The Other Side of Humiliation

I stood on the sidewalk eating a banana and feeling humiliated.

I’d just given a little presentation. Questions were asked, and there was one I got stuck on. I strung some clumsy words together. When I saw they weren’t registering, I strung more, more and more clumsy words together until the air was loud with my desperation.

Out on the sidewalk, I felt crummy. You should have had that answer; any self-respecting person would. But you didn’t, and you looked like a naive fool in there.

And that’s when a light flipped on: This is about how you looked, isn’t it? Your humiliation is all tied up in your ego and your pride, which want the world to like you and think you’re smart.

I finished my banana, continued my day with this thought agitating around, and got up the next morning with some insight.

You’re stuck in humiliation. That’s easy to be stuck in. But it only serves your ego and your pride. On the other side of humiliation, though, is growth. It may be painfully earned, but it can serve your self-understanding and your spirit.

So, with a soft hand, I tried stretching beyond my humiliation. Which, for me, meant cutting through all that ego-pride-world-love-me frenzy and gently, firmly asking myself, What can I learn here? What can I learn here? What can I learn here?

And I got some fresh clarity, around my desire to be perceived a certain way and my need for self-compassion. But the really striking thing was this: not being so subservient to humiliation felt pretty rebellious, and pretty freeing.

So, the next time I’m on the sidewalk eating a banana and feeling humiliated, I’ll try to remember: Just past humiliation, there’s wisdom. Let’s see if we can get there.

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