#tbt: in defense of humility, redux

    Broken Obelisk  , by   Barnett Newman  .  In front of the   Rothko Chapel  , Houston, Texas USA, Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Broken Obelisk, by Barnett Newman.  In front of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas USA, Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Normally on Thursdays, I go into my archives and look at what I was doing this week a year/2 years/5 years ago, and share an image from that time.  Today, however, I discovered I wrote something that still rings true with me today.  So today, a couple of new images, but with some words that I wrote exactly 1 year ago today -- slightly edited.


Because of the concepts that I write and speak about -- the idea that "different" is beautiful, and what it truly means to thrive -- much of my work involves addressing ideas of self-confidence and self-esteem.  And one of the things I often talk about is that, speaking in generalities, women are less likely to claim their strengths than men are -- that women are afraid of being perceived as conceited or egotistical if they own their strength, or their intelligence or their courage.  That somehow, sometime around puberty, doing something "like a girl" becomes an insult  and girls stop doing what they love because they worry about their appearance.  It is as if women internalize a societally-imposed inferiority complex, which can affect how they move through life as an adult.

Naturally, I say that everyone (not just women) should embrace their "differents":  everyone should have what my friend Brené calls "grounded confidence" in what they know are their gifts and their talents.  Sheryl Sandberg says, "Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential,” and I believe this wholeheartedly:  truly knowing what gifts and talents are -- the things that friends often thank you for -- is instrumental to your success, however you define it.  Someone who has "grounded confidence" in themselves and their talents understands that there need not be any ego tied up in that; that in fact, it is possible to look at these gifts not as attributes you own, but rather they are what you hold in "trusteeship," as Gandhi said, and you are called on to use them for the benefit of others.*  

So claim your strengths and your gifts.  Unreservedly.  Unabashedly.

That said, I've also been thinking a lot about humility, lately -- and how I seem to see less and less of it around, like it's a bad thing.  I'm starting to believe that most people think that "humility" is the opposite of "self-esteem" -- that humility means thinking less of yourself, and not owning what you're good at.  Perhaps that's one definition, but it's not the definition that I use.  I think humility is actually the opposite of arrogance, and that in fact, humility is a recognition of the interconnectedness of all of us:  that as we use those gifts we hold in trusteeship, when someone receives the benefit of those gifts and expresses gratitude, that expression itself is a gift.  After all, success doesn't happen in a vacuum:  besides the kindness and support and encouragement that we get from people who love us and have our best interests at heart along the way, successes happen because the results of your hard work have been received by others.  We're all interconnected.  And it is therefore totally possible to be both humble and self-confident, believing fully in your own self-worth, while honouring the light in those who help you shine.

So, what does this mean?  To start, I think it means that when you receive a compliment, saying "thank you" is a no-brainer: it's the self-confident way to respond, and it's gracious.  (Don't get me started on saying things like, "Oh, no, I'm not that good," or "No, I'm not," in response to a compliment.  It makes me mental. Stop doing it -- a person giving you a compliment is giving you a gift, and you should receive it in gratitude.)  But a humble thing to say, in addition to your gratitude would be, "It was such an honour to have the opportunity to do {insert what you did to be successful here}" or "I'm really so grateful for the encouragement I had along the way," or whatever.  When someone wins an award, and they shout it from the rooftops, by all means, I cheer along with them:  however, I also believe that an acknowledgement of gratitude doesn't take away from the immensity of their achievement; in fact, it can make them seem even more confident.   The truth is, when I witness someone going on and on about nothing else other than what they've achieved, in a manner that indicates that they were absolutely the only person who could've made what they've achieved happen, well ... honestly, I wonder who they're trying to convince, me or them.

Anyway, my point is that witnessing true grounded confidence, coupled with humility, can be immensely inspiring.

There's a saying: "real G's move in silence."  It means, basically, that pros don't announce when they're doing something amazing, they just do it, and wait for the accolades to come.  And honestly, I believe that may be true, to an extent.  I actually don't have a huge issue with someone changing the world and making sure the world knows about it, especially when what they're doing really does serve those around them.  

What I do believe, however, is that real G's move in humility.  And that can be a beautiful, beautiful thing.


*  I believe the concept of how we hold talent in trusteeship, by the way, is also true of privilege.


For more on how to use your talents to help change the world, be sure to check out GLOW:  the 21-Day Ecourse for Claiming Your Light.