We often confuse our conceit with our sense of pride.
Conceit is guided by ego and motivated by desire; the desire for validation, self-importance and recognition. Pride is guided by intellect and motivated by responsibility towards one’s work and duty towards one’s family and society.
Our pride is all about our conduct, our conceit is all about inter-personal comparison; our pride is all about self-reliance, our conceit is all about expectations; our pride is all about endurance, our conceit is all about projection. Our pride is all about creating, gradually, brick by brick, drop by drop – whether it’s tangible like material resources or intangible like goodwill, our conceit is all about shortcuts, waiting for that magic wand, a miracle, a messiah.
Our pride reflects our attitude of acceptance of ‘what is’, our conceit reflects our attitude of ‘if only’. One is all about humility, the other is all about arrogance. And therein lies our character and character is destiny.
These are the things that decide or make our destiny. What we have earned by way of our fate or destiny, we are bound to suffer or enjoy but what makes or breaks our character (which decides our future destiny) is the way in which we conduct ourselves through what was fated or destined.
Read all the Karma Sutra columns here
When the focus is ‘I’ (ego) we continually blame the other factors — that is, our limitations and handicaps. While these may well be a part of our reality, instead of turning it into an opportunity to prove our mettle, we use it as an excuse to play the victim. And when we adopt this attitude, our reality never changes. We may hop from one job to another, one relationship to another but we always end up being the wronged one. And we conveniently blame our fate (kismet) for all the wrongs in our life. We attribute our failures to our ill luck and others’ success to their good luck. We never accept that we are the ones who have brought this misfortune upon ourselves. Till the time we don’t make a paradigm shift in our attitude, our ill luck will hound us forever. Our attitude is not dependent on our limitations in life.
No matter what the limitation (social, economical, physical), we always have the power to transform our given situation. Through our endurance, our talent, our perseverance we make our luck, write our destiny, in spite of all our limitations. As long as it’s a matter of pride and not conceit we win this battle. The other factors may be challenging, may be unfair but when we swallow the bitter drink with dignity, by not taking it as a personal abuse but fate testing us, we win this battle. And this is where wisdom comes to our rescue, to see the other factors as mere instruments meting out our fate rather than people with personal vendetta who we need to outsmart or settle scores with.
Inter-personal comparisons, blame games, playing the victim are all escape routes for the cowards who shirk their duty. They hide behind these and cite them as reasons for not succeeding in life. ‘If only’ is their mantra. The sad part is that it’s not their lack of talent or incompetence that stops them from excelling or succeeding in their field or relationships, but their attitude, their false sense of pride.
And, herein, lay the freedom, the human privilege, to choose one’s attitude. Either to accept the challenges of life, in whichever form they may present themselves with pride — pride in our ability, our gift of endurance, patience, perseverance — or forever be the conceited victim of circumstances, who will always be at the receiving end of all the wrongs in the world.