One of the key issues of human existence is the discrepancy between
evaluating others and evaluating oneself. Humans evaluate and compete with each
other in a continuous negotiation that involves strategy, criticism, conflict,
and overt battles. The brain systems that evaluate others are not used in
Humans tune into other humans and copy desirable statements and behaviors.
The term “appropriate” suggests that language and behavior can be matched to
suit the needs and standards of a specific group. Skillful humans learn to be
appropriate in different social settings. Humans self regulate in social
settings by observing others and adjusting their own behavior to be more
congruent with the behavior of others. A constructive response to rejection is
to change appearance with more care in grooming and costume selection; to learn
behaviors and stories that are more acceptable to the group.
Since most humans cannot observe themselves in action, they cannot evaluate
their own appearance, facial expression and behavior. It is easy to argue that
humans, like other primates, are mostly interactive creatures, pre-occupied with
what others are doing. Humans have little or no native cognitive ability for
self-evaluation and limited ability for self-regulation. The result is constant
negation and conflict among humans who judge the others harshly and have little
or no insight into the effect of their own behavior on others. In the simplest
analysis, humans tend to judge others with more skill, more detail and more
critically than they judge themselves.
Each human peers out from a central illusion of a perfect self that must
survive at all costs. This feature of the human mind is “innate narcissism” and
is neither optional nor negotiable. The admission of error is difficult for most
humans. The basis of this reluctance is practical; humans who make errors are
criticized aggressively and may be demoted or dismissed from the group. The
denial of errors is an innate defensive reflex. Denial of errors also manifests
a real and important inability to accurately evaluate oneself.
A social group provides external regulation in the form of values, beliefs,
approval, disapproval, criticism, and by insisting on standards of conduct.
Self-evaluation largely consists of monitoring the effects of your own actions
on others. Some humans are socially gifted and spontaneously adjust their
behavior to receive desirable responses from others. Females tend to be more
socially aware and skillful than males. Some humans are socially disabled and do
not adjust their behavior even when they are repeatedly censured and punished.
The potential ability to self-evaluate with any accuracy and skill must be
learned and practiced in a sustained and intelligent manner. There are terms
that refer to narcissism such as “self esteem” or “self-image.” The proud person
manifests narcissism in a more or less acceptable manner. The arrogant person is
aggressively narcissistic. The empathic person recognizes the narcissism in
others. The selfish person fails to recognize the narcissism in others. The shy
person hides his or her narcissism. The idea of “low self-esteem” is flawed
since it assumes that narcissism is optional and some people lack this feature,
but this is rare.
Humans who fail to achieve the approval of the local group feel sad or angry,
often both. Their narcissism is intact and their distress arises from the
inability or reluctance of the local group to acknowledge their wonderful
characteristics. The rejected ones will complain and may appear to value
themselves less, but their distress emerges from a deep and narcissistic
conviction that they should receive better treatment from the group. Humans who
are rejected repeatedly develop aversions to hostile individuals or groups and
places where rejection occurs. Their withdrawal and aversive behavior is often
described as “low self-esteem.” There are many strategies available to achieve
more approval, ranging from supplication, to self-improvement, to destructive
aggression. If the group rejection is sustained, the oppressed member becomes
“depressed” and expresses self-doubt; his or her withdrawal maintains the social
peace. If, on the other hand, the oppressed member becomes angry, he or she will
leave the group, seek allies and may return, seeking revenge, sometimes after