it the other way around?
Neither is the case. We are both the product of our upbringing, and we mirror the values of the societies in which we have been brought up. My very European outlook towards things seemed to her, a fiery Texan, incomprehensible. In her eyes, I simply did not believe enough in myself. My lack of interest in self-promotion betrayed an inexplicable lack of self-confidence. She could not understand why I would never speak of my achievements, being instead happy to let others steal the spotlight.
Likewise, her own behavior smacked of insecurity to me. I could not understand her constant need to promote herself; to shout to the world, “I’m worthy.” Having no need to do so myself, I frowned mentally whenever she did that. From my point of view, someone who is truly confident in their own worth, feels no need to prove it. What to her was a sign of insecurity, to me was one of strength and self-confidence.
Only after a series of long conversations did we come to realize just how much our cultural references define us, and what an impact they had in our relationships. And I’m glad that we finally managed to overcome this misunderstanding and understand how we each see the world, agreeing to respect each other’s outlook.
But I’m still uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet. Or discussing my income with strangers, for that matter…
Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Most importantly, author.
Nicholas loves to write. He has published Runaway Smile, a children’s book, which you can read for free on his blog. He has also written the Amazon genre best-selling epic fantasy series, Pearseus. The final book in the series is currently penned and expected summer 2015.
Finally, he has published the Amazon best-seller The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories that includes his award-winning short story, I Come in Peace.
Nicholas lives in Athens, Greece, at a forest’s edge, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always sitting on his lap, so please excuse any typos in his blog posts: typing with one hand can be hard. Mercifully, all his books are professionally edited.
Nicholas is all around the Internet, but the best place to find him would be his blog, http://nicholasrossis.me/
Anyone interested in his books can check them out on Amazon:
Other places to connect with him include
- Twitter – www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis
- Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis and
- Facebook – www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis
People can read Runaway Smile for free on http://nicholasrossis.me/childrens-books/
Nicholas would love to hear from you! Your comments are also welcome on Gilda’s Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/girltalkwithgilda or send them to her on twitter at https://twitter.com/gildaevans, @gildaevans.
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Guest posts are the opinion of that author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Gilda Evans or others posted here.