August 2, 2011

Malignant Humility and Letting Your Freak Flag Fly. ~Abigail Stoddart

Photo: Respres

Karma has screwed me again.

Not “karma” so much as a misguided allegiance toward karma.

During the last six months, I had set the personal goal of re-discovering my confidence. I addressed all the usual confidence-building suspects by getting a new haircut, donating my least favorite articles of clothing, creating playlists made up only of my favorite music, etc. — with unimpressive results.

Then, I began to slow down my thoughts. The automatic became manual as I observed every subtle thought I could on my mind’s drive to self-doubt. Finally, I drew two very

Photo: Chicago's North Shore Conventions and Visitors Bureau

important introspective distinctions: expecting to do well is not arrogance and arrogance does not mean low self-esteem.

Photo: Sharkey50

When confronted with a situation that had yet to unfold, I would repeatedly remind myself of all the ways the situation could go awry despite my preparation.

While these less-desirable outcomes were possible, I was beating the drum of their potential in order to avoid becoming arrogant — or, what I thought would be arrogance. Arrogance wasn’t merely a negative character trait, in my mind, but a one-way trip to bad karma that deserved the negative outcomes I had created. With each new situation, I was reinforcing this malignant humility, providing a buffet for low self-esteem to feed upon.

Found everywhere from Joel Osteen to novelty refrigerator magnets is the sentiment “expect good things.”  After discovering the dysfunction undermining my confidence, I adopted this mantra for my daily life, and the results were surprising. The arrogance I expected was nowhere to be found. In fact, the result of expecting good things was a quiet confidence and faith in situations that formerly sent my mind and body abuzz. Much like the sweet, centered place found in meditation, awaiting outcomes became a lack of doing, a lack of anxiety and a lack of arrogance. I just was.

Photo: Dumble Dad

In rethinking my take on karma, I developed a Golden Rule: Does this action/way of thinking add to the positive or to the negative energy of the world? Despite my best intentions, “avoiding arrogance” did nothing but erode my self-confidence, confused my sense of karma and created my own worst enemy — a clear score for Team Negative.

While confusing self-confidence with arrogance may not be universal, it teaches an important lesson: when it comes to one’s own happiness and success, don’t settle for only questioning the usual suspects. Our uniqueness as individuals does not end with our favorite foods and pet peeves; not to be ignored, our fears get to wave their freak flags, too.

So, when all else fails, sit down with your fears. Slow them down. Notice every subtlety and contortion of logic. And treat them for exactly the unique entities they are.


Abby Rose Stoddart is a nursing student, doula-in-training, former cynic and current outdoor enthusiast. She can be contacted via email here.

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