Humility – how do you see yours?
Written as part of the #DailyWritingChallenge #Humility
When I first saw that today’s writing theme was humility I struggled to think how it might go, but then I read the first blog of the day by @Ethical_Leader and something in particular stood out. She writes:
Humility is a complex virtue to explore … I have worked with many educators and know too many amazing people who are humble and this modesty can tend to hold them back …
This statement reminded me of the feminist viewpoint that women, by characteristic, often hold themselves back in some way.
I recall an EdD seminar that I attended on ethics. After a quick scan back through my notes from the session, I acknowledge the following poignant scribble:
Ethics is about HOW you deal with conflict, not about removing it
As part of the learning in this session, we applied feminist thinking as a way of exploring the question – who gets to be understood?
Feminine approaches consider the world relationally, that is they are acutely aware of the needs of others, sometimes to the point of selflessness. Such an abdication of the self, however, is problematic because whilst it serves others, this can be at the expense of the individual’s own needs.
Humility is a predominantly feminine trait in comparison to the more masculine tendency towards over-confidence and arrogance. However, over-humility can lead to low self-esteem and self-efficacy. In being humble, it is important that we are able to slide the scale far enough that we recognise and appreciate ourselves, but without over-indulging our ego to the point that we are no longer open to accepting the uncertainty of our accreditation – whether that be by others or ourselves.
True humility, in my eyes, draws from confidence. Obviously not a brash, bolshie, ‘look at me’ confidence but from an authentic, intrinsic confidence that can probably only really be known by the individual in which it resides. When you’re confident in what you are doing, and why you are doing it, there is an internal congruence through which everything knits together just so – values, beliefs, actions, words and feedback (by which I mean some sort of outcome that provides external validation); we know that we’re doing the right thing for the right reason, and we are humble in knowing that ‘the thing’ is bigger than ourselves. With this kind of humility, we don’t really need to take action; it just kind of occurs – organically, if you will.
Obviously, to be able to achieve this kind of humility there needs to be a degree of self-awareness and an understanding of the values to which we genuinely prescribe. This depth of awareness doesn’t just exist, it needs to be cultivated through deliberate practice and learning about one’s relationship with their Self. It might be that such a state isn’t wholly achievable, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth pursuing.
On the other side of true humility is the perception of our humility by others. This is not something that I think we really have much control over, seeing as it is dependent so heavily on the intrinsic motivations and experiences of someone else, and that ‘someone else’ can in fact represent so many different people. This doesn’t mean, however, that we do not – or should not – try.
To be humble, or to be perceived as humble by others, we do need to take action. We need to demonstrate our humility. Whether this is by an open gesture of modesty or the deliberate avoidance of anothers’ praise, there is an action or behaviour that we take in order to achieve this. The degree to which this action is conscious or unconscious is indicative, perhaps, of how genuine one is on the scale of humility. However, this is still reliant on interpretation by others and therefore it is beyond our remit to ‘be humble’ in somebody else’s eyes.
I don’t have the time (or wordcount) to explore these thoughts further today but I wonder how much our ‘perceived humility’ relies on the humility of others? And, by extension, how much others’ humility relies on our own?
If ethics is about HOW we deal with conflict, what ethical stance will you take when you consider whose humility you will allow to be understood by you?