Winston Churchill once quipped about Prime Minister Clement Attlee that “He is a modest man who has a great deal to be modest about.”   As Churchill’s pejorative illustrates, humility is not often thought of as a key component of strength in this world. But it should be. It cures or improves much of what ails us.   Dictionary definitions of humility consistently leave a reader wanting for something more, something positive. Humility is one of those things easier to identify when seen than to define in words. For me, humility helps me remember I don’t have to do things perfectly or alone. It helps the particular ego-driven fear of not being good enough that underlies perfectionism, procrastination, and perhaps stubbornness and arrogance.   Humility reminds me that to be my best, I don’t have to measure up to that standard of perfection I erroneously imagine about myself, or project that others demand or believe I should have. It reminds me that I am no less valuable than anyone else and no more valuable than anyone else. Though incomplete, humility has been described as not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.   For me, humility helps soften and break down the distorted all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking. It takes the edge off of anxiety. It reminds me that I can do just what I am tasked with in my sphere in any given moment. It makes mistakes less jarring, as they are part of humanness and any action. It therefore helps me accept myself and others. It allows humor about myself without the diminution in value of negative self deprecation.   I was never supposed to be able to ‘win’ everything or do everything by myself. If you see a turtle on a fencepost, you can rest assured it didn’t get there by itself. Neither did any of us people. It helps me regain and maintain sobriety of mind and action, rather than indulging the escape of fantasy, worry, fear or regret.   Having humility helps me notice again that I am not too good or too special to do even the mundane, unpleasant work in front of me. For me (an aspiring writer and slightly compulsive and perfectionistic person), it helps me remember that writing something out, does not make it perfect. In fact it doesn’t necessarily apply the trait to my life at all. It can order thoughts, but it can also be an exercise in ego.   The harder work is the simple, but difficult habit of taking the tough tasks, writing them down with deadlines or calendaring them. Finally, humility involves remembering that I need to play by the same rules as other people. I don’t get to do things differently merely because I want to. And also, that I cannot expect to get better results unless and until I sew the seeds of other character traits. It bespeaks a work ethic and a real unselfishness and love in fact. This is what I mean by humility as strength, and why it is important for me to practice.
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