Short essay on self Praise – No Recommendation

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The sweetest of all sounds, it is said, is praise. Coleridge wrote that Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God. Everyone likes to be praised and admired; even a refusal of praise is believed to reflect a desire to be praised twice.

Those who love self-praise were compared by George Eliot, in his famous work “Adam Bede”, to a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow. But Voltaire, in his “Philosophical Dictionary”, contended that “self love is the instrument of our preservation; it resembles the provision for the perpetuity of mankind; it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and we must conceal it”.

But self praise can never be a recommendation because it is based not on merit and talent but on self-love and flattery, both of which are exercises in deception.

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Self love is often the greatest of all flatterers. After all, flattery is nothing but to see virtue where none exists; to admire some one for something of which he or she is absolutely innocent. And where self-praise is based on something non-existent and imaginary, it is ill-founded.

How can it ever be a valid recommendation? When praise and admiration emanate from quarters which are distinctly motivated, these are not worth having. Tributes are worth receiving only when these are well founded and well deserved.

Ironically, flattery by others tends to become the first love of many proud individuals in whom ego dominates, even to the exclusion of basic human virtues. While ego is defined as an individual’s perception or experience of himself and implies his capacity to think, feel and act, to that extent, it may be regarded as unobjectionable. But it is when a person becomes egocentric, that is, self-centered and egoistic, that difficulties begin to arise.

Systematic selfishness leads to egoism; it is a state of mind when one is always thinking of oneself, as against altruism, when a person takes a charitable view of others and is moved by compassion and consideration.

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Similarly, self conceit, selfishness and the practice of always talking about oneself develops qualities which are associated with undue praise and recommendation of oneself.

This leads in due course to narcissism- a mental state in which there is self-worship and excessive interest in one’s own perfections or presumed perfections; for, presumed or imaginary perfections and achievements prompt self-recommendations which cannot be taken as genuine or even worth taking note of.

Moreover, self-praise is a trait of character that tends to become almost perpetual. Those who indulge in praise of oneself, in the belief that one is perfect, also begin to harbour the illusion that all others have a faulty make­up, that they lack merit and talent and are, therefore, inferior beings when compared to themselves.

A man who either praises himself all the time or loves to hear praises from others soon becomes conceited. Praise soothes, quietens and comforts the listener, creating a false sense of pride.

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Self-praise is, of course, fed by a feeling of self importance, which in turn may result from frequent flattery by others. The flatterers and those who are flattered both seem to rejoice in the bargain. The flatterers and sycophants are often professionals; they have practiced the art on many people and, thus, achieved their selfish ends. But it is not the flatterers we should condemn, as much as those who readily lend their ears to such self seeking individuals, and who readily fall victims to their admirer’s subtle game.

Kind words and high sounding epithets seek to build a glorious image and he who does not fall a victim to flatterers must be an extraordinary person. Deriving a high degree of mental satisfaction from praise and temptation of all kinds is a human weakness that few are able to resist.

A person who is well flattered soon learns to flatter and praise himself, because he argues to himself that so many others cannot be wrong. Even modest people fall a prey to admirers.

After all, neither self-praise nor praise by others, including the habitual hangers-on, costs anything. It requires no financial investment and comes free like air and water; all that praise requires is a glib, oily tongue and a growing feeling of self-importance.

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Praise is said to be a kind of fire which, if persistently applied, has the capacity even to melt the hardest of minds and those with iron in their souls. Praise can achieve what criticism, even self-appraisal, cannot. Those who habitually resort to self-praise are never happy when others also start praising themselves beyond measure, because admiring oneself implies that others are not, and can never be, as perfect as they themselves are.

Consequently, they never form a brotherhood or a fraternity; rather, they become egoistic day by day.

Praise feeds upon itself; those who are hungry for it will ever and always feed themselves on this diet. From their standpoint, there cannot be a surfeit of praise, including self-praise. Nor will such people ever be well disposed towards those who try to caution them against the pitfall of constant self-praise.

Even well-meant advice is not welcome these days. In fact, people who love to praise themselves day in and day out may like to praise those who praise them, as members of a mutual admiration society generally do. They can all afford praise.

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The truth, however, must be faced; truly wise and talented men seldom praise themselves. They err on the side of humility; they are humble and meek; they know their faults and are aware of the fact that pride leads to a fall. It is pride that pulls a country down.

Pride sometimes taints good men. Even small things may make base men proud and develop a fondness for cheap praise. Where praise, especially self-praise, abounds, humility and a sense of proportion are scarce. Where, on the contrary, there is abundant praise without rhyme or reason, the admirers may make an ass of the object of their adoration, without the latter being aware of it.

Self-praise sometimes takes the form of boasting and bragging, even though discriminating people detest such boasts, for they knew that empty vessels make much noise. It is only the shallow people who praise themselves, publicly or privately. Soon they stand exposed; instead of self-praise serving as a recommendation, it tends to act as a self-denunciation. Those who blow their own trumpets are derided at their backs. They lose credibility and are laughed at.

The praised ones begin to believe even falsehood and lose the capacity to distinguish between chalk and cheese, the genuine and the fake, vice and virtue. A fool, it is said, may even begin to believe he has wit.

Just as the praise of a book or a painting or a piece of sculpture by its author or artist is no recommendation, similarly self-praise can never be a sound basis to know the real value of a person.

Recommendation is good, sound advice or opinion about somebody or something; it is bound to be misleading when it comes from the person concerned or by one who is an interested party.

Another aspect of self-praise also needs to be examined. When you come to think of it, can’t we indulge in self-praise for the pleasure, even if momentary, it gives in a world so full of troubles, so bristling with baffling, complex problems?

Even if self-praise is no recommendation and is in effect self-delusion, does it matter much? Innocent, harmless pleasures are rare in this mundane world, and self-praise is one such inexpensive, largely harmless exercise.

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