Life is full of contradictions. We are told that birds of a feather flock together, yet at the same time, we are also told that opposites attract. One day we’re told that drinking milk helps to build strong bones; the next day we’re told that cow’s milk is a seriously bad idea. And even in our own minds, we convince ourselves of thoughts that are utterly contradictory. This is how I’ve come to view myself as the humble elitist.
Allow me to explain.
At first glance, the very concept of a “humble elitist” seems like an oxymoron and, in many ways, it is. Even so, I have unconsciously developed the habit of holding the two contradictory perspectives simultaneously. Even when I go in with the best of intentions, I know that I can sometimes look down upon or scoff at people, their opinions, their skills or their social status.
The quandary arises when the completely opposite perspective is held at the same time: I am inferior to my competitors and colleagues. They have more experience than I do. They have more training than I do. They’re better with people than I am. They’re better educated than I am. They’re more successful, smarter and better looking.
While snobbier elitists like Aaron Sorkin don’t suffer from the slings of humility, many of us do. And again, there is nothing wrong with being humble as it helps to keep you grounded, realistic and relatable. Putting yourself on a high horse puts you out of touch with your fellow man.
And so, I find myself at this contradictory and oxymoronic crossroads:
I am better than you and you are better than me.
Perhaps this is healthy. Maybe it’s balanced. It could be appropriate both to pity and to envy the same person at the same time. And this might be why successful people like Ronan Farrow and Conan O’Brien are so quick to ride that line, clearly demonstrating their superior skills while tempering their egos with self-deprecating humor.
Don’t sell yourself short and don’t get too cocky either. Strive to the best and encourage everyone else to do the same.