The Self Importance Disease

Self importance is, in my view, ugly. That’s not to say I don’t have bouts of it here and there, I probably have it more often than most – I’ll be the first to admit that. Whilst ill, I think myself to be the foremost expert in a field and then when I recover, I realise how much of a tit I was. If only I could turn back time and correct all the wrongs. It’s uglier when I see other people do it. Especially when they don’t deserve to. So let me tell you about this ever-existent pandemic.

Self Importance, in my opinion, is when you put a higher value (either financial, moral, psychological, social, etc) on something you can do, let’s call it a talent or skill, than is actually the case, especially when compared to someone else. And I think it’s more prevalent in students and graduates than any other sect of society.

Self importance has another name  – it’s arrogance without substance; the self-perception that you’re better than the other person, that your knowledge surpasses everyone else’s in the room. Let me give you a story to prove my point.

In college, I did Law A Level. One of the modules was Consumer Protection, so we learnt about consumer rights and all that stuff about how everything you buy has to be of a satisfactory quality and all that. The keen eared amongst you will have heard the recent radio advertising campaign by Consumer Direct. We learnt about Consumer Direct as well.

For those of you who don’t know what Consumer Direct is, the simplest explanation I can give is that it’s a useless government department that helps consumers (that’s people like you and me who buy stuff from other people) with legal issues – stuff like when you get charged for something that you didn’t buy, or when a product doesn’t meet a satisfactory quality. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not going for pin-point accuracy here.

Now, you’ll be thinking to yourself that this is a good service. A government department that’s out to help people. And you’ll also realise I said it was useless. That’s because Consumer Direct don’t help you solve any problems you may have. Instead, they tell you how to complain and advise you on your legal standing. Now this is all well and good, but I didn’t know that whilst doing my A-Level in law. The impression I got was that these guys would swoop in and fight my battle for me until the unscrupulous retailer caved in and offered a refund and extra vouchers for pissing me off. They’re all for consumer protection I thought – at last, the government is on my side!

So time goes on and soon enough I walk into a second-hand car dealers – I’m in the market for a car. Armed with this incorrect notion of Consumer Direct (i.e. being Batman instead of lawyer), I pondered in and found myself a bargain Vauxhall Corsa. I knew that if the car was broken or of ‘unsatisfactory quality’, I could get the dealer to put it right. Ha-Ha – I’m a winner. I can’t lose…

Yes, and you’ve guessed it. I bought a shit hole of a car. It struggled to go over 80mph and the exhaust made the most heinous sound! As I drove it for a few days, my Mum would say to me that she knew I was coming home because she could hear my exhaust from 2 streets away. I bought a dud.

No fear, I’ll call Consumer Direct and get them to sort it out… well, that went well. The advisor rang me back a few days after I lodged a complaint and told me that I could write a letter to the dealer using the templates on their website – fucking great. I asked could I take the dealer to court because it was my right to get a fully functioning car, I made the case that it was misrepresented.

“Erm… well, you could but it’s your word against his. So it’s difficult to prove.” Shit.

Disappointed, I wrote my letter and sent it off.

I’ll stop there before I bore you all to death, and because I’ve made my point. I thought I knew the law inside out and then found out that I was only half right. What I relied on, didn’t work. I got the wrong end of the stick. I got arrogant about my new-found A-Level knowledge and I thought I could outwit the car dealer if he messed me about. I got self-important.

See! I do it! I’ve heard stories of other people, and seen it for myself too. And I can sure as hell bet you have as well.

And it’s more common in people who have degrees, look: I know of a psychology graduate who tried to read an estate agents behaviour and use this insight to haggle the rent rates down – he duly got told to piss off. I’ve seen English graduates balls up pieces of text but at the same time cuss others for not using punctuation properly. I’ve seen Business students boast about their business acumen yet they don’t know that the terms revenue and turnover are synonymous with each other.

Possessing a degree doesn’t make you knowledgable or an expert. If anything, degrees are too contrived and only show you a limited scope of a field. No one can be fresh out of university and think of themselves an expert, even according to the layman. Just because I know about the 4 Ps of marketing, doesn’t mean I can launch a product to the world. Just because you have a degree in Finance doesn’t mean you’ll be the best hedge fund manager the world has ever seen. If anything, having a degree in a subject limits your potential – because you’ve learnt how things work, you’ll never challenge them. Education in this country kills creativity and innovation.

Look at the most successful people in the world. Richard Branson didn’t even go to university to study business, yet his Virgin brand is one of the most iconic in the world. Nor did Joanne Rowling get a BA English, but Harry Potter books sold in their millions.

The point is, self-importance is a disease. And whenever you think that by possessing your degree qualification, it makes you better than those who do not, think again.

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