What is Hubris?
From Greek origin meaning arrogance, over estimating one’s ability which may usually lead to injury, emotional or physical. One may display false pride in a variety of venues. These can include the work place, home and leisure. Many injuries and death in the outdoors can be traced back to hubris. An over-confidence in one’s ability and/or the need to impress. This may in any realm from racing cars to mountain climbing. Staying too long on a lake with a thunderstorm approaching and misjudging the severity of a winter storm. All of us go through a normal developmental stage of hubris. What child does not feel they can slide off their roof into a pile of leaves, or climb to the highest point in a tree, or take on a test without studying that hard for it? In healthy individuals, this hubris with proper support and parental empowering gets converted to confidence versus the narcissistic false pride that can carry over into adulthood. Sad to say, the male gender is subject to the pathological effects of hubris than women. There are obvious reasons for this; from poor parental role models, a weak father figure, a father who suffers from hubris himself, and ineffective mothers that consistently coddle and blanket their child. Hubris is the absence of humility and in the work place can lead to disastrous errors. In the medical profession, we see this play out in clinicians who feel they can take on the case even though they are not proficient at a certain surgical task. Another example is the attorney that promises the client endless reward and good outcome for the excessive hourly wage they get in return. Hubris; one over-estimating an ability and touting his or her self to be something they are not. This hubris is on a continuum from spousal and relationship distortions to politicians promising a community change when in reality they know they may not be able to deliver. Hubris is clearly a symptom of the narcissus, however, individuals with hubris do not have to be narcissistic. All narcissists have hubris.
How does Hubris occur?
One needs to differentiate between the normal developmental adolescent risk-taking bravado that can carry into the teen age years but slowly dwindles in the twenties, versus pathological hubris. Pathological hubris begins very similarly to the budding narcissus. There must be a parent, a mentor or someone held in high esteem that one trusts and is inconsistently ridiculed or put down. The inconsistent part is crucial. If there would be consistent berating of ones psyche, then it is much easier to escape, avoid and find respite, if you will. Inconsistent reinforcement is always the most productive, even in the sense of developing injury to our self esteem. There is a push to prove to the one causing the emotional damage that “I will be more than what I am. Watch me, I will show you.” Hubris develops out of fear, fear of being inadequate, of less than a person, and less than those around you. One overcompensates to prove to others how smart, how proficient, how knowledgeable he or she is, even at the risk of injury. The individual filled with hubris believes others perceive him or her as the one with knowledge and if they do not, they will go to any extreme to prove they are correct. One may drive faster, run harder and must prove their stance by researching and puts the relationship and themselves below their need to be correct. This is much different than teaching one and loving one. When one cares about someone else, there is a need, out of love, to show and give answers that are correct. There is no wounding, no correcting of each other, but an acceptance and an appreciation. In other words, with an individual with hubris there is a hidden agenda. (The distorted sense of self and the need for others to perceive them as someone special.) With a self confidant individual, there is no need for show, for strutting your so called”stuff.”
How does one resolve Hubris?
Pathological hubris is not easy to resolve. The wounded soul is difficult to mend. Looking for resolution with the offender is an up hill battle, and is probably not in the best interest of one trying to rectify the problem. A path of inner peace must come from an acceptance of who you are, who you really are. That my friend is accepting your flaws, your shortcomings and being very much okay with that. Humility is difficult for many to find and internalize but for the individual with hubris it is something that just does not feel comfortable. I frequently tell medical students and physician assistant students; “Know what you don’t know.” This is imperative to not just be a good clinician but to be a good human. One of the first steps to reach resolution is to be comfortable and recognize the fact, it is not important to impress. A silent man with knowledge possesses more humility than the loud spoken professor who states he has the corner marketed on his specialty. As with any shift in resolving personality quirks that can be damaging in relationships and life, trial and error is a major key. It will be a journey, fraught with failures, however one must look at these failures as a necessary learning tool to feed the positive. So, recognize your arrogance, know where it stems from, understand how you are being perceived, and you must want to change. You must see the value in humility, and how that alone will be a blessing for the next generation.