Remember that time, in Rule #2, when I said Molly-Ten-Years-Ago could be a bit impetuous?
So, do I.
And that side of Young Molly is showing itself–yet again–in the way Rule #11 is written. The tone is very Rub-Some-Dirt-In-ItTM. And it lacks compassion.
So, Molly-Today is commandeering the ship (again) and slightly changing the rule. Moving forward, Rule #11 shall read as such:
Humility can be your greatest strength. Stop comparing yourself to someone else. Learn your full capacity.
Now, we can continue.
Let’s think back to Rule #8, which was all about learning our true selves, and then learning how to embrace that.
Some magic that we touched upon within that rule, is that when we start to embrace ourselves and showcase that to the world, we teach others how to do the same thing. And perhaps we aren’t professionals at the outset, but each day we work on ourselves or our goals, is one unit of effort closer to achieving these pieces of ourselves.
Remember how I spoke of Kristen and Jenna, the two ladies who taught me how to learn my own face back in Rule #8? I remember comparing myself to them for quite some time, instead of asking them for guidance.
This tendency is called “Horizontal Comparison.” And it is truly tempting.
While I’m glad I finally leaned away from that temptation and just asked for their help, I understand why we frequently do succumb: comparing the rudimentary areas of ourselves and our lives, to the polished and practiced areas of those who have taken the time and care to learn the same skill.
And I certainly understand how easy it is just to wallow in the delta.
The pain that comes from sitting in self-pity comes from the fact that we compare ourselves to others. I’ve always known that it’s wrong to think you are better than someone else. But, until recently, I had never considered that it is equally incorrect to believe you are beneath someone else.
So, Rule #11 is all about excising our tendencies toward horizontal comparison. Because what tends to happen within horizontal comparison, is a false version of humility.
Care to guess what many of us confuse humility with?
So, let’s start this discussion by defining humility: freedom from pride or arrogance.
Where humility is a modest view of your own level of importance, self-deprecation is criticism of yourself. (Never forget that the way we treat ourselves, and speak about ourselves, teaches others how they may treat us, as well…a la Rules #5 & #6.)
Humility allows you to see yourself as a work in progress, a whole being to be known and discovered with time and effort. Whereas, self-deprecation is an unspoken expectation to be superior, without actual effort towards mastery. Lest we become the butt of the joke. Often, our own jokes.
But what I have noticed with my own career in self-criticism, is that more often than not, I was using it as a defense mechanism. One of those “Well, I didn’t want to play anyway” kind of reactions to things not going perfectly the first time around.
I’m someone who doesn’t appreciate her limitations, which is easy enough to admit, I guess. What I will not easily admit, though, is the underlying mentality of This: I purposely don’t try at things I’m not confident at, because I don’t want to solidify the fact that I might not be good at something.
The inner workings of my self-deprecating thought process has always been: you can’t lose at something you weren’t trying to win.
By telling myself my efforts are not going to go well, I won’t be disappointed when they don’t go well…so I don’t even try. And when it’s too late for me to try, the reason I won’t have succeeded is because I didn’t have enough time (not because I couldn’t do it…right?).
A self-fulfilling prophecy, in which perfectionism breeds procrastination.
When we undercut or overestimate ourselves, we fail to achieve what we are actually capable of. Because in either situation, we don’t trust our potential, so we end up not trying to our fullest capacities.
Self-deprecation is a very toxic habit in which to engage. Because this world is actually not calling for us to put ourselves in the red, which is what happens here. Self-deprecation is not an acceptance of who you are as a person, but a diminution.
And if you speak to yourself in diminishing words and tones, day in and day out, for years, you have only and effectively managed to stand in your own way.
But Molly, I just don’t want other people to think I’m full of myself, or conceited!
A fair point, indeed, dear reader. But there are critical AND loving ways we can speak to/about ourselves, without sounding egotistical. Even if you say loving things to yourself in a satirical manner, at least you’re getting into the habit of positivity, and gradually breaking the habit of stark negativity.
And this is important because when you hear something enough times, you tend to believe it. Constant derision is a powerful form of self-sabotage that subtly leads us to believe we are not worthy of positive things.
To believe that you don’t deserve the goodness you want. To believe that if you can’t do it well immediately you won’t even try. Or to believe that you don’t deserve to feel a full range of emotions.
Because instead of looking at others for inspiration, we most often say “I’ll never be able to do that” and we walk away.
The most dangerous part of self-deprecation is that we compare our struggles to those of others, and sometimes end up writing off our detriments as not good enough, or not hard enough, to warrant seeking help.
Think back to Rule #4. And how long I allowed myself to go untreated. The majority of the time, I kept myself contained because “I don’t have a reason to feel this way.” “I’ve never had to struggle a day in my life, I haven’t earned the right to feel this way.” “Other people have it worse than you, Molly.”
Not only did I feel that I was beyond help, I was convinced I wasn’t worth helping.
And I turned to dark humor to revel in how low I felt. The lower I felt, the darker the humor. And the more my brain fixated on dark solutions.
This is my cautionary tale: the first thing this faux humility does, is it takes away your power by turning it into a punchline.
Where humility tells us to work with what we have, one step at a time; self-deprecation tells us we are not enough, unless we are Textbook Perfect.
So, the most powerful aspect of Rule #11 is that, at its core, humility is the rejection of perfectionism.
Because when we endeavor to improve and learn new things, we are, in essence, rewiring our brains! We get to give ourselves a period of grace. What perfectionism fails to acknowledge is that starting off should be rudimentary. We should enjoy each stumble along the way towards improvement.
Humility asks us to stop looking at life as a test. As some penultimate exam we must pass each day. And instead, look at each day as a chance to accumulate new data about ourselves.
The greatest discoveries of all time were born of the Scientific Method. Why not each of us, too? Each attempt teaches us something new, or something that didn’t work.
As with everything, the road to get where we want to be involves a lot of introspection, and a lot of grit. Develop your strength in humility, to take stock of your own inventory of resources, and guide yourself to ask for what you are lacking.
Before anything else, this rule asks us to assess where we are, where we want to be, and what we need in order to get there. (While it would be nice, we don’t magically transform our lives overnight just from reading Rule #1 alone.). And then it commands us to take the first baby step. And then another.
This rule is about looking to others as inspiration, instead of discouragement.
This rule is about not waiting to start.
This rule is about trusting in your own power, and never detracting from it.
Don’t simply accept your limits. Understand them.
And don’t accept defeat when you attempt to overcome those limits.
To do so would be the exact opposite of everything Miley Cyrus taught us!
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are the areas in your life that you see room for improvement?
How do you speak to yourself, when planning steps forward in these areas? How do you speak to yourself, throughout your steps forward?
Who are the people that inspire you the most?
How often have you turned to these individuals to help you achieve your goals?