Saturday, November 30, 2013

Beyond #memyselfandi: Trending modesty in a selfie world

“Beyond #memyselfandi : Trending modesty in a selfie world”
Sun.Star Davao, Nov. 30, 2013

Breaking news!

            The Oxford Dictionaries recently announced that selfie is their international Word of the Year for 2013.  Selfie is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media site”.

            Selfie as a word or expression had such a phenomenal impact worldwide that its use has increased by 17,000% since this time last year.

            A few weeks before Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement, I received an invitation from the Davao Christian High School’s Student Council to be one of the speakers for their “Words of Wisdom (WOW) Day”. The topic assigned to me was modesty.

            Since I would be speaking to 143 high school girls, I wanted to think of a title that was relevant yet catchy to them. Then came a light bulb moment - what if I emphasized the importance of modesty in this selfie generation?

And, so, my final title became “Beyond #memyselfandi : Trending Modesty in a Selfie World”.

The girl who loves her #selfie

            I began my talk by showing a satirical video entitled “The girl who loves her #selfie”--an amusing story about a pretty but vain lady’s extreme love for selfies. Do watch it on YouTube, if you have time.

            I explained after the video that I had nothing against selfies. As someone who is active on social media sites such as Facebook and occasionally, Instagram, I would see friends and celebrities doing their selfies and #OOTD (outfit of the day) posts and that was fine with me. As a popular Filipino expression goes, “Walang basagan ng trip!”. But, honestly, I do get bothered when acquaintances and friends post selfies one after the other to the point that it dominates my news feed. Relate much?
            Modesty is defined as “lack of pretentiousness; simplicity; freedom from vanity or conceit; regard for decency of speech, behavior and dress; and the quality or state of being unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities.”
            An excessive fascination for selfies, however, contradicts the very essence of the value of modesty.


            Modesty is something that is very personal to me. My various experiences with people; work; and certain events have shaped my beliefs regarding its value.

            I shared to the students how when I was in grade school and college, I had classmates who were of prominent families but these friends were even more unpretentious, simple and down-to-earth than those who were not as materially blessed.

One of the humble people I also highlighted was Dylan Wilk who used to be the 9th richest man in England under 30 years old when he built his computer game empire. But, Dylan, chose to live a more modest but meaningful life by being a Gawad Kalinga volunteer in the Philippines. And, now, together with his wife Anna and sister-in-law Camille Meloto, they operate Human Nature, the Philippines’ largest brand of genuinely natural personal care, cosmetics and home care products. The company is driven by the core philosophies of being Pro-Philippines, Pro-Poor and Pro-Environment.

In addition, I related my memorable experience working for the City Government of Davao where I met many amazing high profile individuals (which included my former boss Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte) who remained modest, in spite of their titles and achievements. They encouraged me to take public service seriously and become more humble. Knowing that I was in the spotlight because of my position as Davao City Tourism Officer, I even became extra careful with my speech, behavior and even how I dressed.

Miley Cyrus version 2.0

            My all-girl audience for the talk grew up idolizing Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana on Disney Channel.

            As I showed flashback photos of Hannah Montana, I could hear the students giggling excitedly as they relived wonderful childhood memories.

            In an article entitled “Is Modesty the Best Policy?” by Claire Kincaid, the writer revealed that “in 2010, Miley ranked in the top three percent among celebrities in influence and trend-setting, according to the Country Brand Index, an index that rates more than 3,000 celebrities around the world in seven categories”.

However, after her shocking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards where she stripped down into nude latex underwear and did the notorious twerking, “she is now in the bottom 20 percent of the CBI ranking for influence and trend-setting, as well as the bottom one percent for trust, breakthrough, aspiration, endorsement, and appeal”.

            And, just this week, I watched on TV that Miley was chosen as one of “the least influential people of 2013” by GQ magazine.

In this age where modesty is often given a negative connotation by the “cool crowd”, the public’s reaction to the new Miley proves that modesty is still powerful and controls respect.

Why dress modestly
Do you know that a study by Princeton University found that when men saw women in bikinis, the part of the brain associated with the same excitement when they see a set of shiny tools also lit up and the part of the brain that deals with processing another’s thoughts or intentions completely shut down?

When men viewed women who were immodestly dressed, they didn’t see them as people, but as objects. In this subtle and indirect way, women are “objectified”.

            The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is a certified fashionista, conservative and modest in her choice of attire but never frumpy. In fact, Kate is one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2013” and is associated with class, beauty and power.
I emphasized to the girls that “as they cover up, their influence and power get to shine” but if they dress scantily, whether they like it or not, they get sexual attention – the wrong kind of attention!

I also took the opportunity to remind the students that being modest means that they don’t have to announce to the whole world “who” they are wearing through frequent #OOTDs. They must be confident and secure enough to mix and match department store and tiangge finds with branded apparel. They don’t have to go “branded” all the way to feel good about themselves.

Humble brag

            Have you heard of the term “humble brag”?
            Humble brag is “when you consciously try to get away with bragging about yourself by couching it in a phony show of humility or with a “woe is me” twist”. This is common on Facebook and Instagram:

            Some examples from the net:
            “I am exhausted from my two week vacation in Hawaii. I need a vacation!”

          “Just stepped on gum. Who spits gum on the red carpet?" 

         “Uggggh…Just ate about fifteen pieces of chocolate. Gotta learn to control myself when flying  first class or they'll cancel my modelling contract. LOL“

“Lawyer friends, I need your help. I was recently offered a spot at both Harvard and Princeton’s law schools, and I’m not sure how to go about this. Which one is better in your opinion? Thanks, guys.” 

            If you have a milestone or a happy event, do share. Many people will be more than willing to cheer you on. But, if your intention is to subtly brag about your fantastic life, your uber talented and smart kids, your expensive stuff, etc., think first before posting, or better yet, don’t post.

            I continued my talk by citing some remarkable DCHS alumni who served as teachers and principals in the school as their ministry. They were brilliant yet unassuming. I mentioned that, for me, these were the people who deserved to be the role models of today’s generation, not Miley Cyrus version 2.0.

            And, of course, the ultimate example of modesty is Jesus Christ who came to this world in a lowly manger. Jesus was strong but meek, secure but compassionate, wise yet selfless. He lived this kind of a life, even upon death by the worst possible way - crucifixion.

I ended my talk by challenging the young students to start practicing modesty in their lives by reflecting on how they dressed, acted and talked. I encouraged them to go beyond “#memyselfandi” and make a positive difference in this world.

            It was truly an honor to be able to share my thoughts on modesty to the future leaders of our society and I congratulate the DCHS Student Council for their successful Words of Wisdom (WOW) Day!

            My sincerest thanks go out to my ever supportive DCHS Parents-Teachers Fellowship co-officers Sharon Mangaoil, Vilma Gerona, Mila Aceron, Yvonne Cabada, and Julie Tiu for conducting the fun-filled modesty fashion workshop after my talk.

            A million thanks to Krispy Kreme for sponsoring the delicious doughnuts during the talk. 

            Some photos are courtesy of Google Images.

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(Inspired by the article, “5 Ways to Stay Grounded After Becoming Successful”,

Cherish your old friends and family. These are the people who will genuinely watch your back. They will remind you of what you used to be and will let you know if you are turning into something bad. They will be your true critics who help you stay connected to your old self.

Always remember that life is extremely unpredictable and uncertain. Just because you are successful now does not guarantee that you will continue to be so 5 years from now. If you keep reminding yourself that things can change for the worse, then you will think twice before you fill yourself with pride.

When success colors your vision, try to remind yourself that there are people and things that are way more important than what you are striving for. This will help you stay connected to things that actually matter.

Reminding yourself of the bad times, your failures, will help you appreciate your successes with humility and gratitude. Failures let us keep our egos in check.

This will teach you how to respect and understand different kinds of people. One of the best ways to check a person’s character is to see how he or she treats and speaks to people who do not have money or fame. At the same time, by being exposed to people “above you”, you are also reminded that there are people better than you so don’t be too proud of yourself!.

Be other-centered and not self-centered. Get involved in meaningful activities. If we are not too self-absorbed, we will have more time to serve others and God. To be modest, the way we speak and act, should not call attention to ourselves but others. It is to walk in humility, being meek and unassuming. But, being meek doesn’t mean one is weak. In fact, it just proves that the person is self-confident because he/she doesn’t have to always prove himself to others.

Pick someone who acts, speaks and dresses modestly. Try to emulate them. In the same manner, be a good role model to others. If you have a powerful influence in school or in social media, use this to promote worthwhile activities, to build others up and not pull them down.

Don’t be too attached to material belongings. Remember, to have less is to live more. Be comfortable with what you own whether it’s branded or not.

Get out of your home. Travel to other places. Broaden your experiences. Don’t be afraid to try novel things. When you go out of your comfort zone, you grow and with this new knowledge and experience, you are reminded that you are not the center of the universe.

Instead of being full of arrogance and pride, try being grateful. This feeling of gratitude will help you stay humble. Never forget those who helped you achieve your goals and be forever thankful to them. And, always, always give back the glory to God when you experience success.

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