Jay Rifenbary

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Humility – How Important Are You?

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How do we distinguish between someone who is confident versus egotistical? I find it fascinating how many times ego is used to denigrate others, and as rationale to negate another’s reputation and accomplishments. In addition, blaming someone’s ego is commonly used as an excuse by blamers to lessen their own insecurities and non-accomplishments. Can one have a healthy ego? I believe so. Ego is defined as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance“. Through the course of our life it is essential to have a healthy sense of those traits to generate personal courage in all aspects of our decision making process. This illustrates a direct correlation between self-confidence and decisiveness.

When does being confident transition to egotism? Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities and qualities”, and egotism is defined as “the practice of talking and thinking about oneself excessively because of an undue sense of self-importance”. The answer in distinguishing which characteristic one possesses lies in the motivation behind the actions being taken and/or the decisions being made by that person. It is when one’s own sense of self-importance takes precedence over the importance of service to others where egotism prevails. It is this degree of self-importance that has demoralized and deteriorated the very fabric of what is the genuine key to personal fulfillment. That key is the understanding that service to others brings with it a healthy and valuable ego, and a personal fulfillment that is unselfish.

I am not suggesting we neglect ourselves, what I am suggesting is to ensure when we make our decisions they are not hurtful, and not at the expense of those around us. The accelerated societal obsession with personal gain (it’s all about me) has corroded community values, corrupted many in power, and bankrupted our economy. If you have ever associated with a person who thinks the world revolves around them, then you have experienced egotism. It is the comprehension that the world does not revolve around our own agenda that creates a healthy relationship with others both personally and professionally.

What does it mean to be important, and do you perceive yourself as being important? Your degree of genuine importance originates from how important you become to others. It is through our service to those around us that generates a personal foundation of being valued. When our actions result in the betterment of others’ lives, we have initiated being valuable. Can one be important and possess humility? Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness”. How can one have a low view of one’s own importance and be important? Although it appears the two are incongruent, importance and humility can be very synergistic. An individual can become very important, i.e. valuable to others, without having to self-glorify ones accomplishments. You may realize you are important, but understanding the motive for that importance is the key to maintaining humility. Humility is not weakness in character but rather a selfless approach to very effective leadership. Although challenging to be unselfish, the rewards are far more meaningful and enduring.

In the course of my “No Excuse! Leadership” training sessions, humility is a term rarely mentioned when asked, “what are some characteristics of effective leaders?” However when discussed, insight is garnered when one realizes humility by the leader provides a sense of respect and appreciation for the followers. It also demonstrates a genuine respect for individual and group efforts in their successful achievements. Humility is a silent strength of leadership respected and appreciated by those who value their leaders, and value how important the leaders actions and decisions may be in their lives. Three steps practiced to incorporate humility in one’s life are, think more of others than yourself, understand your motivation in service to others, and give credit to those who believe in you when success is achieved. Each day brings with it the opportunity to appreciate those around us, and to enjoy the many blessings we have. Set an example of sincerity, genuineness and selflessness and your importance will be revealed to those you serve.



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