This post is Part 2 in a 3-part blog series on how to cultivate humility in your life. (If you missed the first post, you can find it here.)
The first part of humility involves having an accurate view of yourself—not too high and not too low. An important aspect of this accurate view of self is being aware of your limitations and struggles.
This isn’t easy. As humans, we want to feel good about ourselves, so most of us tend to focus on what we are good at, and minimize our limitations and struggles. Research has shown that most of us have a tendency to self-enhance. In other words, something about our perception of ourselves is a bit off—we tend to view ourselves more positively than how we actually are.
I’m going to talk about an exercise you can do to receive accurate feedback about yourself, but I think it is important to recognize how difficult it is to receive feedback about our limitations and struggles—and how we have a tendency to get defensive and minimize this kind of feedback. If humility involves having an accurate view of ourselves, including an awareness of our limitations and struggles, an important prerequisite to humility is to be okay with the idea that we have limitations and struggles. This is a normal part of the human experience, and it is okay.
Here is the exercise: Pick three family members or close friends. These should be people who know you very well, preferably for at least two years or longer. Contact them and tell them you are doing an exercise to work on your humility, which involves obtaining feedback about your strengths and weaknesses from three individuals who know you well. Ask them if they would be willing to provide you with some feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to be honest with you—because this feedback is actually a gift. Say that you will do your best to listen and not be defensive.
If they agree, ask them to think about three things they really appreciate about you. These are strengths that they have seen over the course of their relationship with you. Have them tell you your three strengths first. After they have given you feedback on your strengths, ask them to think about three things they think are limitations or struggles for you. These are weaknesses that they have seen over the course of their relationship with you. Have them tell you your three weaknesses second, and try not to be defensive, but instead view this feedback as a gift.
Spend some time thinking, reflecting, and journaling about the strengths and weaknesses you received from the three people you chose. Did the strengths and weaknesses ring true for you? Was there anything about the feedback that was unexpected or surprising? Were you able to sit with the feedback and not react defensively, understanding that everyone has strengths and weaknesses (and that’s okay)?
Discussion: How was the feedback exercise for you? Did you learn anything new or interesting about yourself?
Click here to read Part 3: Becoming Other Oriented