One particular noteworthy recurring theme when recounting the biggest problems we face in society is humility. It is the cause of racial disharmony. It starts wars. It even has been found to cause wildfires.
Ok, humility is definitely not the problem, but now that I have your attention, let’s talk about the real symptom (arrogance) and root of the problem (a lack of self-confidence).
We are all familiar with the perils of participation trophies. The motivation behind it is not terrible, however. Instilling confidence is extremely important. In this case, the method of executing on that mission is wrong. You can’t instill confidence by giving someone an award that is not earned. That creates arrogance. Arrogance is that annoying feeling of superiority, often with nothing to back it up. Arrogance leads to overstepping bounds and taking liberties.
Arrogance is only a mask, though, it is not the problem. It is merely a symptom. The true cancer is the lack of self-confidence. Show me a successful person: businessperson, athlete, politician. I guarantee there is some level of self-doubt or some lack of self-confidence.
What? That medal-winning athlete lacks self-confidence? Yes. Allow me to explain. We all face new experiences every day. We meet new people. We start a new venture. We have to deal with new software. We are introduced to a new team to work with. We need to meet a new benchmark. We need to land a new client. “New” creates challenges. Whenever humans experience “new”, we immediately want to fall back to familiar. We want to use what we already know or what worked before. Often it is simply the fear of losing that creates the self-doubt. Sometimes, even if we’ve won many times before, we become addicted to that winning and fear losing even more. Am I suggesting that everyone embrace failure and don’t even try? Absolutely not. I am absolutely suggesting that it is critical to embrace a mindset where failure is absolutely looked upon as a learning experience and nothing more than that—no bitterness, no anguish, no spite. That will create humility.
I have a close friend who was in the Special Forces in the military. He talks often about log PT. He uses that story to convey the importance of using stressful situations to reach outside yourself and encourage others, to bond with someone else to create a real team. But there’s something else in that story. There is also the reason the military puts people into a situation like carrying around a log in the first place. That collective stress brings out a certain response. It creates humility. No one can be “better” (…superior…arrogant) than someone else when all of them are suffering. No one cares what the other looks like or what race or background they are. No one even cares if the other person smells. It is vulnerability…vulnerability eliminates bravado, interrupts the fight/flight mechanism and creates the willingness to lay yourself bare, … that is, to be humble. It is what opens us to working well with others.
Humility creates so many possibilities. What if that other person that I fear might make my life better? Humility is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful and important attributes of growth. There is no room for an arrogant person to improve themselves because they do not recognize their flaws.
How do you practice and enhance humility? Give willingly of yourself and what you have and be open to possibilities. If you’ve achieved great things, teach others. You will feel fulfilled. If you have wealth, be generous. It is an enriching feeling. Recognize others openly for what they’ve done (If you were that person wouldn’t you want to have the pat on the back?). Sometimes it feels even better coming from an opponent. Be confident (not cocky, confident—there is a big difference). Get out of your comfort zone—yes, get uncomfortable.
Sometimes, something akin to the freeze mode in fight/flight/freeze mechanism, taking a pause (or as they say in the military, taking a knee), reflecting (neither fighting nor fleeing) is not such a bad thing in the right circumstances. Humility is a wonderful attribute that makes us all work together better. It might even prevent wild fires….