It used to be unseemly to be conceited. Girls shunned other girls who flaunted their beauty, their brains or their wealth; arrogance and sticking out your goods for all to see was considered almost anti social. Fitting in, being friends, making nice and having a sense of humility were valued – perhaps because we were having a Puritanical hangover and pride was still very much thought of as a sin?
Whatever the reason, I am shocked and amazed today at how, in our popular culture, being arrogant has become a desirable attribute, and being conceit is par for the course.
Back in the day, Muhammad Ali was the most conceited and arrogant of all human beings any of us had every heard of or had heard speak. For example, Ali was known to say things so arrogant and straight up conceited that he disarmed people, especially his opponents, simply by the force of not only his belief in himself, but his blatant verbal hammering of this idea home. He said “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.” And also, he clued us in to the fact that: “If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize.”
Ali was a deep thinker and a champion; his words were so unusual that we couldn’t help but notice him. However, he was also onto something more profound than simply showing off. Along with his more arrogant quotes were some real thought provoking ones, like: “It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” And this type of thinking makes us understand what a self-made man Ali really was, and that the power of his belief in himself created his persona, and his success.
But if this arrogance isn’t grounded in anything other than arrogance, it reeks, somewhat, of a type of narcissistic immaturity that is enough to make even the most tolerant become faintly nauseated.
Today’s grown up babies of the “self esteem” generation and the aggressively arrogant reality television generation are just plain conceited in ways we used to hate 20 or 30 years ago.