Modesty is part and parcel of everyday life for most people – we’re paid a compliment and immediately counteract it with ‘well, I didn’t really do much’ and suchlike.
But when modesty turns in on itself, it can become self criticism, which can be counterproductive at best and destructive at worst. So I really wanted to share a wonderful story, which has made me think twice about how I view myself.
Over half my lifetime ago I was sure I’d completely wrecked my future by messing up my A levels. Even so, I’d managed to secure a place at poly (yes, I’m of that age!) to study Business Studies with French and Tourism. But when I thought it through, I became less convinced that this was right for me and more convinced I was trying to make my parents happy.
So, while I knew I’d have a ball for two years, I also knew the chances were I’d come away with zilch. Nada. Nothing. I trusted my gut instinct, cancelled my place at poly and set about looking for a proper job.
I did know what my strengths were and what I liked to do, and over the years got to know myself better.Although I was pretty young, I did know what my strengths were and what I liked to do and this knowledge and self-assurance took me on a number of interesting and exciting paths as my teens turned to twenties.
Over the years, I’ve got to know myself better and better, learning to trust my instinct and judgements but, more importantly, acknowledge when I wasn’t being true to myself and do something about it.
Knowing myself to the extent I do is all very well and good, but loving and accepting myself is still very much a work in progress. I tend to see the negative aspects of my nature, but have also learnt that what I see as gobby, arrogant and outspoken, others see as forthright, confident and honest. I don’t feel I will ever accept all my less desirable traits, or indeed be totally happy with who I am, but stumbling across this story by an unknown writer recently has certainly made me think…..‘An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole that she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house the cracked pot arrived half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and felt miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived as bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream: “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house”. The old woman smiled. “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path but not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day while we walk back you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are there would not be the beauty to grace this house.”’
The story really made me stop and think. While I accept that I have my own unique flaws, I’m beginning to accept that it is those imperfections that help make me who I am and make my life interesting and rewarding. People must accept me as I am, cracks and all, and I in turn must accept them as they are and look for the good in them.