Is humility one of your core values?
Is being humble something you strive to be recognized for?
What if I told you that humility may actually be preventing you from living your purpose and creating the impact that you would like to create in this world?
You see, for me, humility has always been a value I have sought to be recognized for. If I were to put together a list of the top 10 words I would hope that people would use to describe me, ‘humble’ would most certainly make the list.
Humility and ego are tightly intertwined. They are flip sides of the same coin. So it is safe to say that humility is high on your list of values then you also have a healthy fear of egotism. You would never want to be seen as being egocentric. So far this sounds like a good thing. Right? What could possibly be wrong behaving in a manner that is consistent with the value of humility?
The answer to this question came to me a few years ago in a conversation with my business coach. We were talking about some of the things that I wanted to accomplish. We talked about the type of impact I wanted to have on this world and the legacy that I wished to leave behind. Some of the milestones I wished to achieve included writing a book and doing more speaking engagements.
We talked about my ‘niche’ and where I felt my area of expertise was. Once we had identified the areas where I excelled (a difficult thing to do when you put such a high value on humility), we talked about what kind of plan I would have to execute in order to be seen as a leader and expert in those areas.
I confided to him that I really struggled with self promotion and putting myself out as an expert. He asked me why and I went on to explain that I just never wanted to be seen as too full of myself. I loathed the idea of coming across as arrogant in any form. I told him that I never wanted to be seen as ‘that guy’. The one who thinks he is superior to everyone else and that his way is always the ‘right way’.
Tom let me rant. When I was done, he took a long pause.
Then he said something that absolutely shifted my perspective on appearing egotistical.
“Let me get this straight”, he said “You are so concerned about being seen as egotistical that you would be prepared to withhold from the world the gifts that you have to give?”
Boom! There it was. I had never thought of it that way. If I did in fact have information or a unique perspective that could help people achieve their goals, was I really prepared to hide what I had to offer to the world simply because of my own fear of being seen as vain or arrogant?
That one little question completely changed the way I looked at self promotion.
Humility, Self Doubt or plain old Fear
When I started to look at this deeper, a much bigger question arose; was it actually humility that was preventing me from portraying myself as an expert in my field or something far more sinister? Could it be possible that I was using humility to prevent myself from taking action because I was terrified of what people would think of me if I put myself out there? Could it be that I didn’t actually believe that I was worthy of the moniker ‘expert’?
How many times have we seen someone in our field rise above us even though they were less skilled than us? Is it possible that we let humility and our fear of ego become a road block that they did not have? These are things that I continue to ponder to this day.
I am certainly more comfortable putting myself out there and sharing my life experiences in the hopes of serving others. Humility is still very high on my list of important values. It is one of the reasons that you will hear me use terms like “When I am at my best”. This phrase allows me to share my best practices but also acknowledges that I do not always get it correct.
So if you you are anything like me, and humility is high on your list, here are a few other things we can do to ensure we continue to honour the value of humility but not let it hold us back?
- Acknowledge that this is a potential problem
The first thing to do is to acknowledge that there is a very real possibility of your ego getting the better of you. Especially as you continue to grow and excel in your area of expertise. As they say “Don’t believe your own press”.
- Start with intention
Why are you doing what you are doing? This is a question that should be answered before you even start. When I am at my best I use this as a measure for the actions I take. I need to be very clear on the intent of what I am doing. Both on the macro and micro scale. Defining our intention can be a process in and of itself.
- Present with personal experience. Use ‘I’ statements
You may notice that much of what I write I present in terms of my experience and what I have found. I practice sharing experiences and lessons more than I prescribe advice. For me this reminds me that these lessons are just that, my lessons. Born from my experiences and not necessarily the same for everyone else. I am a big fan of the science of things, of understanding the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ however, I also recognize that most of the research I read has never been conducted on me. Acknowledging that these are only my experiences helps me to stay in check if I start getting too preachy with advice.
- Check in regularlyTake some time regularly to check in with yourself. Measure your actions against your intention and make sure that you are still on track. I interviewed Shane Feldman awhile back, Shane was around 20 years of age at the time, and has been remarkably successful. I was struck by his humility so asked him how he managed to ensure his ego did not get out of check. Daily reflection or his version of meditation was part of his answer.
- Surround yourself with people who will call you on your bullshit
If you are surrounded by good people who you have shared your intention with, you can ask them to call you on it if they see you starting to let your ego get the best of you. Now this comes with a caution as well. These people that you are trusting to call you on your bullshit really need to be in your inner circle. There can be well meaning peers that may, consciously or subconsciously, resent your success and your drive. It is possible that well meaning individuals may call out ego when really the calling out may be born of their own insecurities.
At the end of the day if you stay true to the man or woman you want to be, and use that as a measure along the way, you should really be able to stay the course. Continue to put your best out into the world, do it with intention, and as always continue to #makebeautifulshithappen.