Self-limitation: an unfashionable perspective

Have you noticed how we’re living in an era of self-expression? It’s all about finding your inner you, being your best you, and expressing yourself in whatever way feels most natural. And what’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, in particular, I respond. In the West, we are afforded many freedoms, most of which I’m sure we take for granted. Subsequently, our culture has evolved into a melting pot of activity, creativity, individuality, and an egocentric approach to life. However, it may, or may not, have slipped your notice, that so often our behaviours impact others in remarkable ways. And not always good ways. Sometimes, we are so focused on our own self-expression, that we don’t stop to notice how it is impacting those around us. It may seem an unfashionable notion, but my belief is that sometimes we must practice self-limitation in order to love others better.


Entitlement is found when there is a higher sense of belief in one’s own importance, rather than the equality of all individuals involved or society as a whole.

Self-expression, in a way, is a form of entitlement. We believe that we have the right to live our lives exactly how we please; do what we want to, say what we like, indulge our whims as we please. As a member of a democratic society we have the right to give our opinions, to be heard, and to challenge the rule of law where we believe it is unjust. This is all great. The freedoms we enjoy are good. But has it maybe gone beyond that a little?

Entitlement has taken over, where we are now pushing our own importance above other people’s. The right to do certain things, which we feel are justified, are often done at the expense of others. We all have the right to live our lives how we see fit, but where is the line between freedom and entitlement? When do we say, hang on, is this hurting someone?

Fair and unfair

It is important to draw a distinction between what is fair, and what is unfair. The idea of justice is, of course, important when deciding what we are entitled to.

Fair is defined as:

marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favouritism.

Dictionary Definition

When entitled people bandy the word fair around, it will be coming from a position of self-interest. Justice has been disregarded after their own ends and the concept of what is fair used to manipulate and justify actions of entitlement to get what they want.

If something is truly fair, then it is unbiased and not based upon one person’s opinion or belief. It is for the good of many, not one. So often we believe we are entitled to certain things because we deem it only fair for us to have or be able to do something. But what if that causes harm to another? Is our sense of entitlement more important?

Self-limitation in practice

Entitlement has become, and continues to be, a big societal issue. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it in practice in our day-to-day lives.

I heard a story today about the Samoan Rugby team. They were to travel to Japan to play an away game. Seems innocent enough. However, there are cultural differences between these two nations. In Samoa, young boys receive a tattoo that signifies their responsibility to their people and their Chief. These tattoos cover a large area, down one arm and often over their chest. In Japan however, tattoos are seen differently. They carry negative connotations and would invariably give offence in a country where honour and respect are paramount. Mindful of these cultural differences, the Samoan rugby team covered their tattoos with flesh coloured sleeves as a mark of respect and friendship.

samoa. tattoo. self-expression. self-limitation.
Image by Peter Kramer from Pixabay

Not wanting to cause offense and desiring to be respectful of their host’s ways, the Samoan rugby team took ego out of the equation and adopted self-limitation in order to love their neighbours better. They could have stubbornly imposed their self-expression upon the Japanese, believing their way to be superior. One person’s beliefs are not necessarily another’s. That doesn’t mean we must impose ours upon them, or that we cannot discuss our differences in mutual concern, but it does mean that we must limit our own self-interest where it will harm another.


I’m sure there are many examples that come to your mind now of times where you have felt imposed upon by another’s need to express themselves. Oftentimes self-expression is wonderful. The creative arts offer boundless room for just such self-expression. But we can choose what we want to engage with as we all have our own preferences based upon our belief systems and values. It’s not about pushing ourselves on others. It’s about being respectful of each other’s differences and practicing awareness in order that self-limitation can be implemented when needed.

Unfashionable but necessary

Is it unfashionable to love your neighbour? Are we so caught up in our own self-interest that we don’t stop to look back or around us and see the effect of our self-expression? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not against expressing yourself. Like I said above, it is important that we have creative and emotional outlets to be our true and best selves. We must use the gifts we have been blessed with. But if we don’t stop to consider the impact our views and beliefs have upon others, we run the danger of being entitled, selfish and uncaring people. By practicing self-limitation, by thinking of others above yourself, you will learn to love better, to appreciate the people in your life, and create a more equal and caring society, even if it’s not very fashionable. Who wouldn’t want that?


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