The Torchlight Swan – Do good and talk about how you do it? Really?

The Italian Baldassare Castiglione wrote in his “Book of the Courtier”, in 1528, that when interacting with other people, if they see your behaviour as a technique, it ceases to fulfil its purpose, no matter whether you meant it earnestly, or just to manipulate them. For example, if you are being polite to someone – as soon as they think you are only doing this because you want a favour of them, they disregard your politeness, no matter what your true intentions are. Castiglione then elaborates his concept of “grazia” and “sprezzatura” on this observation. You need to have both grace, any admirable talent or quality in your behaviour, and at the same time show a certain disregard for that same quality. “It’s nothing”, you might say when somebody pays you a compliment. The famous dandy Beau Brummel pushed this to extremes. He once had diamond buttons sewn to his evening coat, but insisted that one of them was so loosely attached that it fell off during the evening party. When someone noticed it and bent down to pick it up for him, he replied: “Ah, leave it, it’s only a button.”
Our Torchlight Swan is just the opposite of this. Sometimes I wonder whether it is a question of vanity, the desire to make 100% sure that people understand the backstory of one’s display. Sometimes, people insist on explaining repeatedly what kind of person they are, “given how much I care and do for a good team spirit”, “given that my natural leadership style is very participative” etc. Their insistence makes one wonder whether they want to convince themselves most of all, because secretly they doubt whether they are the opposite. I consider the biggest mistake in such behaviour their fundamental underestimation of the capability of their audience to critically interpret such self-descriptions. The more the king tells them about his clothes, the more they think that in truth he must be naked.