08 January 2010

On Humility, False and Real

I'm not sure I understand the fine art of being humble.  I could quote Barack Obama here and say "my flaw is that I'm a bit too awesome", but that's not what I mean.  It's more about the line between avoiding narcissism and letting oneself drift into low self-esteem and not taking proper credit for one's accomplishments.

I don't like to boast of my victories (well, not TOO often, anyway.  Usually right after they happen I'm more than happy to pump my fist and thump my chest a little.)  I bristle at being called "smart" or really at any positive descriptor (other than "funny"; I so greatly enjoy making others smile and laugh that I'm glad to know I've succeeded.)  I insist up and down that any accomplishments I've made academically and professionally have been either via the beneficence of others or by downright dumb luck.

The trouble with all of the above?  I've never met anyone who believes a word of it.  I've been simultaneously blessed and cursed with the ability to make things look idiot-simple even when they're not, and the relative lack of effort I have to put in to get results compared to others makes some folks resentful and others convinced that I see life as nothing but a joke, largely due to my tendency to crack wise during a process because I'd otherwise get too bored to see it through to completion.

It's not easy making things look easy!  Besides the sense people get that I don't work hard, there's also the expectation that comes with it.  I get a little tired of being held to higher standards for the same pay and loaded down with busywork so I'll "look like I'm working" (actual quote from a former boss of mine).  Arguments that "I put out as much or more work than my peers, so stop loading me down unless you want to pay extra for it" just get me labeled as a malcontent, and it's way too obvious when I'm slacking off to draw out the length of time it takes to get something done, so that's a non-starter.  And when I try a different tack and try to act like I'm not as smart as my results would indicate?  Well, there's the "false modesty" brush ready to tar me again.

I genuinely don't understand how other people can struggle with some things.  Ever seen Good Will Hunting?  Yeah, well, I've kind of lost count of how many times I've been compared to the title character.  And not a one of those comparisons have ever come from anyone who truly understood the ramifications of what they were trying to say or the point they were making to me.  Sometimes I can't help but wonder if anyone who's ever expressed any interest in my thoughts at any given moment wasn't just taking a look at me and thinking "I'm gonna hitch my wagon to this guy, because when he gets it together he's gonna lead us all to the fuckin' Promised Land."

Well, guess what.  I'm in my thirties, got a failed marriage, a littered job history, and a lot of burned bridges behind me.  Nobody believes that Matt Damon shit anymore.  The irony?  I'm finally free, after 32 years, to be myself.  Nobody in their right mind would hitch their fortunes to my talents and abilities right now, which puts me in the ultimate position of being able to call my own shots without worrying about any damn armchair quarterbacks trying to lecture me on where they think my "promising life ahead of me" ought to go.  I'm finally old enough that outward displays of humility work.

And if you've read all of the above and can't figure it out?  You're in good company.  I wasn't writing this for you.  I'm not sure I was writing it for myself either.  It's all just brain spew.  I promise a return to insightful, intelligent commentary next gods-damned time.

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