Accountable for being Humble

Someone on Quora asked:  What are ways the universe has humbled you? So am I now accountable for humility?

Humble at an early age

I was humble at a very young age. I had low self-esteem. Really low. At a very young age, I concluded I was worthless. I never told anyone- I was too ashamed.

At the same time, I was also very bright. It was easy to master most of school. But that led to seeing there was tons more to learn that I didn’t have access to. Compared to what there was to learn, I knew very little. That felt like it was consistent with my self-esteem. My self-esteem was very humbling and the universe agreed.

I got great grades, but I wasn’t proud of them. Deep down, I knew the truth. Praise felt very, very wrong. I often had momentary bouts of pride, like winning a spelling bee or getting more than 100% on something. But after a few seconds, it was hollow. And it was all unconscious. Deep down, it felt true.

Learning how humans operate

In my late 20’s, I took an applied (to oneself) course about how humans operate. I learned that my low self-esteem was due to the automatic judging and meaning-making our brains do. My misery and training in being worthless was due to being victimized. My over-active juvenile brain had added an irrational meaning to life. It wasn’t really my mistake- who can blame a little kid for an imperfect thought? Seeing all that helped me get past much of it, but it took time and effort. Those thoughts highly shaped my brain for decades. The brain is malleable, but decades of unconscious belief from an early age is very deforming.

And then there’s the current election results. Trumpsters really drove home how stupid humans can be. Many of them have boldly made their “ideas” known, unabashedly airing the most stupid of opinions. Trump himself is either an idiot, or an idiot about ethics…

Many of these people are completely unable to reason- they just say what they feel. Most of them tout ethics, but act like “the ends justify the means.” They even believe it despite the ends not being achieved (largely because the lack of ethical means prevents it.) But they can’t see it.

And they make the opposite mistake of bright people- they overestimate their own competency. (It’s called the Dunning–Kruger effect.) Their certainty isn’t humble at all…

Reason and communication

It’s also humbling being unable to reason with them, really to communicate anything that’s complex enough to be at all accurate. And it’s humbling to have such stupid relations so close in the family tree. Plus it’s humbling to not have explored how stupid people can be.

Interestingly, not all stupid people are so full of pride. It’d be interesting to study that. I wish I had the time…

With a lot of these people, it’s like talking to someone mentally retarded. And it is like that- it’s a pretty continuous spectrum. I just hadn’t thought it through. I didn’t study what they were like. Partly it was due to my lack of self esteem- I didn’t get close enough to people to know them well. Some of them live in a world where magic and gods and even Santa is real. Why are they real to them? Because they know something’s real when they feel it. If it’s hard to the touch, it’s a rock or metal. If it provokes fear, it’s scary or dangerous. And If it’s lovable, it must be real.

I can relate. That’s exactly what happened to me as a kid. But even in college, I knew something was wrong with me, but didn’t know what. As an adult, I was open to learning a new way of looking at life and myself. Being humble, it was easy to see that a core component of how I saw the world, and myself, were mistaken.

Continued in the next post…

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