When you are good at something, where is the line between confidence and arrogance? Do we excuse arrogance when someone is stellar? How far above the average competence must one be before they are permitted bragging rights? Muhammad Ali was the greatest at this and we all loved to hate his braggadocio. Michael Jordan and Lebron James get to talk all the trash they want, because we all honestly know they are far above the rim. Tiger Woods, too. Yet, since he was so decidedly “unstellar” in another area of his life, he loses some percentage of his bragging rights. Or did he? Honestly, I kept waiting for him to march out to a bank of microphones and say, “Yeah, yeah. Idiot move. Bad husband. I got a thing for the ladies (look of chagrin or a wink-wink at the camera)….but I am still the best golfer on this planet, so bite me!”. Instead, he makes the sacrificial offering to appease the “machine” because he has been judged. Once the brouhaha subsides, he will be back on the top of the golf game, but I suspect he will always wear a scarlet letter and every sports commentator will get permission to drag out his indiscretions to rebuke him. Frank DeFord is the only commentator that said very early that he could care less and detested that he made an “apology”. Who cares! Its the golf, baby! Stick to the golf! I wonder what people would say of the drunken debauchery of the Babe Ruth era of baseball?
But, there is a sense that achievement must be tempered with deference. We shouldn’t brag. We shouldn’t boast. That’s pride. And that’s wrong. Really? I think the neurosurgeon and radiologist that did my sister’s surgery 10 years ago should get billboards up and done I-75 saying they saved her life! How many people can do that? Getting the highest score on a standardized state exam that most cannot pass…that is something to boast about. Having and raising six beautiful, funny, wickedly intelligent children is worthy of accolades. Skills and talents are the ingredients of a life lived fully. And they are JUST FACTS. Facts. There is no good or bad. No emotional quotient applied.
And some people have mean skills…stunning skills. Skills that blow you away and make you think, “Holy cow, how do they do that?” But, if they write their life’s resume and say, “I am excellent at these things” then critics say….what a braggart! They are so full of themselves. How are factual abilities considered prideful? But we love to criticisize the uber competent. Think Martha Stewart. Love her! Some really hate her. Why? Cause she’s bitchy? A diva? I think that it is really that people are jealous! And since they can’t be like her they tear her down in some other way
I can hear my mother’s soothing voice when I would come home from school with my feelings hurt because someone had called me ugly or flat chested or bucky beaver. She would say, “They are just jealous.” Incredulously, I would respond, “Of what?” They are jealous of how smart you are!”
Back then, I could care less about being smart. I wanted to fit in. Doesn’t any 13 year old? But, now I am cool with being the brainiac. Until dementia sets in, I can’t lose my mind . There is no Botox for intelligence, no plastic surgeon capable of lifting my IQ. I take my props where I got them.