my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


On Humility

I have recently had a shortage of words to say, mostly because I've gone inside myself in the little free time I now have ...

I've been thinking more than saying, contemplating more than writing.

What I've been thinking about is the nature of humility.

Taking this week's election as an example, it seems that humility is often a lesson earned through some sort of pride-intense behavior. Hubris, the Greek word for tragic pride, usually affords a stinging rebuke in humility.

Not to be confused with shame, there is nothing wrong with being humble. Acknowledging the world acts upon its own agenda, not one's own. That existence does not revolve around you, and your own aims and ego.

And assisting, supporting can be a valid, substantive effort. For a former prima donna, that's been a tough one.

Another thing I'm learning, however, is in how little regard prima donnas are held.

You may believe you are a great artiste, God's gift to commerce, a veritable genius ... but, often, eyes roll behind your back and there's a certain dread associated with your appearance and demands.

See, as a former prima donna, I never knew that people really don't like it when one person sucks up all the oxygen in the room.

I know that now.


Blogger WinterWheat said...

As usual, so well put.

I too am coming to terms with the realization of my own brand of hubris. The realization began during my pregnancy and kicked into high gear following the birth of my daughter. I'd hear about all the things that are destined to fall apart in parents' lives following the birth of their first child and secretly think, "Oh yeah? Not me."

What I've learned so far: um, yeah: me too. Motherhood is HARD. Not only do I not have all the answers, I don't have 10% of them. The upshot: for the first time in my life, I don't care who knows that.

I shudder to think of all the eyes that rolled behind my back, and at the same time I feel grateful that people were gentle enough with me not to put me in my place every time I so clearly asked for it.

Blessed are those who have been softened by life. That's the nature of wisdom: soft, not hard. Why do the unenlightened feel the need to be so boastful in their certainty that they know it all? To cover up for the fact that they don't?

Anyway, again, so beautifully written. I don't know what brought you to this point, but I imagine it was profound.

4:43 PM

Blogger Logophile said...

Oh my,
I know this one, ooooooh yes,
I certainly do.
Hubris, ooooh yes

12:25 AM

Blogger katiedid said...

Once again, I've nothing to add, but I just wanted to take a moment and tell you how much I liked reading this. This is definitely one of those posts I'll have to come back to read again so I can better mull it over.

10:50 AM

Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

Great post. I cannot imagine YOU sucking up all the oxygen in a room however. Never.

5:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

mireille ,
Thanks for your post on humility. I admire your self-awareness. I loved your quote, "...when one person sucks up all the oxygen in the room." I've been writing and researching on the topic of humility and ego for the last few years. Your distinction between shame and humility is one most people don't understand. Humility is genuine confidence. It's the equilibrium between too much ego and not enough. If we're missing enough humility, we're likely to have too much ego (and become egocentric), or be emptied of ego (and lost confidence/self-esteem).

Thanks again for the post and raising awareness about the topic. We need it more in business, politics and life. I think society needs more people embracing the topic and raising the discussion.


9:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated. I would expect you to smell the best of anyone in the room, though.

6:19 PM

Blogger Doug said...

Mireille, I brought you my oxygen. No one as droll as you should be allowed to get too humble.

3:42 AM

Blogger Lulu said...

I have noticed that often this is a world where if you don''t tell people you know things and can do things, they actually take you at your word (or lack of word) and believe you can't. Hype works, and people who dont self-hype get dismissed and overlooked.

I would venture to suggest that 20 years ago, there seemed to be a gender difference related to humility. At that time, in the mid-80s, I was in a position to recruit junior staff. I used to ask my colleague to blank out the names on CVs and letters so that I could be freer of prejudice (I have even been known to prefer a Rebecca to a Karen, just because of an unpleasant Karen I once knew.) Anyway, for a test I then sorted them into what I thought were male and female applications, and I was 90 per cent correct. And what was lacking in the male ones was humility, while the female ones had an excess of it. The men told me about their skills and how much they would bring to the job and how lucky I would be to have them, and their leadership qualities and initiative; the women told me how much they wanted the job and what it would mean to them to have it, and how hard they would work to be good enough, and about being a team player. As a woman, I found the female ones more appealing. So I asked a male colleague to look, and you know what? He was totally focused on the men's style of application, and when questioned said he believed the women's humility and said 'I wouldn't want someone who had to work hard to be good enough; I want someone who's good enough already.' I pointed out that they were all new graduates with the same total lack of experience, and it was all therefore just talk, and he just shrugged. So how disadvantaged have women been in the workplace without realising it?

I think this might not be true any more. Young women seem to me as confident and ego-ridden as men these days. Humility is a rare flower.

An interesting post, thanks!

7:18 AM

Blogger Kyahgirl said...

I beg to differ Mireille-I think you ADD oxygen to the room!

12:56 PM

Blogger Bela said...

Humility doesn't work and I'm done with it. Had I been as confident about my skills as I am now I would be someone who's been working in the theatre for 27 years instead of being a semi-retired freelance literary translator with lots of regrets. Ironically, it was working sporadically in the theatre that gave me the confidence I have now.

9:02 AM

Blogger Doug said...

Well, I can't speak for everyone but that's about enough humility for me from you.

6:48 PM

Blogger Kate said...

Honey, I've met you. You do add oxygen to a room. I can't imagine you were ever otherwise!

Love, KM

4:41 AM


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