Balancing Pride and Humility
Caroline Paul wonders why we teach girls that it’s okay to be scared, while simultaneously imploring boys to be bold, fearless risk-takers.
Caroline was one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department, so she knows a little something about facing fear, and she thinks we are doing a disservice to the women that young girls become by not helping them develop more pride in their ability handle difficult, scary situations.
My mom is an outlier. According to a study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology last year, parents are “four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful” after mishaps that are not life-threatening but do entail a trip to the emergency room. It seems like a reasonable warning. But there is a drawback, and the researchers remarked on it: ‘Girls may be less likely than boys to try challenging physical activities, which are important for developing new skills.’ This study points to an uncomfortable truth: We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.
I’m tucking this article away for the future. 😉
READ: Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared? — by Caroline Paul
Maria Popova gets Primility, even if she’s never heard of or used the word.
I think of O’Keeffe each time I catch myself, mortified, on the brink of fury over a wifi outage aboard an airplane — centuries of physics and privilege converging into a superhuman capability we’ve come to take for granted — and then I quickly reach for Seneca as the ultimate vaccine against this humiliating hubris.
A hubris that humiliates … it’s basically the opposite of Primility. It’s the opposite ends of the Primility spectrum coming together in the bad way, not the balanced way.
Boy, that Seneca sure knew a thing or two about finding a way back to balance, didn’t he? 😉
READ: Seneca on How to Fortify Yourself Against Fear and Misfortune — Brain Pickings
Gregory Ciotti explains how great writing requires the pride to strip every sentence down to its most vivid, musical essence, and the humility to hide your toil from the audience.
‘What one takes most pains to do, should look as if it had been thrown off quickly, almost without effort,’ wrote Michelangelo. ‘Take infinite pains to make something that looks effortless.’
In this way, all good writing is humble. Hiding your toil is the final gift you must give your audience. They won’t know of the discarded drafts, or of the work, worry, and grief spent on your best attempt at an enjoyable final product.
READ: Easy Reading is Damn Hard Writing — by Gregory Ciotti
Paul Adams believes we should be asking “Why?” a lot more — because our desire to build something better must be balanced with a realization that everything we think we know just might be wrong. (How’s that for some humility?)
It’s natural to assume you know why something is, because evolution made you that way. But you’re very likely wrong. Keep stripping things back until you can’t strip back anymore. Then build back up a better solution.
READ: Peeling Back to First Principles — Paul Adams
Better Managing Emotions
Ryan Holiday (in a piece recommended by Tim Ferriss), describes the danger in our society becoming too politically correct.
Human beings are not automatons — ruled by drives and triggers they cannot control. On the contrary, we have the ability to decide not to be offended. We have the ability to discern intent. We have the ability to separate someone else’s actions or provocation or ignorance from our own. This is the great evolution of consciousness — it’s what separates us from the animals. What also separates us is our capacity for empathy.
Making Better Decisions
What is the difference between honesty and integrity? It is subtle, but profound, as explained here by Isaac Asimov (via Shane Parrish):
Integrity, is, to me, a somewhat stronger word than ‘honesty.’ ‘Honesty’ often implies truth-telling and little more, but ‘integrity’ implies wholeness, soundness, a complex philosophy of life.
To have integrity is to stand by your word, to have a sense of honor, to do what you have agreed to do and to do it as best as you can. To have integrity is to be satisfied with nothing less than the best job you can do.
READ: Isaac Asimov: Integrity over Honesty — by Shane Parrish
And that’s not all from Shane Parrish in this Primility Periodical. He has some interesting thoughts on decision making as well, which surely will find their way into a future Primility Primer.
These tools allow us to make better initial decisions, help us better scramble out of bad situations, and think critically about what other people are telling us. You can’t over-estimate the value of making good initial decisions. Nothing sucks up your time like poor decisions and yet, perversely, we often reward people for solving the very problems they should have avoided in the first place.
Practicing Empathy and Gratitude
Sonia Thompson took over this week’s Primility Primer, and I’m so glad she did. Sonia has one of the best attitudes of any person I’ve ever met, and her willingness to be vulnerable in this episode struck an important nerve with the audience.
But when we choose not to be empathetic to those around us, it’s often not because we’re being malicious. It’s because being empathetic requires vulnerability. And vulnerability is only possible when your pride and humility are in balance.
READ/LISTEN: Primility Primer 092: The Truth About Empathy — by Sonia Thompson
James Clear believes we don’t say thank you as often as we should, and I agree with him. He runs down seven situations for which a simple “Thank you” is the most appropriate response — a few of which will surprise you.
When in doubt, just say thank you. There is no downside. Are you honestly worried about showing too much gratitude to the people in your life?
An excellent companion piece for Clear’s article is this set of comics by New York-based artist Yao Xiao: Stop Saying “Sorry” And Say “Thank You” Instead.
Profiles in Primility
You’ll recall how this edition of Primility Periodical started — with my comment about Maria Popova understanding Primility, even if she’s never used the term. She seems to enjoy the alliteration of “hubris and humility” rather than “pride and humility.” The point remains the same.
And in this post, about Isaac Newton and his arch-nemesis Robert Hooke, she describes “how hubris and humility conspired in illuminating the nature of creativity.”
Where Hooke presented his ideas with unabashed hubris, Newton delivered his with humility — even if it was at times a false humility, for he too was a man animated by great ambition and in possession of a robust ego, it still stemmed from a hard realism about the fact that knowledge progresses not toward the definitive but toward the infinite.
Thank you for reading. Have a great weekend.
And if you found this edition of Primility Periodical to be useful, please consider forwarding this to a friend or sharing it on social media.
Until we meet again, stay cognizant of your pride and humility so that you can better manage your emotions and make your next decision a better one.
Image credit: Oscar Hayes via Unsplash