Sunday, January 10, 2010

Humility

Several months ago, someone gave me this sage advice: "You don't need to oversell yourself in life, you just need to practice a little humility".

Interesting advice for someone whose basic definition of humility had rarely expanded from the thought that humble meant weak.

This particular advice was referenced to my professional life, but I do believe it carries over into everything personal. As a child, I don't think I would have been able to be humble, as most children are not. I was the youngest of three with divorced parents and subsequently a deceased father. I held close a constant fear that if I did not put myself out there ALL the time (I believe that's the overselling part in the aforementioned advice), I would simply be put back on the shelf to collect large amounts of dust. I garnered attention for being quirky, wild-minded and seriously smart. I acted on impulse in order to capture the largest percentage of an audience. I could command attention, positive or not.

As an adult, this process simply evolved rather than abating completely. I drank to become more emboldened. I became the "best" at everything so I could simply say that was so. And in this process, the word "humility" never passed through my transom. One of the reasons I began a career in advertising was likely to learn the true art of selling everything, including myself.

The reality is, this bravado that I created actually allowed me to keep the packaging sealed well. And the package, in my own perception, was damaged goods trying to be passed off at full sale. I was trying to sell someone that I hadn't quite become comfortable with and thus the bravado could seem at times contrived. Instead of learning about my surroundings and the people in them, I quickly jumped to the benefit of knowing and loving me. I would assume that I could just use my inherent gift for leadership and intellect to skate through the motions and get to the immediate gratification. I simply listened less and talked more. After I stopped drinking, I think this defense mechanism that I had cultivated for years became much more prominent. Now, I had a soapbox of sorts to actually allow my bravado to scream. I took my sobriety and ran to the top of the hill. I blogged, I lectured, I have been writing a book. I infiltrated this into my everyday life with gusto and rarely stopped to think about the core reasons for my decisions.

When I received this advice, I sat for hours. I looked up the definition. I researched humility like crazy. What a concept, I thought. I truly had never thought of adding this definition to my list of characteristics. The more I thought about this, the more I realized how much humility was missing from my life. The soapboxes I had carefully crafted suddenly seemed too big and too high. In my quest to sell everything I believed and conjured, I lost something in translation. I had been talking way too much in my life and not listening. The bravado was no longer empowerment but a hindrance to my ability to really understand who I wanted to be and how I would project that in my life.

I sat longer. I again thought about this advice on many levels. I came up with theories. I stopped writing altogether again, because I couldn't project the honesty I needed. I reassessed where I was...again.

Fast forward to the last months. This advice comes into my head every single day of my life. Being a media director in advertising, I know that to gain the greatest share of voice, advertising needs to be direct and greatly targeted while paying attention to WHERE and HOW people want to consume this message. Meaning, instead of overselling, it should be done with finesse and grace. And you have to believe in WHAT you are selling.

I get it. I get humility. The bravado I walked out of my last job with never entered the new one. The boisterousness in which I have lived the majority of my life has significantly eased. I understand now that I am not damaged by any means, I am a remarkably strong woman as a result of all the events that have transpired. And humility simply embodies this as strength, not weakness.

It's finding the balance between the two that is now the objective. Listening, while understanding who I am and what I want in my life. In believing who I am is worth gold and after some digging, you'll find it. Difficult, yes, but absolutely attainable. Believe me, I'm still ready to turn cartwheels at any point in my life, but I now sit back and wait for someone to ask me to. It's such an immense and incredible concept. And probably one of the biggest life lessons that I am learning.

And for this gift, I am humbled.

4 comments:

Syd said...

Wonderful post. I too think that humility is a great thing. I used to confuse it with humiliation which I suffered plenty of. But now I see that if I have humility, I let God into my life and am willing. It is such a great thing.

Marci said...

Wow, nice to have you back blogging. I've read numerous blogs of yours and never felt that you were not humble. Humility is something we all work on in recovery..daily. At least I do. 9 years later, it's nice to be reminded that I need to work harder and be more earnest in this area. I think I'm doing a pretty good job, then it comes sneaking in, the ego thing and bam, humility goes right out the back door, I just have to remember to let it back in. Humility, what a wonderful way to live when I practice it in all my life. It's so much easier. Thanks for your wonderful insights...keep blogging lady, your great!

123 123 said...

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Joan Stepsen
Wise geek

Anonymous said...

This post really hit me like a ton of bricks. I do EXACTLY the same thing now, all the time. I think that like you said, I live life with this extreme 'look at me' mentality because I don't feel that I'm good enough just as I am, just me. Like you doing your research, humility is like a foreign concept that has to be studied and learned. Wow - thanks for now giving me a lot to think about. Much love, Kathleen