Live your best life …
How well do you accept a complimentary appraisal of a job well done? Do you shift about uncomfortably not knowing what to say or do you immediately play down your achievement?
We have been taught a warped sense of humility. We have been taught to discount our positive qualities and talents. Somehow discounting is seen as humility because to accept praise without any discounting, is giving a nod to pride, isn’t it? Enjoying an achievement is sometimes seen as an admission of being ‘better than’, of being superior which can be socially unacceptable. There is a big difference between people who act out of humility and those that come from pride.
It’s easy to recognise a humble person. They are the ones who use their talents in the service of others or in creative expression (of any kind) that ADDS to the world. They do not discount their talents but are grateful for the opportunity to be of help or to give pleasure to humanity through the beautiful things they create. They inspire people.
There is a different flavour to a person acting from pride. This person will go out of their way to tell us how accomplished and talented they are in a cocky and conceited way. Boastful people have an over inflated sense of their own significance.
Why bring up the subject of discounting at all? Isn’t playing down our achievements just a way of being polite and socially acceptable? I maintain that discounting does damage because when we fall into this trap, we are selling ourselves short. We are not acknowledging the truth of who we are and it hurts us. We let ourselves down. We need to get on side with our talents and appreciate them in order to be at peace with ourselves.
Let’s have a look at some of the reasons behind the discounting we do.
It has been said that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure (Marianne Williamson). ” It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.” In my experience, we are often frightened of both. It is understandable to cover up the existence of our perceived flaws but the reasons we discount our positive traits/talents is less clear.
Some of the reasons this practice persists, can be traced to religious and cultural training.
Almost from the dawn of time, humanity has been considered as a wayward lot with little moral fortitude. Rules were formulated and then sanctioned by people in power which became the guides to ‘correct living’. Correct living meant bowing our head and asking for God to forgive our sins. So how could we put up our hand and say, “…but I am brilliant at…” because this would indicate pride and pride is on the list of 7 deadly sins.
Next, we have the societal more (rule) of ‘not being better than’. We are all familiar with the question, ” Who do you think YOU are?” when we have dared put our head above the establishment parapet. The implication being that YOU are nothing special. “Who are you not to be?” counters Marianne Williamson. ” You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you.” But we are afraid. We do not want to be different. We do not want to upset the status quo. We do not want to lose our friendship group. Consequently, when we do well, there is an urge to discount our achievement. We have a tendency to point out mistakes in order to dial down any forth coming praise. Our fear stops us from fully enjoying our talents, our inner wealth.
The search for perfection has roots in both of the above systems (religious and cultural). Whilst perfection may be a laudable goal, it is a hard task master. For most of us, seeking perfection is an admission that we lack that extra ‘something’, we are not good enough.
This belief about ourselves is another reason to discount our achievements. We have a range of defence mechanisms operating around our perception of being ‘good enough’. For example, when we believe we don’t deserve recognition for our achievements, praise will sit most uncomfortably with us. There is the jarring interaction between a belief system that says, ‘ I am not really talented’ versus the message, ‘ You are really talented’. The discomfort arises from the attempt at reconciling two opposing views. Our defence mechanisms swing into action at the perceived threat. The opposing affirmation requires a change of mind and a different way of conducting ourselves in the world. Our defence mechanisms need to protect us from that. Relief returns when we discount our achievement and we prove to ourselves that our self imposed limitations are appropriate.
We are not doing ourselves any favours by ‘playing small’. This is not about humility. It is more about the limited parameters we have set ourselves and have accepted as truth. We have not been taught the art of possibility.
Humility requires the practice of appreciation. Appreciation requires the telling of truth and truth requires the setting aside of limited beliefs/judgements. No matter how many times others give us the message that we are talented, beautiful, generous or good, we are not entirely convinced. WE need to have a change of heart, so to speak. We need to challenge ourselves to drop the defences, even a little, and allow the possibility that we have enough talent, beauty or generosity already within us. We need to be more like little children who readily accept that they are gorgeous, funny and talented. Children never discount compliments! They just smile and enjoy them. Imagine how you would feel if you accepted this possibility? Would your ‘heart’ not expand; would you not feel as though you belonged in the world; would you not feel as though what you had to say was valid?
Enjoying the talents you have to the upmost will bring more positivity into this world and will support and develop your spirit. Your enjoyment will inspire and motivate others to do the same.
Let your li’l light shine! Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine!
Be kind to yourself
References: Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
Debbie Ford, The Dark Side of Light Chasers
Related blogs: Protective Patterns: Physical and Emotional, The Power of our Worthiness, Doing the Right Thing-What’s your Motive?