The other night I was talking to someone about pride. He made an enlightening comment that we can be prideful about being humble. At first, I wanted to argue with him.
No, no, no, I thought. It’s always important to be humble and how could being humble ever be bad? And how dare you lump pride and humility into the same sentence?
And then I thought: Shit. I do that.
I absolutely pride myself in being humble. I have the biggest head in the world about how I don’t have a big head!
I don’t talk about accomplishments, then I remind myself how cool I am for doing that. I sit on this high horse of thinking I don’t even need to tell people my accomplishments because I’m better than that. And even worse, I want people to recognize that I don’t talk about my accomplishments. I want people to learn that I’ve done something big and then be shocked and impressed that I never mentioned it.
I remember sophomore year of high school when everyone started talking about their class rank, and people found out mine was good. I remember hearing whispers through the halls, “I didn’t know she was smart…” “Wait, since when was she good at school?”, etc. I liked it. I liked thinking I was the secretly awesome one.
And it only got worse. When I decided to attend Duke, people would ask me about college. I’d never mention I was going to Duke, I’d just say I was excited, or that it was a hard decision, or something of the sorts. And then days later I’d run into these people again and they’d exclaim, “I had no idea you’re going to DUKE! I can’t believe you didn’t mention that! Wow, smart AND humble!” I loved that.
I took pride in wanting people to know I was humble.
And I’d venture to say that other Duke students do that, too. They try to be humble about their intelligence, their accomplishments, and their future aspirations. And instead of being known by these things, they just want someone to recognize how incredibly humble they’re being in the midst of curing cancer and creating the next big technology.
Once I realized that I took pride in my humility, I panicked. Well what am I supposed to do? I’m not supposed to be prideful, I’m not supposed to be prideful about my humility, I’m just supposed to be humble. How do I do that?
I have a few ideas.
1) To recognize that whatever your biggest accomplish is, someone else has done something better. And that creates a humility that doesn’t fall prey to pride because how can I be prideful if someone else deserves the pride?
2) To seek worth and respect from yourself and close friends, and not from the world at large. I don’t need compliments and high regards from every person I meet. I just need to be myself and be content with that, and love the people that love me for me. These friends will want me to be humble, but my humility won’t be why they love me. And, in the same way, they’ll want to hear about my accomplishments, and I’ll be able to share these accomplishments in a way that isn’t prideful.
I fall prey to the hypocrisy of being prideful about being humble, but I’m going to start making a conscious effort to seek out people around me whom I can share my accomplishments in a non-prideful way, remember that I am not The Shit and never will be, and remind myself that people do not love me for my humility but for much deeper, more beautiful reasons.
So, You Accomplished Person, what are you prideful about? And what are you going to do about it?