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Humility vs. Hubris - A Necessary Lesson for all Practitioners

2 October 2019

Often when humility is the right approach, hubris steps in and takes over.

Gaining a professional qualification or certification is a hugely elevating experience. You feel great; proud of yourself, and also hopefully, bursting with new found confidence and energy to step into a new role or field.

However, this is exactly the point when can hubris take the reins and can wreak havoc. And it is often through downright painful experiences and conflicts with others that we learn this lesson the hard way. Hubris can definitely wreck relationships on both sides and even risk harming our professional reputation if we're not careful.
"The word 'Hubris' comes from ancient Greek and describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with (or synonymous with) arrogance." Wikipedia
I can hold both my hands up to this on first qualifying in equine facilitated learning in feeling I didn't need to always listen to more experienced professionals in this field, and feeling that I was fully ready to swing into action. Yes, much of the time I was fully prepared as I had received excellent training, but at other times and in other ways, I was not, and helpful guidance, advice and mentoring would have been more appropriate to help me navigate my new professional path.

I was also on the receiving end of others' hubris at times, leaving equally damaging consequences not least of all becuase they often arose out of the blue. So, I learnt the hard way at times for sure, loosing friends and colleagues along the way as I stumbled along trying to find my authentic footing and gain the experience I needed to deliver this work wisely and effectively.

Now, some 13 years on, I can reflect on this and I have learned the grace of humility, and yes, through some very hard times.

I also now see some out there, fresh-off their practitioner training course, ready to take on the world unaided and unguided and at times almost disdainful of the path well-trodden by those who've come before them. Instead, off they go on their merry-way, ready to take on the world but often stumbling through the thorns and bracken instead of seeking a mentor for guidance, or further training or work-shadowing to give them the essential footing they need to do this work. Maybe that's the way we all have to go in order to learn the benefit of humility over hubris...?

However, I also think there's a cultural dynamic at play here as well: that of rushing and achieving at the expense of slow, steady progress and growth. This preference for "being great" over being unsure and new at something is aided by our society which encourages us more readily into hubris, while simultaneously dismissing rather scornfully humility and humbleness as healthy qualities to possess.

As I say all along, it's only through doing our own steady and constant inner-work that we are in ANY position to deliver this service to others in need of support, without doing so we have no business being open for business. Steady inner-work helps us learn humility as we reflect on the times we were too stubborn, pig-headed, pompous and inflated to seek guidance from our wiser elders.
Many years later I can say now with certain that humility is by far preferable to hubris. It both keeps us connected to our true vulnerable selves and makes genuine connection to others much more possible. Of course, it goes without saying which the horses prefer too, for them, humility wins every single time and maybe that's all we need to keep reminding ourselves of if we are to step wisely and safely along this path...
For more information on my mentoring, supervision and professional development training please visit this page
Please feel free to contact me to discuss ways I can support you as a practitioner.
Angela Dunning
The Horse's Truth

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