False Humility

I suspect a lot of you out there struggle to some extent or another with False Humility.  And, of course, as I so often do, what I’m really saying is that I, myself, have struggled with false humility and that, while I am unique, I am by no means that special and others are inevitably dealing with the same crappy emotional problems that I’ve spent decades working on fixing in myself.

Let’s define “False Humility,” shall we?  False Humility is basically the fear of arrogance which makes it hard for some of us to actually see, accept and admit to ourselves how awesome we are.  You could sum up the internal logic of False Humility as “If I say or think, “I’m awesome” than I’m bragging and arrogance is bad.”  A strong aversion to arrogance tends to lead to issues accepting perfectly normal and healthy confidence.  “I’m afraid of overconfidence” becomes “confidence is dangerous.”  Which, when looked at closely, is obviously not true; but, if we aren’t taking the time to carefully observe our own thoughts and feelings, then we aren’t taking the time to call BS on that simple, instinctive logic and the fear runs unopposed in the background.

And so, yet again, we come to the issue of how the minds’ tendency to oversimplify and classify things in terms of “good and bad” or “right and wrong” can get in our way and stop us from creating fulfilling lives full of love and joy.  “Wrong” is context dependent and whether any emotions or trait is adaptive or maladaptive depends entirely on the situation.

In the right situation, arrogance can be adaptive.  We have all, at some point or another, seen strength oriented teens bragging and showing off.  While, on one level, it’s often pretty clear that many people do, in fact, show off to compensate for insecurities; I can’t help but ask, “What’s so bad about that?”  Often the attempts to show off and prove their strength to themselves and others get them out doing things, taking risks and, often, succeeding at things.  That success builds genuine confidence.  Often, arrogant people can and do succeed at things that more cautious and humble people wouldn’t even attempt.

And yet, arrogance is a kind of blindness to ones’ weakness, vulnerability and shortcomings.  Sometimes, there is value in not seeing, and thus, not being paralyzed by fear; and, at other times, not seeing invites folly and blows up in a persons’ face.

Context is everything.  It’s easy to judge.  It’s easy to judge others.  It’s easy to judge ourselves; but, life is complicated.  The lines aren’t nearly so clear as we imagine them to be.

So, relax a bit, it’s not so clear cut.  Arrogance isn’t “bad.”  Humility isn’t “good.”  It’s all good.  It all has it’s purpose and it’s place.

Let yourself be impressed with yourself when you do something impressive.  And, of course, don’t be so arrogant as to knock it when others are impressed with something you’ve done.  Maybe, just maybe, you really are more awesome than you think.  Maybe the real arrogance isn’t in thinking you’re awesome; but, in thinking that you’re not.  Maybe, it’s the tendency to judge yourself, to look down on yourself, to criticize and condemn yourself (and others, of course) that’s the real arrogance.  Heck, maybe, even our critiques of others that we think of as judgmental are honest assessments of real problems in the world.

Have you ever done that?  Have you ever criticized and condemned yourself for being judgmental when you see someone doing something that, objectively, is selfish and irresponsible?

Maybe the arrogance is in judging your own frustrations as bad or wrong when they’re a normal, natural and healthy part of being human and dealing with conflict, stress and pain.  And, of course, isn’t the thing that really matters how you deal with that aggravation and not whether you’re aggravated in the first place?  Maybe, without the arrogance of judging yourself, there would be greater serenity and self-control.  Maybe, it’s easier to control your anger once you accept your anger.

Maybe, True Humility, just means being honest and you can’t be truly humble if you can’t see, acknowledge and accept your virtues as well as your flaws.  Heck, maybe the enemy of humility is the idea that you shouldn’t have flaws.  In a world where everyone has flaws, the idea that “I shouldn’t have flaws” seems pretty damn selfish and arrogant to me.

So, is that arrogant of me to say that it’s selfish and arrogant to label “I shouldn’t have flaws” as arrogant and judgmental?  Is it judgment or discernment?  Is it seeing things how they are or is it my imposing my perceptions and preconceptions onto reality?