Humility, humanity and self-image

My natural inclination is to be shy, some might say withdrawn. Shyness puts you on the edge, the periphery, and you rely on others to draw you in, to a certain extent. It also makes you aware of your own abilities because shy people cannot bluff successfully. We tend to know our limitations and are unwilling to dupe people into thinking otherwise. The reason we know our limitations is because we recognise and admit to our failings and failures. This general lack of arrogance and excessive pride is called humility.

Our peripheral position has two outcomes. The first is that we will be welcomed into a group because of the contribution we can make to it. We never seem to be part of it, or integral. We will soon be forgotten when the need for us diminishes. It is a state we are accustomed to.

The second outcome is our potential to observe from afar. From the edge you can see all that is going on. You are not required to be in every conversation, so your silence allows you to scrutinise those that are ‘in’ or striving to be so. What is striking, as a spectator, is that those closest to the centre of the group, those that tend to lead or want to be leaders, they seem to lack genuine compassion or sympathy. They will say whatever is necessary to maintain their position. Whether they admit it or not, whether it is financial, physical, famous or fiscal, their superior position is important to them, otherwise why would they put themselves there. There are people who have had ‘greatness thrust upon them’ as Shakespeare says. They are few and far between. Their compassion and kindness is called humanity.

A failing that the shy seem to share is a sense of fashion. We may seem dowdy and plain. Maybe that contributes to our peripheral camouflage. Maybe we don’t need to dress to draw attention to ourselves. Maybe we don’t need to behave and act in a way that keeps us as the focal point. Maybe we don’t feel obliged to say the first thing that comes into our head because it appears smart and will keep people on our side.

As observers of others and the image they create, we are in the best position to assess our self-image and decide where we wish to place ourselves in the human spectrum. We probably don’t require a bizarre hair-style or odd way of talking. We certainly don’t need to be told when we’ve messed something up. While we don’t have an overbearing pride that verges on arrogance, we certainly have enough pride to admit our faults. One strives to imagine the size of someone’s ego that contributes to their impregnable self-image. One has to ask, do they genuinely believe all that they say or are they scared of losing face? Is self-image so addictive that ‘we deceive ourselves and there is no truth in us’ as Faustus says quoting the bible,

Sadly humanity and humility are not rewarded in our society because those that recognise them don’t have the unshakeable self-image or ego to promote them. They are handy when you need to maintain your powerful position but after… what the heck.



“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

“If we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in us.
Why then belike we must sin,
And so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.” Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” John 1.8