Racing from stoplight to stoplight, I am a god on two wheels. I have a higher power-to-weight ratio than a hypercar and the same level of skills as Valentino Rossi.
Music is blasting and my adrenaline is pumping. Suddenly, a car pulls out from a side street. The old lady had not seen me coming. I panicked. She hit the brake just in time as I fly by. I barely missed her.
I lay flat on my tank, the bike is still moving fast, but slowing down. My heart is beating out of control. I pull over at the next parking lot to collect myself. It could have all ended right there. Disturbing, angry thoughts start to flood my mind.
Blind bitch trying to kill me.
I had the right to the road.
She should be in jail for her lack of attention.
People like this…
The thought went on and on.
However, these days, emotionally-induced thoughts like these don’t simply become belief until they’ve passed my internal BS detector. “Wait a minute,” I think to myself, almost impulsively. I was the one racing from light to light. I was the one responsible for anticipating dangers. I was the one that had promised to keep myself safe under any circumstance.
The other person, just like me, is just trying to get home from a long day of work. She was probably as freaked out and scared as I was. Perspective starts to set in, and I see the behaviors that I needed to change if I was going to survive my riding career.
Immediately, calming thoughts started to occupy my mind, almost flushing out the neurotic angry thoughts. The tension from my body dropped away and I calmed down. I had become humbled by the experience.
These moments in life are so rare, yet when they do come, they come to define our characters and give us a higher level of self-esteem. How can this be? How come something that breaks down our pride actually makes us more relaxed and confident?
After parking my bike, I grabbed a beer out on the patio. During this self-reflecting moment, I saw a relation between all the concepts I’ve been discovering lately. I somehow discovered the essence of the self-esteem vs. neuroticism framework.
It was a big eureka moment.
We have come to learn of the false, idealized self and how it creates anxiety in our lives. It infects all our intentions and interactions. It’s the main cause of incongruence between what we truly desire and how we show it.
It creates the neurotic pride system that subconsciously drives us to feel inferior to others. This process is so deeply encoded and imprinted into our psychological system that the act of slowly reversing the process and letting the true self grow is simply heroic.
Even heroes need help too, and when this help comes, it comes in the form of a humbling experience.
A humbling experience is a combination of both an external event and an internal appraisal of that experience. The internal appraisal is the more important of the two. It determines if this event makes us more or less neurotic.
If we see something traumatic that happened as a misfortune and follow the automatic path of blaming others for our troubles, then we end up creating hateful, self-limiting beliefs that hurt us in the long run. However, if we see the fault in ourselves as something that could be changed, we realize a powerful psychological process within us.
A humbling experience shatters the mirage of the false idealized self that the neurotic pride system protects. It’s reality breaking through the layer of fragile defense mechanisms and then connects directly to your true self.
The true self is the only psychological part of you that could, and wants to, grow through a connection to reality. This is the self that is held back by fear and neurotic defense mechanisms.
Psychologically, when you are humbled, a few things are happening in your mind without your conscious control:
- Your psychological immune system kicks in to give you a voice of calmness over the situation.
- Something you feared intensely has materialized, but the consequence is not as bad as you had thought.
- Neural connections start to form around what you can do better next time.
- Your defense mechanisms are shattered since they have no basis to stand on anymore. In essence, when your real self steps up and takes responsibility for the situation, the need for an infantile fear-based system naturally dissipates.
So then, could this be a tool for combating the very thing that hold us back from acquiring true confidence?
Can we seek to humble ourselves with new exciting encounters?
The answer is not only that we could, but that we must. When I looked back at my life and all the experiences that made me grow exponentially in self-esteem, it has always been through some sort of humbling experience. I just didn’t know it. So it is with you.
Let me chart out a general path for how to create and embrace more humbling experiences in your life:
1. Become more responsible for your actions and emotions.
This habit is what kicks in when your mind is going out of control. It gives you the voice of calmness when you need it most. The strength of this tool makes the humbling experience deeper and more permanent in your mind. The lack of this tool will make you panic and do things you’ll regret.
2. Push yourself to live and act more vulnerably and honestly.
My humbling experience came from when I realized I had been more vulnerable (physically and emotionally) than I was. You don’t have to put yourself in mortal danger, but you can push yourself, gradually, to put your emotional self in vicarious positions.
3. Get hurt emotionally.
Yep, you heard that right.
Not to worry, research has shown that, even though the pain is very much real, your psychological immune system will kick in. It will allow your mind to fix itself. On the conscious front, your sense of self-responsibility will kick in automatically and you will realize how ridiculous it is to invest yourself emotionally in what others think of you.
4. Practice cognitive reappraisal to humble yourself.
It is very important here to see things out of your own perspective. Think of what a 3rd party bystander would see. How would they objectively judge the situation? Then ponder what perspective the other person may have. Your sense of empathy is particularly important here, since it dampens your neurotic rage. It allows you to realize that the other person is a struggling human being just like you. See things for what they truly are instead being blinded by the mirage.
5. Deepen the humbling experience by making it a part of you.
Write about the experience. Correct and apologize if you think you may have done something damaging to others. When you first learn to express yourself and polarize others, this will inevitably occur. Instead of toiling in self-hate, take action to correct it the best you can.
This experience is yours now. It’s more valuable than anything materialistic you can gain. This experience would teach you that as scary as reality is, connecting with it makes it your ally.
6. Let your true self grow.
Your true inner self, the only part that can grow, will relish in this experience. It has an obstructed connection with reality. You see what you can and will do better next time.
Writing it down helps.
Telling others about your experience helps.
Promising yourself to continue to seek more humbling experiences helps.
When you are humbled, you grow as a human being.
Continue to do this every moment and something amazing starts to happen. Your intention changes deeply and truly. Your action is now guided by a new purpose – to become humbled and grow. You can’t help but be congruent in any of life’s situations. Your self-esteem grows. Your actions align with what you value most.
Closing out, I’d like to go into a deeper area of the humbling experience – the near-death, or sublime, experience. No experience will be more humbling in your life than one where you come face to face with death, your own or a closed one.
Just so I’m clear, I’m not suggesting that you should go seeking these experiences. However, they do happen by accident to many. Rather than letting such an experience traumatize us for life, we can use it as a gift; as a humbling experience I’ve just described.
Robert Greene describes this experience as the sublime time. In these times, we embrace death as a natural and certain part of life. Death is the ultimate reality, and most of the neurotic things we do in life connect back to the repression of this fact. We end up spending most of our lives in what he refers to as banal time, time spent in fear of boredom and initiatives that life requires.
But in a humbling experience that is near-death, we realize how transient life truly is. Not only we seek to learn and grow from these experiences, we seek a sense of purpose out of them. This sense of purpose is driven by a need to harness the time we have left on this earth.
We have very little time left for fantastic creations and the neurotic mirage that they put in your mind. We must continue to humble ourselves and connect deeper into reality to realize our true values.