How good are you at placing others before yourself?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” How good are you of placing others before yourself?

Humility has been described as the quality of being humble, having a modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance or rank.  Looking at that description I have to confess I don’t know many humble people after all.  I thought I worked with them, alongside them in a support role or looked up to them as a role-model.  Truly humble people actually do have an opinion of themselves but it’s a realistic perspective of their contribution or skills or talents.  They don’t big-note themselves.

On the other hand we work in a global environment  that to be successful  we must market our skills.  It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of selling oneself would have people looking at you sideways; it wasn’t a concept with which we were familiar.  A few decades on and here we are selling ourselves to the highest bidder, marketing our wares (skills, talents and education) and competing with others for a coveted place in the ever-decreasing workforce.  How can you market a skill set and promote the attributes, you hope are going to win you the position over someone else, with humility.  It is not possible.

Humility plays a poor second to pomposity and bravado and capitulates to the verbal diatribe of whoever has the gift of the gab.  We have to be multi-skilled, multi-talented and be able to juggle ten balls at once and we have to provide evidence, because “evidence-based” is the catch cry of our post-modern era.  We no longer esteem intuition and innovation, rather someone must have done it before and have proven its success before we’re willing to adopt a practice into our carefully constructed strategic plans.   Winning the job over other hopefuls raises our sense of self-importance, after all we were better than they were across the board and having been able to meet the stringent list of ‘essential criteria’ we cannot help but be impressed by our achievement.  Sad to say, humility rarely has a place in today’s office space.    My apologies Mr Lewis but your reflection on what humility may have been in your day bears no resemblance to humility in the 21st century.

To the second part of the prompt asked how good are we at placing ourselves before others.  According to the dictionary placing others before ourselves does not mean we’re humble.  It simply means we’re thoughtful and caring but we can be thoughtful and caring and still have a portly perspective of our importance.  This is an interesting concept because as important was we may feel in one arena of our lives, there will be others where we carry little, if any, importance at all.  I am extremely important to my husband but of absolutely no consequence to the football team down the road.  It’s all a matter of context, sometimes we’re the bird and sometimes we’re the statue.

The feminist rationale that the individual is the political gives way to the notion that if something is important to me then it is important to everyone.  No it’s not, it’s simply important to me and maybe a few others.  It’s self-absorbing to imagine that one person’s concern is so powerful that it affects everyone.  Maybe that’s one of the issues we need to resolve in our increasingly self-absorbed, me me culture and times.  We aren’t as important as we think we are and as Bernard Baily pointed out ‘when science discovers the centre of the universe, a lot of people are going to be disappointed to find they are not it.”  Touché Mr Baily.

Do I put others before myself?  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t – it’s a matter of context.  My husband and children will always be my first and second priority, after that come a few of my friends and then my clients.  And there again whether or not their needs supersede my own is dependent on their level of commitment.  I wouldn’t jeopardise my personal wellbeing to place a client before myself if that client were not participating and fully committed to their recovery (from alcohol and other drug addiction).  We are expected to work collaboratively with other services, so the idea of another worker’s needs being more important never occurs to any of us.  All our endeavours are for the benefit of the client and how the team can steer the client towards the best possible outcomes is a collaborative process.  No one is more important or is placed above another in a team environment.

Finally in the words of Malcolm Forbes:  “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”

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