Idolizing Yourself

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Matthew McConaughey possesses the rare blend of enviable beauty, charm, and confidence that makes a person undeniably fascinating.

As an actor he can either stun you with his ability to dive deeply into a character, or irritate you by kicking back and letting his abs do the work.

Either way, you can’t take your eyes off of him.

This past week the Oscar Winning actor came under scrutiny for comments he made about being his own hero during his acceptance speech.

“… this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?”… You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.”  …Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing…”

Most critics immediately jumped onto McConaughey’s statement as glaring assertions of self-adoration and blatant narcissism.  While McConaughey may well be a self-centered engine burning a high-octane mixture of pride and sex appeal, when read without prejudice his statements are actually more about self-improvement than they are about self-worship.

A statement of self-worship actually sounds more like pop singer Katy Perry’s massively successful single “Roar”; a declaration of the confidence that comes from believing that you have finally conquered the people who are holding you down:

Now I’m floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes

I went from zero, to my own hero

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust…

…You’re gonna hear me roar!

Far from actually stating that he worshiped himself because he was awesome, McConaughey simply revealed a system of self-improvement that keeps him striving to achieve a goal he will never reach, which in turn should keep him from making the kind of “I’ve arrived” statements that we see from other high achieving celebrities.

I’d suggest that the sad issue revealed in McConaughey’s statement isn’t self-worship that comes from achievement by way of self-betterment, it’s actually an inability to identify trustworthy, external role models.

It’s important to remember that following yourself as a guide doesn’t simply spring from a natural desire to “go with our gut”, “listen to our heart”, or “trust our instincts”.  Those are adult behaviors that spring from not trusting the voices around us.

A recent fascinating scientific study contrasting chimps and children has revealed that human children expect to be taught by example, while chimp children will ignore instruction and act on natural instinct to get what they want.

It’s humans, not chimps, that primarily learn by monkey see-monkey do.

You see, humans start out trusting our teachers but eventually stop as a result of disillusionment and unmet expectation.

It’s at that point that we begin making the choice to “trust ourselves”.

This kind of “trust” isn’t actual confidence or self-belief, it’s bravado, and it comes from having no other place left to turn. It’s a result of being hurt by people you trusted to guide and train us by faithfully modeling what they consistently told us.

A lack of trust in others to truly care for you leads to a lack of respect, and that lack of respect means that you see them as oppressors instead of role models…

…as seen in the Katy Perry lyric.

It’s really easy to listen to people’s statements and use them to point out how bad they are, but that’s usually the sign of envy isn’t it?

It’s much harder to listen to them to hear how they’ve been hurt, especially when they are beautiful, charming, and confident.

There’s a moment in every person’s life where they realize that humans can’t be trusted.  In that moment we are faced with a choice to turn away from people and run to God, or to turn away from people and dive into ourselves.

If you don’t take into account that you are a person just like everybody else, diving into yourself seems like a great option.

Especially when you are easy to look at.

4 Responses to “Idolizing Yourself”

  1. Scott Cowling March 14, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Excellent post Jon!

  2. Wes Pruitt March 20, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Jon, Tobin Cooley highly recommended you as a Resource Leader at the Seabeck Christian Family Camp in the summer of 2015. Let me know if you are interested and I can fill you in.

  3. Jenna March 29, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    I think this is an interesting post and you made good points. I guess I stray from your view a bit because he was the only person who thanked God first and foremost. And because he said his famous ‘alright, alright’ showing humility in his beginnings. I think God did a lot of good through him that night.

    • Jon April 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Hey Jenna,
      I don’t think we disagree. I don’t think what McConauhey did was wrong, I just think it’s sad that he can find anybody else to look up to.

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