We enjoyed the meal, and as we sipped on our tea Dharma asked me if I knew what humility meant. "I think I do," I replied. "It means not seeing oneself as important. Kind of like being humble." "That's exactly right, Tadpole, and today our lesson is on humility and why it's important. You see, Irwin, the frog who becomes aware of his humility has already lost it. Humility must be an unconscious act that comes from within. Our culture places too much emphasis on appearances, external accomplishments, and self-importance. Yet it is often challenging, for any of us, to express even a little bit of humility. It is misunderstood to mean weakness. And that is something it is definitely not! Instead, it is actually a sign of great inner strength." I was kind of getting the idea about humility. Take Dharma for instance. He's a very wise frog. He's taught valuable life lessons to many generations of frogs. Yet you will never hear him "toot his own horn." He is humble about his accomplishments. And if you point them out, he becomes almost embarrassed. He does what he needs to do, not for glory of it but because he wants to. He expects nothing in return. And that, to me, is true humility.
Dharma explained that when you meet someone who is humble, you can immediately sense it. It's not about what they say or do as much as it about how comfortable they make you feel; you know that you are truly being seen and heard. Humble people are able to offer this gift because they see and accept their own inner strength and know their limitations. They don't need to tear you down or boast about their accomplishments to feel good about themselves. Humble frogs, and humble humans, can just be who they are without the need for judgement, pretense, or defensiveness. They cultivate a kind of quite, "yet powerful compassion for all humanity."
This strength is based in the knowledge of their own self-worth rather than in their six-figure salary, famous friends, or the power they wield over others. Humble frogs and humans place more value on the things that benefit others, rather than on the things that benefit themselves. Dharma says we might call those things "noble qualities." Humble people see life as a school. Each day there are lessons to learn. They can learn from these lessons without them negatively impacting their self-esteem. They are open to new ideas, advice, and even criticism.
Researchers have shown that when we gain control of our egos, we become less likely to "act aggressively, manipulate others, express dishonesty, and destroy resources." Instead, humble humans (and frogs, too) take responsibility for (and correct) their mistakes, are open to listening to others' ideas, and keep their accomplishments in humble prospective. These wonderful qualities are what make for great leadership, but anyone can benefit from humility. Studies have shown that humble people handle stress better, have higher levels of physical and mental well-being; they are also more generous, helpful, and show more gratitude than those who are not. I asked Dharma how I could become for humble and he gave me some advice that I'd like to share with you.
1. Accept your humanness. Learn to accept failure and criticism without having it negatively affect your self-worth. Learn from your mistakes but don't let them define who you are. Everyone fails and makes mistakes, even those who won't admit it. It' all part of of being human. Learn from mistakes. Grow. Then move on.
2. Practice mindfulness and self-compassion. According to scientists, humble people have an accurate picture of themselves - both their faults and their gifts. This helps to see more clearly what needs to be changed. Mindfulness grows self-awareness by giving us permission to stop and notice our thoughts and emotions without the need to judge them. Once we accept what needs changing, we can start the transformation. "If you're in a dark room, don't beat the darkness with a stick. Rather, turn on the light," as Dharma likes to say. The light can only come in when we first accept that it's dark.
3. Express gratitude. Saying "thank you" acknowledges the gifts that come into our lives. Gratitude makes us less self-focused and more focused on those around us...this is the hallmark of humble people. As research has shown, gratitude and humility are mutually reinforcing; expressing gratitude induces humility and humble humans have a greater capacity for conveying gratitude.
As Dharma finished up his tea and prepared to leave, he left me with a final thought. "Irwin, perhaps the key to humility is seeing life as a journey towards cultivating those qualities that bring out the best in ourselves and make the world a better place."
As always, very wise words from the most humble frog I know.
Have a FROG-tastic day! And thanks for reading.