Humility Will Get You Further

So this funny thing happened the other day. It was my second day of classes this semester and the first time I was attending my Tuesday classes. I woke up a couple hours before my first class, showered, ate breakfast. You know, normal morning things. I left my room around 10 am, hoping the 20-minute walk to my first class would bring me there just in time for it to start at 10:30. Or so I thought.

I ended up getting to the classroom at about 10:28. I was not surprised by how many students were already in the classroom, however I was a little surprised that the professor had already started lecturing. It also seemed a little strange that everyone stopped and stared when I entered the classroom. I found a seat in the 60-person class in the very back row. I asked the guy next to me, “this is Entrepreneurial Marketing, right?” and he said yes. Okay, so I was in the right class. Perfect.

Then, the professor stopped lecturing and asked if I want to present my personal brand. I had done the assignment and was feeling confident in my presentation, so I said yes. Naturally, I was nervous about presenting in front of 60 people. I HATE public speaking, and I hate it even more when I have to do it to my peers. I don’t know exactly why, but I suppose part of that is due to the fact that I consistently think they’re nit picking or think I’m dumb. (Thanks, anxiety.)

So I gave my presentation– about 5 minutes or so– and when I finished the professor asked, “are you in my 9:30 class?” “No,” I responded, “I’m in your 11:00 one.” “Do you know what time it is? This is still my 9:30 class,” he said. The rest of the class proceeded to burst out laughing, and rightfully so. That was funny. I just gave an entire speech and then realized I was in the wrong class. I laughed with them.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you about what I did next. I grabbed my things from the back row, headed towards the door, and said “well, it was nice to meet you all anyways!”. They laughed again. After the door shut behind me, I literally ran to the bathroom, found the closest stall, and cried for a good 10 minutes. I felt humiliated. Not only did my anxiety tell me while I was giving the speech that everyone was judging everything about me, but afterwards my anxiety told me I was an idiot for making the mistake that I did and humiliating myself in front of 60 people.

I felt pretty down in the dumps for the rest of the day. After telling my dad about it, he said that even though I felt embarrassed now, that’s a hilarious story that I’ll probably tell for the rest of my life. And he’s right. Even as I write this now, a few days later, I laugh about the incident. Yeah, there’s a little piece of me that cringes every time I think of it, but at the same time, nobody truly thought it was as bad as I did. (Including my professor. After I apologized to him for disrupting his class and taking 5 minutes of his teaching time, he said not to worry about it and that he will easily remember my name because of my memorable first impression.)

But now that I reflect more on that blunder, I also realize that humility is going to take you further than anything in a lot of situations like that. The reason I got so upset about being embarrassed in front of all those people was because I was taking myself WAY too seriously. I thought that people cared about me way more than they probably did.

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Even though I was able to make a joke about it as I left the classroom, I was still pretty torn up inside. But my heart was in the right place. I knew that the only way out of the situation without getting hurt was to not take myself too seriously and to laugh at my mistakes. Because honestly, it was a mistake; I just happened to get to class 30 minutes early. There’s no shame in that.

But this small, slightly embarrassing incident taught me a lot about how to use humility to my advantage. As long as I don’t take myself too seriously, neither will anyone else. If people see that you are willing to laugh at your mistakes along with them, they think of you as a strong person that can see humor in the unpredictable. It makes you seem more easygoing– like a person that can laugh at innocent, human mistakes. Like a person that they want to surround themselves with. Because when they make a mistake themselves, you’ll be the person that doesn’t think anything less of them.

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