We live in a competitive society. Everywhere we look, we find books for self-improvement, lectures on the topics of building self-esteem or recognizing the power within, and talk shows populated with guest speakers talking about the importance of self recognition. There has been an explosion of literary content related to these ideas polluting the internet. We are told to find our personal power and embrace it. We should recognize our accomplishments, be proud of our achievements and reward ourselves with a well deserved pat on the back.
We buy the books and read the articles. We attend the lectures, coming away filled with renewed purpose and invigorated with a euphoric energy. We see our world through different eyes, understanding that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to doing. We have seen the way. We've found the parallels between the messages and ourselves. We have caught a glimpse of the bigger picture. We agree with the messages. Yes! We are powerful within our own right. Yes! We can create the reality we want. Yes! We are able to get past the fear and take the leap. Yes! Yes! Yes! We're going to do it, starting right this moment!
And then we step into the reality of the world we have already created prior to buying the book, reading the article, or attending the lecture. Our bubble doesn't burst, but it does lose a little bit of air, dropping an inch or two as we look about us and survey the damage we have already done. We examine the lies we've been living behind, the illusions we've created in order to feel better about our existence in the mess we've created. The euphoria of a few minutes ago is quickly evaporating. We shake ourselves, digging furiously through our memories until we recall that one phrase read or spoken which broke through the stuporous state of our being.
We sigh, relieved to have found a patch for that air leak. We lay out a new plan and we begin to implement those plans. We feel good again. With every small win, we are renewed. Slowly we begin to chip away at the smaller, easier repaired areas of damage until we are in a position to tackle the big stuff. The smaller victories begin to stack up. We start to stand taller, heads held higher. Not only are we able to see and appreciate our accomplishments, but we are able to tell others about them. We are proud of what we've accomplished and it is becoming evident. People are noticing the new us. They're seeing the confidence and self-esteem. Our lives are good, or at least heading in the direction we've chosen, and we're getting there because of our own steam and perseverance.
This is where the bubble is burst because someone will inevitably attempt to stick a needle in it. And we let them. Why do we let them? Because they are friends and family. They're people who are supposed to love us and care for our happiness and well-being. We want them to keep loving us, keep liking us, and to remain in our lives. We can't imagine them saying anything to us for the sake of harming us. We know they only have our best interests at heart. Or do they?
The overall entity we call public opinion is a monster suffering from multiple personalities. “Well, of course,” you say, “that's because millions of people make up public opinion.” What I'm referring to is the division in belief regarding how individuals should conduct themselves, the qualities one should strive to integrate into his personality, and the masks which should be in place at all times.
We spend millions of dollars on information designed to uplift us, to help us in finding and making life goals, to be all we can and should be as human beings. We are told to want things for ourselves and to go get them. Yet, whenever one of us does just that, or someone seems to be succeeding beyond their imaginings, we are quick to pull them back down. We feel this intense need to remind them of their lowly beginnings, to make sure they understand they are never to feel as if they are better than anyone else. We are determined not to let them think too highly of themselves.
Why do we do that? Are we really worried that the successful friend, brother, or neighbor is truly going to come to harm if he continues progressing? Or are we afraid of the wide gap we see opening between our accomplishments and theirs? Are we really afraid for them or for ourselves? When someone we are close to, begins to move up and out, our first reaction is usually one of happiness and excitement for that person. But somewhere down the line, we start looking at all they are gaining and we make comparisons to our own lives.
We start to feel pressure to perform too. And if we're in that same dismal place they were in before making sweeping changes, we may not believe we can change our realities for ourselves. We start telling ourselves we are different. Our circumstances are different. Our obstacles are higher and more numerous. The truth of the matter is that we simply don't have enough confidence in our abilities to overcome. Instead of rising to the challenge we, ourselves, have placed on us, we attempt to drag the others down. Sometimes it's not even about a lack of confidence. Sometimes we're just too lazy to do the necessary work. We don't want to, but we don't want to look lazy either. So we kid ourselves into believing that we are guarding our chosen one's soul. We remind them to be humble.
Your best friend shows up at your apartment, ecstatic about the new house he's just gotten approved to purchase. This house is everything you could want for yourself; great neighborhood, great schools for the kids, great shopping nearby, and all the amenities to die for. His enthusiasm is oozing all over you. Well, that's great, you tell him, but could you be a little more humble about it? Pop! Did you hear it? That was you bursting his bubble.
Your sister comes over to share her news with you. You've both been working for the same company for the last ten years. You've been content to remain in the same position as it's convenient for you. After all, you've got two children and a house and a husband. Your sister, on the other hand, is single and not satisfied to stay in one place for too long. She's put in tons of extra hours and taken classes to enhance her promotability. She's paid her dues and moved up twice. Now she's here to tell you of the promotion which will put her at the top of the department.
“I'm so happy for you,” you gurgle, adding, “but don't gloat about it. I chose to make my family a priority, so could you try to be a little humble?” Pop!
A co-worker figures out a solution to a problem no one else could come up with. He's bouncing off the walls, proud of his accomplishment. Pop! You need to remind him that he isn't the only one who has come up with solutions. It just happened to be his turn this time.
Our society is so preoccupied with competing and achieving, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. If we find ourselves lacking, the knee jerk reaction is to find fault with the achievers. We stop cheering them on to greatness, and shift focus to humbling them. What's worse is we feel justified in our actions and beliefs because, everyone knows the importance of being humble. It's considered a necessary attribute to being a successful human being.
The problem with this thinking is simply that most people are confused about the meaning of the word, humble. People tend to associate a humble person with someone who never acknowledges their achievements, never acknowledges their talents, and never takes any credit for any of the good things which may happen in their lives. Somewhere along the line, we took the meaning to be about accepting that we are only lowly human beings like everyone else, which further translates into being unworthy of praise and recognition.
We always want to package being humble with controlling pride. Once again, there is confusion where the issue of pride is concerned. The majority of people believe taking pride in something is evil, or at the very least, something to be shunned. This probably comes from religious doctrine which teaches that “pride comes before the fall,” and that being prideful is a sin, but there are several meanings for the words humble and pride.
One meaning for being humble is to show modesty in behavior, attitude, and spirit. One of the meanings of pride refers to the feeling of honor and self-respect, having a sense of personal worth. Neither of these meanings have negative connotations. If we use these meanings as a measurement of one's humbleness and attitude of pride, they can only be seen as good things.
How can we find fault with someone who has self-respect and a sense of personal worth? How can we see the sister sharing her news as someone lacking in humility simply because she wants to share her news with us? It's easy if we believe that being humble is about being low or inferior in station or quality. Embracing this particular definition is the very act of arrogance we are so loudly protesting against in others. We pop their bubbles every time we tell them to be humble in the face of their accomplishments, if we are expecting them to acknowledge their inferiority instead of finding a sense of personal worth.
There is another meaning for the word pride, too, which is really what is being spoken about when we are admonished not to be prideful. What is really being said is that we need to refrain from arrogance, disdainful conduct or treatment of others, and haughtiness.
What is necessary to being successful at maintaining humility while being proud of our achievements, is to never forget all who have helped us to reach our goals and desires. This includes every person and every event which has played a role in shaping our lives, our present realities and our futures to come. When we are presented with the opportunity to congratulate another on a job well done or the realization of a dream, we don't need to remind them of anything other than our genuine happiness for their good fortune. If we remember to refrain from dictating our personal measurements of what constitutes humility, then we too will show ourselves to be humble beings.
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