Something I've noticed

I used to be very self-effacing. I could rarely have an achievement recognized without putting it down. I would often blush, counter the compliment, and then change the subject.

This was very bad for my self esteem.

If you’re Finnish (or Scandinavian in general), then you know how this self-effacing mentality permeates both your lifestyle and those lifestyles of people you know. Even if you think yourself to be more intelligent, more attractive, or more interesting than average, even hinting at this knowledge will make others extremely jealous and distrustful, according to “Jante’s Law,” which reigns supreme in the Nordic nations.

This is an issue.

The negative repercussions of Jante’s Law are numerous. The most salient of these are the many Finns (and Scandinavians, collectively) with self-esteem issues and depression. This is not from the “long winters,” though that may also be a cause. This is from the fact that most Finns are afraid to admit good things about themselves, even to themselves.

I used to get on my own case for thinking I am smart. I would mentally chide myself to “stop being so vain.” To be frank with myself, I’m in the top 3% of my school, academically. And yet, to pat myself on the back for my hard work was considered treason.

And we all have heard the horror stories of Finnish jealousy- Finns accusing other Finns of being boastful for simply being proud of their accomplishments, their house, etc. Admittedly, I used to think that people that said good things about themselves to strangers were braggarts. I’m glad I’ve changed my mentality, but it took me sessions in therapy to realize that this “modesty” is self-destructive.

If Finland hopes to be a happier nation, and to host a society less driven by jealousy and self-consciousness, we Finns need to learn how to give ourselves credit when credit is due. I am lucky enough to live in America, where (compared to the Nordic countries) bragging is much more commonplace. You see, there is a difference between being self-actualizing- knowing that you’ve done something well and admitting it to yourself to give yourself a boost every once in a while- and being a braggart. Braggarts not only boast about themselves constantly, but they also strive to put other people down. The other day this truly dawned on me, when my group presented a well-developed project to my class, and another student publically ridiculed us for it afterwards. He could stand to have more humility, especially since he then boasted about his own project. He represents the other extreme, which we would do well not to lean towards, either. But, still, it is better to err more towards cocky than overly modest in our case, since in the Finnish mindset, “cocky” is average in many other places.

It is sometimes hard for me to talk to people with high self-esteem, even if they are nice, because I still can’t completely erase the mindset that bragging is immature and rude. However, I am learning to be less judgmental. Strangely enough, this mindset was passed on to me by my non-Nordic mother, who is very critical, and not my Nordic father, who encourages me to be more confident. However, I feel that part of this anxiety is also innate within myself.

So, the solution? Speak well of yourself! It’s okay to accept a compliment by saying “Thank you, I’ve worked hard!” or to tell your friends that you did well on an important test. And mentally appreciate yourself when you do something well- it’ll result in you being much happier.

It has certainly helped me.