How to be confident with respectHow to be confident with respect

One of the main disadvantages of studying abroad is the danger of losing humbleness. Because of flawed society metrics, student’s social status is distorted in a slight, initially hardly noticeable and completely unfair way. Because these metrics unknowingly pervade almost each and every one of us, this sets up a dangerous feedback loop.

Student’s opinions suddenly get more attention, which enhances their self confidence. Enhanced self confidence in turn makes their arguments even more convincing. When we realize that the student also daily consumes vast amounts of information about a niche topic, about which general knowledge is in most cases elementary and which the student considers to be important (they decided to study it after all), we get a hardly resistible and a highly toxic cocktail.

I personally begin to realize I have had too much of this drink in the past three years. Despite again and again realizing with amusement how weak and unjustified arguments form the basis of my opinions and knowledge. Humans are, so it appears, rather terrible at evaluating the justifiability of their claims and in recognizing their fundamental assumptions.

How to deal with this complicated situation then? I am afraid that the recognition alone won’t cut it. I believe that it is essential to actively remind ourselves all the time that our opinions stand on unjustified assumptions, to make active efforts to identify these and compare them with others. This is the only way to find out who we really are and to be able to listen to others with respect.

In no way am I suggesting giving up on our beliefs completely. Rather we should recognize their limitations. We should remember that the assumptions behind them are just our beliefs and our beliefs only and as such are unjustifiable.

A more complicated situation arises when one considers the basic principles of humanity. I don’t think even these are logically justifiable. I think that they are neither inherited nor obvious and that it is functional to argue them with logic. In my view they are also decisions. They stand above logic and form its foundation. We can reason why they are somehow beneficial to the society, this by itself is however a completely abstract concept, which by itself doesn’t hold water.

The advantage of this way of thinking is its honesty. It allows us to believe in our opinions with conviction and to present them confidently without disrespecting the opinions of others. It allows us to have a realistic view of their absolute value and it allows us to change them, when we learn they follow from assumptions, which we decided not to believe in. That is in my opinion essential to everyone, regardless of their background or social status.

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