“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” –Muhammad Ali
One of the biggest misconceptions I run into—and after 20 years of coaching, you can imagine, I’ve bumped into quite a few—is that humility is wholly honorable. No, you didn’t misread that—I typed “misconceptions.”
Just hear (or heed!) me out.
The word humility is defined by Webster, Siri, Alexa and/or your mama as: a modest or low view of one’s own importance. But what if that isn’t always as noble as it might seem?
Yes, we’re taught to be humble at a young age, especially if we’re particularly gifted, good looking, smarter or better in some way than others. So most of us live our lives thinking that it’s more virtuous to be modest and, from that lower and more humble state, we strive for perfection, bang on our chests and ponder what more should or could we do.
We operate from humility rather than admit our own prowess.
Hiding behind humility
I can’t tell you how many (of course, I could but I won’t) brilliant humans I’ve met, from Stanford grad students to MIT-ers to industry leaders, who don’t really behave like they know they of course get an A (literally or figuratively) in whatever they do, as they are some of the best and brightest we’ve got. Or how about some crazy talented filmmakers who, in the face of applause, tears and guffaws can—no matter how many awards they win—still somehow manage to chalk it up to “luck” that it “turned out.”
Instead, the terribly gifted will humbly harp on where they are lacking or worry about what’s next, as opposed to truly, honestly and loudly understanding who they are, who they’ve always been, what they are capable of and (here’s the kicker), what they are going to do about it.
You see, we humans wisely (and sneakily) like to stay in a paradigm of nothing’s ever enough, including but not limited to OURSELVES. Far too frequently, we think “AM I?” and not the more daring and bolder statement that packs not only a punch, but responsibility: namely, “I AM.”
From “Am I?” to “I Am”
One of my favorite assignments I give to clients (and now, you), especially those whom I suspect highly question their higher selves and greater good, is to (once again) look at every area of their life—from the obvious areas like career, body and love to the more subtle areas like fun and adventure, spirituality and contribution. Only this time, instead of writing dreams for all of the areas, I have them figure out in which areas they ask “AM I?”, cross their fingers, and hope and pray. Anything but fully knowing and standing in their “I AM.”
After all, “I AM” is the lead-in for demanding what you want, stating that you already are something and causing that very something, whether predictable or unpredictable. And the only way to make big things happen that are not predictable is to lose the question and commit to the stance.
Gulp is right.
But what comes first—the chicken or the ugh—as you start to confront every which way you ask “AM I?” Whether it’s, “AM I pretty enough?” “AM I cool enough?” “AM I talented enough?” “AM I the one to (fill in the blank)?” You can start to see and feel the flinch.
If you indeed believe nothing you do is good enough or important or huge enough, well then, you’re a good person and you don’t really have to take a leap, do you? If you belittle yourself or even mischievously consider yourself more lucky than gifted, do you really have to be accountable for it?
Don’t get me wrong. Being a great and humble human AND using your greatness for good rocks. But when humility overrides your ability to know and experience who you are or fulfill on your mission, that’s where I throw a tantrum. I mean, wouldn’t it be that much more fun to be a badass than a humble hoper who works hard?
Find your light
Truth is, I find it fairly fascinating that part of my job as a life coach is to teach humankind (or kind humans) GUMPTION. Only, not the “Forrest Gump”-tion kind, which is the spirited yet accidental kind, but true gumption: The straight up and shrewd resourcefulness kind. Yes, I get to teach some of the nicest, wisest and even hugely successful people how to separate out their light.
Obviously, I (of all people!) am not talking about their laundry.
I’m talking about helping them clearly see their light—their “I AM”—as the gift it is, and getting much bolder about it. Not with Clorox, mind you. With Shout! Because in my humble (pun intended) opinion, our pure light is currently too damn humble and faded to change the world as urgently as it needs to be changed. And how can good possibly win if it doesn’t know itself?
So, ask yourself this: Where are you?
Do you think it’s nobler to live in “I AM” or “AM I?” And, while you’re pondering that, why not gump up and write your own “I AM” list—a list of what you are charging yourself with making happen this year. A list that is way different than a humble, do-gooder “AM I?” list. This mission, should you choose to accept it, is the one where you (yes, YOU!) are in your rightful spot: At your life and luck’s helm.
With the world in an odd (to say the least) state, PLEASE hurry up and pick your lane. Do your deeds. And get loud. And, by all means, use your gift. If it sits stuffed on the mantel alongside a piece of humble pie, it won’t cause the change we’re all wishing for but still waiting to see.
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This post originally appeared on handelgroup.com.
Photo credit: Brooke Lark, Unsplash