We live in a world where we are taught to be independent. Every one has an opinion on everything and often we do not take the time to know our limits and accept that other people may know more about a topic that we do.
The past year, I have been really trying to learn how to humble myself. I do not mean this in the sense of learning how to be less arrogant as this is not something I feel that I struggle with. Rather, I have been learning that I cannot always do things by myself and that it is okay to ask for help and to learn from others.
I have written about a similar idea before in my post talk less, smile more where I discussed the importance of sometimes taking a step back. For example, over the past year I have tried to step back from always taking on a leadership role to learning how to be a better participant.
However, this is about going a step further and humbling yourself in certain situations.
For instance, this year was the first time at University that I have ever let a friend read through one of my essays. I have personally proof read countless pieces of course work and applications over the past four years and I am always giving friends advice and pep talks. Yet, for some reason when it came to my own work, I felt weird about asking for advice from others.
In the words of Kendrick Lamar, sometimes you have to:
Sit down, be humble…
Asking for help is a humbling experience. Showing people your work can also open you up to being vulnerable. However, it is so important. Through talking things over, you can learn so much more. For example, I already had good ideas for my essays but the discussions I had with my friends about it, I believe is what took my work to the next level and resulted in me getting the highest mark in the year for that module. If you can articulate complex ideas to people who do not study the same thing, chances are your work will be clearer. Likewise, letting other people question your ideas will force you to ensure your views are substantiated and encourage you to be more critical.
Being humble also allows you to collaborate better and makes you a more well-rounded team player. I also think it helps to enlarge relationships. When people feel like they are the ones constantly receiving from you, it somewhat creates a power imbalance. I am the kind of person that prefers to give than to receive. That is just who I am. Whilst this is ostensibly a positive trait, it can actually jeopardize relationships if it is misinterpreted as you thinking you are better than others. Learning that others have something to offer you and demonstrating this to them is important in both personal and professional relationships.
Likewise, it is also important to humble yourself and realise that you are not always the expert on a particular topic. Saying you do not know something or just being silent does not make you stupid. There is nothing more annoying than speaking to someone who always seems to have an opinion on everything even when they clearly know nothing about it. I am sure you have had an experience with such a person. I cannot even begin to describe how much I have learnt from my friends and family just by humbling myself and listening to them and asking questions.
For example, I was talking about motivation with some friends the other day. We were discussing the nature in which money has an effect on happiness which we were arguing is only effective until a certain level. These are thoughts I have all the time and I even wrote an extra-curricular thesis whilst in sixth form about what contributes to a satisfying life which considered the relative effect of money. I was also eager to discuss motivation from the perspective of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and self-actualisation.
But taking the time to listen, I was able to learn about things from an economics perspective which was so interesting and informative. Of course, I shared my views but if I did not sit down and be humble first, it could have been easy to dominate the conversation and not take anything new from it. Rather than listening waiting for your chance to talk, just listen to hear and then if you add anything after, your contribution will be more meaningful.
It is also important to humble yourself in the sense of acknowledging when you are wrong and accepting blame when it is warranted. For example, a few months ago I was at a dance class with a friend and she did not know how to do a particular step so I quickly taught her how to do it. It was a really busy class so when I moved to a different spot closer to the front, I realised that I had actually seen the move wrong and taught my friend the wrong thing! Later on our way home, I mentioned in passing, “oh sorry for showing you the wrong step”.
It was obviously not a big deal and we laughed about it. It may seem excessive to apologise for something seemingly trivial but it was so important. The fact is, she will have noticed that I taught her the wrong thing. If I had not highlighted it later she probably would not have cared but perhaps later on subconsciously would stop trusting my opinions. Humbling yourself and highlighting when you are wrong in everyday life will help you to be accountable in bigger more crucial situations and allow people to trust you more.
So my advice is to ask for help when it is needed. Realise that getting alternate perspectives can only ever be a good thing so long as you are critical in your assimilation of it. If you do not know about something, do not try to pretend that you do, just take it as an opportunity to learn. If you realise are wrong, apologise and move on. This all comes with the small caveat of also developing your independent working skills, do not wholly rely on others but allow them to expand on you.
It’s just me, Dammy, sitting down and being humble…