On Humility



my thoughts on a powerful way of being.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

Quick note:  I am writing this post in relation to the wounded healers -- as in, one who has been through the kind of trauma that has affected their ability to turn kindness inward.  People like me who have an immeasurable depth of generosity and caring for others, but are not as generous or caring toward themselves.

There is something magical about leading from a humble perspective.  Whether it's actively working alongside your subordinates -- doing the same thing they are doing -- or recognizing that those below you have stronger skills than your own and allowing them to shine instead.

An old school train of thought is that leadership equals entitlement.  In some ways, yes -- you may be entitled to company shares or expanded benefits, but it's not a position of power more than it's a role one plays in the organization.  The best CEOs know that they'd have nothing if they didn't have the lower-level employees.

So what, exactly, is humility?  By definition, it is a modest or low view of one's own importance.  In other words, just because you're good at something or things doesn't make you better than those who are not good at it/them.  It's the ability to take success in stride and be content in failure.  It is the ability to not consider yourself first in either of those two elements.

Being humble isn't easy for me.  I don't power trip when I'm leading a project.  As a matter of fact, I consider myself good at quickly discerning who is adequate for which aspect of the job while considering who's more eager to do which aspect, then place people, and myself, in the required roles for the project.  But when I fail, or when I perceive failure, I take it personally, as I do not expect that result from myself.   I am very hard on myself when I do not succeed or when I perceive failure.  It's the kind of hard on myself that starts punishing me before I even come to the final verdict.  That's my problem, when it comes to humility.

If humility could be equated to being kind to those who could do nothing for you, then imagine how much more you could do, as a leader, when you are kind to yourself!  When you are at your best, then you are better able to help others be their best.  When we're beating ourselves up all the time, we make little-to-no room for anyone else in our lives.  We become our number one focus -- specifically our flaws and setbacks.  Concentrating on our setbacks is what magnifies our inability to do something well.  Not to mention, pride is nothing more than an elevated sense of self, regardless if it's positive or negative.

First, identify the reasons you are being so hard on yourself.  For me, I often believe that if I am not successful at something, then I will lose an opportunity that I feel I am supposed to have.  I also know that I must trust in the moment and not expect an outcome to be a certain way.  Placing all my hopes in something that hasn't yet happened, and observing the possibility that my inability to do something well, will wear me down faster than the energy it takes to work for it.

Second, see what the possibilities are from where you are currently placed.  In a way, I need to put on my tunnel vision.  For me, I tend to feel like I am getting the bottom feeder tasks because I am not good enough to do what others have been given to do.  I will feel like a total failure and that there is no room for progress -- that I am doomed to stay at the bottom forever.  If I only focus on what I am doing, and do it well, then I will see that I am capable of doing the little things as well as the bigger tasks, because I did the bigger tasks last week, but I didn't give myself a chance to remember that.

Third, whatever it is that you are doing, treat it like it's your final masterpiece.  Even when it's something that nobody else wants to do.  Being able to make the best of each moment is a way that we can allow ourselves to be humble in that moment.  True humility, by my experience, is attained when we are able to feel content in the moment.  Not in the future, not based on perfectionism, and by all means not based on whether or not we meet our own standards.  By trusting in whatever it is that the universe has in store for us right now, and by giving it our best, we can rest easy knowing that our goals and dreams may still be there, but we are not attached to them.  In a sense, we've let go of the magnitude of those goals and dreams.  Experience them, write them down, but let them be goals and not excuses or reasons to beat on yourself for not achieving them yesterday.

In the end, from the aspect of a wounded healer leader, what matters most is that you are aware that you are okay.  Just do what you do best, and appreciate that about yourself -- that you, no matter where you are in the chain of command, do make an impact; otherwise, you wouldn't be in your organization.  You are in your position to serve a powerful purpose.  Even if it's the lowest level, you can and do make an impact.  Express gratitude to yourself for being where you are, as well as for being open to receiving the training and experience that will sooner or later move you up even further along the chain of command.  You have gotten yourself this far, and through acceptance of this fact, you can realize that you don't have to elevate your sense of self (positive or negative) in order to continue progressing forward in all of your goals, leadership or otherwise.

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