The Arrogance of Humility

I’m told that when I walk into a room I command attention.  I always believed that the people in the room had no choice.  I mean, really, I’m six feet tall with boobs and built like an all-star quarterback.  How does anyone not notice me when I enter a room?  And even with that image in my own head, I still managed to swallow my fear of rejection and stand at one microphone after another, delivering speeches, administering educational material, and presenting arguments in defense of those I represented.  It was my job. 

I was told that those around me didn’t want to follow my speeches because they didn’t think they could measure up.  They wanted to go first so that theirs would be forgotten by the time my turn came around.  I didn’t believe that my speeches were noteworthy at all.  I wrote my speeches beforehand, and practiced them, so that I wouldn’t falter in front of the crowd.  I rehearsed and agonized over both the wording and the eventual delivery.  All those others around me delivered beautifully worded ad-lib oratory on the spur of the moment, with such natural grace, and without a minute’s hesitation.

It was I who admired them.  Their talent exceeded mine in so many ways and on so many levels.  If anything, it was I who was jealous of them.

I am a shy introvert who expresses herself in mostly non-verbal ways.  Instead of grandstanding in public, I write in private.  I then choose what I allow others to read because not everything I write qualifies for public view.

I seek approval from my employer and am wholly gratified through my own hard work and dedication to my job, whatever that may be at the time.  Sometimes, I’m recognized for satisfactory performance.

But I can’t take credit for that either.  Any credit for my performance belongs to my imaginary super-cape, which takes all the acclaim for any accomplishment.  It is satin blue with gold trim and sports a fur-lined, silken hoodie.  When my co-workers borrow it, they too perform excellently while it’s in their possession.  We pass it around, we honor it, and we give it credit for any achievement.

We used to send it out to have diamond studs sewn onto its hem whenever it performed incredibly well, rewarding it for its loyalty and success.  We hung it in our cubicles with care lest it sustain an imaginary wrinkle.

It was nearly destroyed when a co-worker snagged a thread, and then kept that thread as a souvenir.  The cape had lost some of its power in the absence of that thread, and we wondered if it was the cape, or the thread, that made it so potent.

Before we could test that theory and return the thread, and while in its weakened state, I was told that talking about it made me arrogant.

I was stunned.  I thought I was just happy.

Dictionary.com has this to say about arrogance:

ar·ro·gant  [ar-uh-guhnt] adjective

1.making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; 

insolently proud: an arrogant public official.

2.characterized by or proceeding from arrogance, or a sense of superiority, self-importance, or entitlement: arrogant claims.

Origin: 
1350–1400; Middle English  < Latin 
arrogant-  (stem of arrogāns ) presuming, present participle of arrogāre. See arrogate-ant

Its antonyms are meek, modest, and humble.

I never believed I ever did anything extraordinary or superior.  I’m too shy to be overbearingly assuming.  And any pride I ever felt about my own performance was privately held.  But that doesn’t make me meek, modest, or humble either.  It merely makes me honest.

The super-cape, however, made me happy.  Having it could turn a sour day into a gorgeous one.  All I had to do was imagine that I was wearing it.

Being told I was arrogant had the same effect as if it had been forcibly ripped off my shoulders and trampled into the mud.  It no longer matters if the borrowed thread is returned.  It lies in tatters on the ground in front of me, its diamond studded hem glinting at me with sarcasm and disdain.

I now trudge through my days without its comfort, without its warmth.  No accomplishments come to me now, no little day-to-day successes.  I am bereft without it.

I used to say words like ‘awesome’, now I only say their diminutive forms like ‘good’ or ‘okay’.

I like to think that my super-cape is off mending itself, that one day it will return in its former glory to drape my shoulders once more.

Until that day, if it ever happens at all, I will have to settle for good days instead of awesome ones.

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