Wanna know a seriously underrated attribute when it comes to well-being? Humility.
Humility is defined as, “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than anyone else.”
(Empathy and compassion are also antidotes to shame, but these practices already get a lot of press. Poor humility. He’s usually left out of the conversation and gets very little credit. But he never complains.)
Humility allows us to access vulnerability (and obliterates shame) because it allows us to tolerate and acknowledge all the parts of ourselves, even the so-called icky parts. And it allows us to tolerate these self-aspects without defensive reactions that exacerbate shame and disconnection.Fear of vulnerability says: I have to be perfect and never scared and aways adequate and always liked and if I am not, I am icky.
Courage of humility says: I am scared. I can tolerate that. I am falable. I can tolerate that. That person over there doesn’t like me. I can tolerate that.
To put it another way: We know that “vulnerability” is a key ingredient in obliterating shame (shame being the main sourse of psychological distress. Thanks Brene Brown), and we know that fear is the major deterrent to vulnerability (Will I look foolish? Will I be rejected? Will it end badly/painfully?).
What is a mindset that alleviates the burden of “fear” though? Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) would say “realistic thinking” (what’s the worse that could happen? A rejection does not define me. It will be uncomfortable, but I can endure it.). Dialectical Behavioral therapy (DBT) would say “mindfulness and acceptance/surrender” (I observe this fear without adding meaning or judgement to it, and I accept that I can’t change what I can’t change, even when it sucks). And Buddhist psychology would say “non-attachment” (like mindfulness, the outcome is not related to your sense of self/life, and things are not “good” or “bad;” they just are.)
Wanna know what a common thread is within all three therapeutic mindsets? Letting go of pride and accessing humility. In order to acknowledge the “not everyone will like me, and that’s ok” of CBT, some pride must be swallowed.
In order to radically accept that there is some power you do not have and tolerate that some people/things are not changeable, some humility is demanded. And with Buddhist non-attachment, the importance of the self isn’t even acknowledged, let alone celebrated.
So, there you have it. Humility, or knowing you’re not any better than anyone else (in practice, tolerating the bad stuff about yourself without protective/defensive reaction), is sadly, underrated as a source of resilience and well-being.
Just something to think about, from the therapist who also urges parents to allow kids to sit with the realities of their human limitations and mistakes matter-of-factly and without condemnation, amd also to model tolerating our own limitations instead of sugar-coating everything about our special little snowflakes and ourselves.
Find OTYC on Facebook for more on kids, couples, and psychology.