Dear Future You,
We have such a strong instinct to protect and nurture our egos. There’s probably a very reasonable evolutionary explanation for it.
On the face of it, having healthy self-esteem and a favorable sense of one’s self-importance are essential to retaining the confidence one needs to be an effective and successful person, both professionally and inter-personally. Those are good things.
But in civil society and professional life, there are many occasions in which we cling to protecting our pride as a defense, when we would be better served by demonstrating grace and humility. We do this largely out of fear — fear that we are not good enough, that we don’t deserve the things we have or need, that we will appear foolish, etc. Trust me, nothing looks more foolish than a person who is making an obvious mistake for the sake of their own pride.
The reality is that those things we fear exist only in our minds — they are not true, nor are they reflective of our true selves. If anything, those fears deprive us of the opportunity to fully express our true and genuine selves. Our fears tempt us into being guarded and defensive and untrusting of others. We fail to connect, to see the good in others and let them see the good in us. Our fear makes us less human.
Think of humility as a way of demonstrating to another person that you are a human being — full of faults and weakness, but also kindness and caring and well-meaning intentions. Acts of humility aren’t about being weak. They are chance for us to be self-aware, self-accepting, and free of the shame we feel for being imperfect. They are a chance for us to release our fears and demonstrate true self-confidence — to be able to acknowledge in front of others that we have weaknesses, but that we still believe in our own self-worth and that we are still good people.