One of the more pleasant aspects of being a resident of Paris is the exposure to people whose lives and accomplishments seem to sit on an island, divorced and distanced from their egos.
By this I mean that I’ve encountered a number of Parisians who know exactly who they are and what they are. This identity is independent of their external circumstances. They may be incredibly successful or just barely making it financially. It matters not, in a certain sense. They’re emotionally and psychologically isolated and insulated. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are little more than raindrops to them. Their happiness is not contingent on exterior conditions.
Whether this attitude is the result of cultural influences, family tradition, or the hard-won reward of bruising experience, I can’t yet tell. But my observations of the phenomenon will continue.
This isn’t to say that these unapologetic Frenchies don’t want the very best results from their work. They do. In their nonchalant, ambling way they often reveal themselves to be quite committed to excellence in their chosen fields. However, in the land of Moliere, Montaigne, Madam Curie, and Monet, they’re just a little more hesitant about tooting their own horn.
The terms ‘genius’ and ‘greatness’ aren’t thrown around here casually. The list of past French geniuses and great artists, writers, and scientists is long and formidable, and has been assembled and agreed upon over an extended period of time by serious thinkers. Best to nod and shrug when accolades come your way, and remain modest.
The Parisians have simply adopted, as a matter of elegance, a way of wearing their good fortune or noble birth lightly. A big ego is not more attractive than a big gold wrist watch. Cliche is a French word, let’s remember, and nothing bores them more quickly than the obvious.
So let’s divorce our ego, if we were ever married to it, and redouble our quiet commitment to excellence.
8 thoughts on “Divorcing Your Ego”
Your observations are in line with the French tendency not to exaggerate or over-flatter. The response is more likely “not bad” than “AMAZING!!”
True. Until something’s really, really good. Then the French get passionate. Stay safe, Elle. – BGT
Highly refined culture in Paris – love it.
Thanks, Maurice. Hope you’re well. – BGT
“Best to nod and shrug when accolades come your way, and remain modest”. I agree entirely. Understanding one’s place in society and in history, it is best to stay focused
Hope you’re well, William. Stay safe. – BGT
How refreshing to read this. It is a good reminder to revisit the Stoics. I’ve been noticing how the younger generation is being told how amazing! Fabulous! Smart! they are all the time.
I have told my kids that the confidence I want them to have is not “I am so amazing!” but rather, a quiet, “I got this”. They understood immediately.
Great advice. Good for you, Serena. Thanks. – BGT