Even Superheroes Have Limitations
Humility may be one of the most poorly defined and misunderstood virtues.
If you’re like most, you don’t consider humility to be a strength at all, and if you subscribe to contemporary understandings you’d assume humility is a weakness.
So, what is it, then?
or a strength?
Perhaps it’s time for a new perspective and set of assumptions in order to reclaim the hidden power of this virtue.
So how can you see humility as a strength, rather than weakness or a form of self-depreciation?
A New Perspective
As a human, you have limits, and that’s okay because we all have our own unique and distinct forms of limitations.
Having limitations is not a defect, it’s your design.
It’s a natural part of being human, and it’s not a reason to have a diminished sense of personal worth or value.
Therefore, true humility is not a low or degraded perception of yourself; it’s having a realistic perspective of yourself.
Humility is being realistic about your strengths.
Humility is being realistic about your abilities.
Humility is being keenly aware of your capacity.
Humility is recognizing the limitations of your physical, mental, and emotional resources.
Humility is being sensitive to the limitations of others.
Leveraging Your Limitations
Imagine you win a contest at your favorite store, allowing you to walk out with whatever you want… for free.
There’s only one catch, this is a one-time visit and you can only keep whatever you’re able to carry out, with no cart, and with no help from anyone else.
In all likelihood, you become aware that you can’t possibly grab everything you want. So, you most likely identify your limitations and start strategizing how you will utilize whatever resources are available to you in order to optimize your efforts and maximize your opportunity.
Your limitations and resources instantly become one and the same. For instance, your arms provide gathering and carrying capabilities, which is highly useful in this situation; yet at the same time, they’re limited in length and strength, revealing a limitation. Thus, your arms are now your primary resource despite their limited capacity. Your greatest limitation can also be accessed as your greatest resource. It is this paradox, once recognized, that can be leveraged towards the most optimized outcome.
You most likely take time (another limited resource) to assess what in the store is most valuable to you, while also considering the item’s weight and size. Accurate appraisal of your limited resources allows you to utilize what you do have intentionally and strategically.
The Power of Humility
We’ve all heard the phrase “spreading yourself too thin.”
Now, imagine you’re invited over to your friend’s house and you’re offered a glass of fine wine. You take a sip and are enthralled by how good it tastes – it’s one of the best wines you’ve ever tasted! Unexpectedly, a few other friends show up and you can’t help but rave about how good the wine is to them. They share a sip and hope for a glass themselves, however, it’s a rare vintage and there’s only one bottle. Logically, it makes sense that you each get a small amount to enjoy fully. Off-handedly, one of your friends suggests adding some water to the wine to increase the amount to go around.
Does this sound ludicrous?
Yes, watering down fine wine diminishes its quality and richness, and would be a ridiculous thing to do.
Likewise, spreading yourself too thin diminishes the richness of your qualities and strengths. This is why reserving and conserving your strengths and qualities for your most desired personal outcomes is an essential strategy for living a satisfied life.
Unfortunately, it seems that limitations have become unacceptable, criticized rather than respected. There’s a strong likelihood that others have judged you for not being sufficient in certain situations, or you may have even judged yourself for these perceived shortcomings. These critical, unrealistic expectations and judgments diminish your richness and compromise your health, well-being, and happiness.
Follow these steps to conserve your richness and to utilize the power of humility in your life:
- Assess the situation.
- Identify your limitations and your available personal resources (time, energy, focus, strengths, abilities, etc.).
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
- Listen to your body – it will let you know when you’re overextending yourself (this is where overwhelm and exhaustion become important feedback mechanisms – pay attention).
- Apply your existing resources toward the most desired outcome.
Overextension Comes Before a Fall
It’s a commonly held belief that the opposite of humility is pride. However, due to the various connotations connected to the word pride, it’s useful to use the word overextension as the antithesis of humility. Assuming your capacity is limitless can lead you into a state of unsustainable overextension and exertion, taxing your personal resources to the point of ultimate collapse.
Unsustainable overextension comes before a fall.
This form of collapse is seen in the pervasiveness of overwhelm, exhaustion, and chronic stress in our society. We can only overrun our personal resources for a certain amount of time before it creates numerous negative effects on our health and well-being. Burnout and emotional/mental breakdowns have become all too familiar within our contemporary North American culture.
As a human, your resources of psychological focus and physical/emotional energy are limited. Any exertion of these resources requires recovery. With so many demands on your attention, humility has become an essential virtue for health and well-being.
Let’s face it, even Superheroes have limitations. So, it doesn’t matter how amazing you may be at the incredible things you do. At some point, your superhuman abilities will hit a wall.
Being realistic about your limitations has never been so important. Accept them as part of your human condition and your design. This realistic perspective allows you to love and accept you!
As you meet yourself where you are, the power of humility will help you recognize the areas in life that require prioritized focus. This will enable you to strategically manage your limitations as a resource and stretch your capacity in a healthy way towards the best version of yourself; while also allowing you to accomplish your limited, yet amazing, superhuman feats!
Written by Brad Kauffman, M.A.