This past weekend I attended a massage continuing education course to advance my clinical reasoning skills to better target client concerns through a more dynamic reading of the body and a deeper understanding of the musculature. It was absolutely divine, and I walked away invigorated and humbled.
As I was thinking back on the course, I began to reflect on those moments where my knowledge base what not as stellar as I had presumed, and a feeling of humiliation crossed my heart. That made me ask myself: What is the real difference between feeling humbled and feeling humiliated?
According to Google, the definition of humble is: “Having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.” With the definition of humiliate being: “Make someone feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, especially publicly.” And since we’re here, let’s also define shame: “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” It seems to me that both humility and shame require a perceived wrong-doing in the eyes of others; where as being humble requires self-awareness of how we have perceived our own importance. Essentially, feeling humble is about keeping your own self-perception in check based on how knowledgeable you feel you are perceived to be in a particular area of life, both by yourself and others. Fascinating, isn’t it? Truly all three are coming from within us, as we alone are creating our emotions by the thoughts we choose to consume our brain.
Essentially, we are choosing all three of these emotions based on the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us, and how we feel we fit into them. These beliefs were likely established during our childhood as to what was considered successful in life, and what wasn’t. Being proud of one’s efforts may have been acknowledged and rewarded, or it might have been slapped down as an expression of bragging. These reactions have shaped how you define humble, humility, and shame within your life. Because of this shaping, you may feel excessively humbled to ensure no one thinks you are a braggart, or you may continually humiliate and shame yourself for not getting the plus along with your “A” grade in life.
But, how then does society come into all of this? Well, that is really just perception too, isn’t it? When we filter our life looking at how we assume others feel about us, we are creating that opinion through those very filters of beliefs that I mentioned being formed at childhood. If you were accused of being a braggart for being proud of yourself, you will constantly down-play your achievements, and be looking at how others are reacting to you to see if their reactions, in any way, reflect back to the reactions you received as a child by the person who told you you were bragging. So amazing, isn’t it, how the infant to five year old in us is still deciding how we will feel as a grown adult!
For so many of us, we are hard wired to the belief that our minds are who we are. Yet, in all of my spiritual studies, the mind is merely an amazing tool that is intended to be serving as a reflection of our soul. Yet, for so many of us, in different areas of our lives, these past beliefs that require re-wiring have formed such a habitual pattern of thinking and perception, that we simply think of them as truth. Here’s the magic: —- you can change these patterns and begin to reshape your mindset to reflect what your soul knows to be true about you. You can begin to recognize the mind as it’s own entity; an entity that is under construction, if you will, so you are not giving it the same magnitude of power and thus riding the emotional rollercoaster of past beliefs that are not congruent to who you truly are, and who you want to become.
I want you to reflect back on a time where you felt humiliation, or shame, and ask yourself what you did that created those emotions. Perhaps you gave a wrong answer in front of your colleagues, or you tripped over a curb, or you lost your temper? By the way, these are all normal human experiences. I dare say every single one of us has done all three. Does that tell you anything?
The next time these emotions present themselves, I want you to question them, and ask yourself why you feel like your love, safety, or belonging has been challenged. Chances are, you’ll remember back to a time that has nothing to do with that curb.