A lesson on humility

I’ve recently started to really enjoy yoga. It’s a little big hit to my pride admitting I love something that I swore “wasn’t for me” for so long, but I’ll get over it.

Earlier this week, I signed up for an 8:30 am class at a studio I’d been to several times and patted myself on the back for embracing independence and going without a friend. I strutted in with towel and yoga mat in hand (bought from Target of course), my hair in a bun (which I only learned how to do 2 weeks ago…), and wearing leggings I spent way too much money on (yeah you know the brand I’m talking about).

I had this whole yoga thing DOWN.

Hahahaha yeah right Maggie.

My false confidence immediately dropped to the ground when I entered the 90 degree room and found it completely empty apart from the instructor and one incredibly muscular guy who looked like he walked straight out of a Calvin Klein ad.

Oh no. Nope nope nope this is not what I signed up for. This is my worst nightmare. They’re going to realize how much of a yoga novice I am and judge my inability to make it through a class without sweating out the entire reserve of water my body contains.

I had banked on hiding in the back, behind the people who actually knew what they were doing, like I had in every class before this, not front and center with all attention on my less-than-stellar downward dog. But I already paid so there was no way out…

I was trapped. I felt like a complete fraud whose mask was about to be pulled off.

And pulled off it was. I struggled and wobbled and tumbled through the entire 60 minutes that felt like 600, while my male model friend barely looked like he was exerting any effort at all. And because it apparently wasn’t traumatic enough for my ego, our instructor decided to have us move to the wall and practice handstands and inversions.

Um, could you not tell by my perpetually shaking limbs that there was no way in hell I was going to do a handstand?

But yet, she persisted. After my 10th attempt to get my feet off the ground, with no avail, I surrendered to child’s pose to hide my face from utter embarrassment. But hidden I was not. My instructor walked over, quietly leaned down next to me, and said “Let me help you.”

The idea of asking for help had never even crossed my mind. Accepting help meant defeat. It meant weakness and an inability to do it on my own. So of course I didn’t ask for it.

But the funny thing about this situation was that I was 100% unable to do what was being asked of me alone. My muscles were weak and my mind had given up. I was defeated, and trying to pretend otherwise wouldn’t change that fact.

I left the class feeling the weight of embarrassment and shame pressing down hard on my shoulders. Or maybe that was just my body punishing me for attempting a headstand when I can’t even do a cartwheel. But either way, I got in my car feeling like a complete and utter fool.

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I really thought about how much I confuse humility with shame. I grew up believing that to have a selfless, “others first” view of the world, I had to sacrifice being kind to myself.

It didn’t seem like there was enough room to love God, others and myself at the same time.

All the self-criticism and insecurity and critiques, the feelings of never being enough, the tendency to downplay my achievements and minimize complements, the belief that I wasn’t allowed to admit weakness… all of it is shame disguised as humility.

However, I don’t think it stops there. A lot of times, when I really think about and question my motives for shame (which is not that often), pride often seems to be at the root. Which is crazy, considering shame and pride are literally polar opposites.

But it makes sense. In a culture that covets humility, I can satisfy my need for admiration by emphasizing how ashamed I am. In other words, when I “brag” about my shame, I’m really just looking to be praised for my humility and vulnerability.

I just finished reading a book called Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. She has a lot of important words about confidence vs. humility that really resonate with me. (Sorry this quote is super long. I tried to shorten it but all of her words are just too good to cut out.)

“If we are humble without confidence, we miss the opportunity to become what we want to be when we grow up. And if we are confident without humility, we miss out on becoming who we want to be when we grow up.

I think about it all the time in terms of my writing. Spilling myself out like this, is it an act of humility or confidence? I share my faults and flaws, which seems humble– but doesn’t the fact that I assume that others will care enough to read and maybe even find my flaws charming betray the confidence behind my humility? Writing, painting, acting, creating, living out loud: Are they acts of humility or confidence?

Yes. They’re both. That’s what I’ve decided. Confidence and humility are two sides of the same coin. They are character traits that stem from the two beliefs I hold most dear. I think most of our character traits are simply manifestations of what we believe to be true.

I am confident because I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe everyone else is too.

Dang, that last line hits home doesn’t it?

The irony of my blog title does not escape me. I’m really trying to figure out how to distinguish the line between shame and humility. In the same way, it’s also challenging to sort through my motives for writing and the personal things I’m putting out there for anyone to read.

When does honesty become over-sharing? When does vulnerability become a tool for attention, rather than a way to connect in our shared humanity?

I really don’t know. It’s hard to be honest with myself about why I’m sharing so much and publicly proclaiming my shame. Actually, it’s just pretty hard to be honest with myself, period.

I could spend hours debating the shame-humility-pride love triangle, but since I’ve already rambled on enough, I will spare you. But seriously, if you have any insight on this confusing jumble, please HMU. After all, I need all the help I can get.

Man, this yoga post really took a turn didn’t it? I, for one, did not expect that. But oh well, that’s the beauty and wonder of writing. It always leads somewhere different.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s