Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Humiliation or Humility?

There are such a myriad of ways to experience our lives, aren't there? This morning, I went to a class at the gym called: Boot Camp - a class I was clearly not ready for. (For someone whose workout entails an elliptical trainer and some yoga asanas, I should have known better.) There was a step and weights, and entirely too much jumping around. I felt sick to my stomach. Still, I persevered.

In that moment I had a choice: was I going to feel humiliated because my abilities didn't match my expectations, or was I going to be humbled and learn from my experience? 

The older I get, I become more in touch with my own humility, which is wonderfully freeing. (And there are always so many opportunities to be humbled!)

It is interesting, because both words come from the same root: humus - earth, but the words have vastly different meanings.

Humiliate: to cause (a person) a painful loss of pride, self-respect, or dignity; mortify.
 
This is an isolating feeling. It makes us want to crawl into a hole to hide.
 
How could anybody have the power to do that to me save myself?  I am certainly not saying that I've never been or felt humiliated. Those of you who follow this blog know some of the things I've had to overcome, and I think part of growing up is making mistakes and (hopefully) learning from them.

Humble:  to be conscious of one's failings.
 
This state of being grounds us, and makes us part of the human race - no better or worse than anyone else.

Last spring I started Weight Watcher's, and wrote about it here, but once I started getting really busy with growing Writopia Lab, I found that I couldn't focus on it anymore. I wasn't able to get to meetings and I lost my mojo. When I was younger, I would use this as an excuse to beat myself up. But who am I to expect things to be easy? Focusing on losing weight is hard work and takes a lot of energy. I would love to be able to focus on it, but I can't right now. I am humbled, but I don't hate myself for it. I am not humiliated.

And I have felt lost in the world of publishing - saddened that "success" is so numbers and sales driven, and not based so much on literary merit. But I am certainly not the only writer who has felt or feels that way, so I am humbled. Humility brings me community, while a feeling of humiliation has only ever served to isolate me.

Finding the courage to call myself a "writer" and to seek out other writers has brought me a tremendous community, and the knowledge that I don't have to be perfect, or indeed, hide my imperfections in order to be loved is very freeing indeed.

We have to have a healthy amount of humility in order to be able to write - to get those words on paper. Because we will fail sometimes! That is a guarantee. But we keep trying, don't we?



And maybe I won't ever like a Boot Camp class, but who knows?


Where are you on the spectrum between humiliation and humility in your life?
 

19 comments:

  1. This is such a great post! It made me remember how I once took up running--and gave it up because I was convinced everyone was laughing as I wheezed, panted, sweated, and shuffled through town. An older woman asked why I'd stopped, and when I explained, she said, "You know, over time you realize people aren't really looking at you." Back then, I thought that was sort of depressing. Now I realize it's true--and liberating.
    And just for the record, I think it's impossible to ever humiliate yourself when you share as openly and generously as you do, Lena.

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    1. This is the best possible thing about getting older - the realization that we don't have to be perfect!

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  2. Terrific post, Lena. I've found being older rather freeing. At 51 I'm less concerned with what other people think than I used to be, and that has made it easier to "put myself out there." I always feel that I have something to learn, and in terms of my writing---while I'm more confident than I used to be---I'm still very aware that I have a long way to go!

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  3. As a younger person, this is a topic I find interesting, and humility is something for which I always strive, but it doesn't always happen. I once heard Dr. Phil say on his show, "You're a teenager, so naturally you think a group of people the size of this studio audience are constantly watching you," which I think sums up the feeling pretty well. Side note, but definitely stick with the boot camp! I've done similar routines, and you'll be so proud of yourself when you realize how much stronger you are in a short period of time! I'm sure the 360-degree mirrors don't help, but in my experience, everyone else is looking at their red-faced, grunting selves and wonder if everyone is judging them; they're too preoccupied to notice anyone else.

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    1. I will Jordan - I just need to work up to it so that it will be fun. Thank you for your encouragement!

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  4. For the past year I've been living with the motto "imperfection is perfection." As a writer I tend to over-analyze everything, so I was constantly worried about people's perception of me. As I matured in my life my writing reflected, and lately I've been content to just be me. "You can't feel joy without first knowing pain," so sure there are moments of humiliation, but they allow us to grow stronger as a person. We all have a happy ending waiting for us, we just have to fight to get there. Fight I will, because having writing as an escape has allowed for me to be proud of who I am, and certain of who I want to be.

    Love always
    a fan and friend
    Ian Herring

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    1. Sweet Ian! You are one awesomesauce teen. You have such depth and are so self aware. I admire YOU!!! xoxo

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  5. I'm forever fascinated at the ways in which words with similar roots can take on such diverse meanings. In some ways, as you subtly suggest, humiliation indeed has the power to humble us. And I love the way you expanded a personal experience to a collective one. Last, but not least, how cool is that the timing of your Boot Camp brought an encounter with a kindred spirit. ;-) Looking forward to catching up when I get back from California.

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  6. I used to walk with weights, but only with my sunglasses on. What was THAT about?!

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  7. Over the last year, I've had some very painful struggles, but going through them taught me not to worry so much about what other people think. I came across a great quote which I repeat to myself almost daily: what other people think of me is none of my business. Is it possible that humiliation is something we allow ourselves to feel? I wonder if it's possible to take a humiliating experience and be humbled by it, in effect, not just to feel shame and negativity toward ourselves, but to learn from it and therefore make it a personal triumph (as I think all learning is).

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    1. I definitely think that it's possible! (Unless we are talking about rape. There's no "asked for it" there.) It's all about shifting our perception, which for the most part, I am able to do, *but* sometimes . . .

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  8. Honest post-refreshing. I'm not feeling humiliated right now, but I am humbled by the kind things that people do sometimes. I try to pay it forward.

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  9. Hi Lena,

    I just wandered over here from Keith's blog (I DO love him!) and I'm so glad I did. For me, practicing humility (or being humble) means settling into the knowledge that I'm no better AND no worse than anyone else. It's finding the middle place where we're all connected.

    Thanks for the great reminder!

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  10. Hi Kim - thanks for stopping by! Yes, the process of becoming right-sized is indeed a practice!

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  11. Funny I should read this today as I just typed an email about being humbled in a beginning modern dance class but humiliated in an "advanced beginning" jazz class that I'd taken a few weeks before. I let myself be humiliated in that class -- no one was mean to me. It was my reaction, my harshness with myself. But it is true "humbled" means we are all in this together.

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