Readers’ Roundtable: Is Humility Minimizing Your Accomplishments?

Florence Joyner unabashedly celebrates her win at the 100m final at Seoul in 1988. Credit: Steve Powell, Getty Images via Zemanta

This week among the Salty bloggers, Sage shared an article about Amber Green, a mother of three who, over the course of 15 years and 31 marathons, reduced her time from 4:23:xx to an Olympic Trials qualifying 2:41:xx, and we all went nuts.  It was pretty unanimously agreed that Green is a badass.  We love this chick. She is awesome. It was also pretty unanimously agreed that she was, as the RW headline suggested was her goal, setting a great example for her kids.  Way to go, Amber Green!

However, one blogger brought up that it feels in the article as if Green is minimizing her accomplishments when RW quotes her: “Running is honestly my sanity and therapy.”  It “kept me from being depressed,” and, “really helped me give more to them [her children] instead of going crazy.”

Personally, I think those reasons for running would not get me to the trials.  So what would?  An unyielding, intense desire for glory.  And if I ever get to the trials, I will not tell you “oh, it all to set a good example for my nieces,” I will tell you “I did all that hard work because I am a running rockstar, and I wanted to let my light shine on the world.”  I believe there’s something really authentic about vanity.  Look at Flo-Jo there:  arms up, screaming, ready to have her photo taken for the Wheaties box…  Damn, it must feel good to be a gangsta.  I’d want everyone to know.

But we all say that stuff sometimes, right?  Someone compliments you on a race well run and you say, “Oh, well I was having an extra good day,” or “It wasn’t that much faster than last time,” or even just take the focus off yourself with, “Yeah…but did you see how great Bob did?” Does that kind of humble-speak make us seem gracious, or is it simply talking our accomplishments down?

What do you think, is it better to be humble, or to shout your success from the rooftops?  Is there a compromise here?  Do you think you would train hard like Amber Green without specifically seeking to reap the benefits for yourself?  And Amber, if we showed up on your Google alert, we would love to hear from you!  As always, we’ll take your answers in the comments.

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. As women, I think we often are reluctant to openly seek success for ourselves because we don’t want to be seen as selfish. But working hard to succeed is not only healthy, it can be inspirational and a good life lesson to those around us. We are respected more when we have our own interests and accomplishments and we set a good example for our children and/or loved ones when they see that hard work over a long period of time pays off. We have to be humble about it because success is never certain, we can and do get injured, and even when it works, it takes years. As the story notes, Amber tried to OTQ five times before she made it. If in the future I am so fortunate as to be complimented on my running, I will take care not to minimize the work required to get there.

  2. I don’t think you can get to the upper echelons of this sport, especially without a stellar collegiate background, without being pretty darn selfish with your time and energy. Running 125 mile weeks takes a TON of time and energy. Because not only is that a ton of running, but it takes a ton of other stuff to sustain that level of running that all take up a ton more time: sleeping being the biggest thing. You CANNOT forgo much sleep and train and perform at that level. Add on supplementals like stretching, strength training, massages, ice baths, meal prep and it’s a full time job! And I’m sorry, but to devote that much time and energy to this requires far more than stress relief as a motivator. She has to be ambitious and goal oriented, not to mention competitive. All of these things are great, but might not garner the support of others if given as the reason behind her success while mothering young children. I personally think mother’s should pursue their passions and chase whatever excellence they choose to and that IS a great example for their kids, but minimizing the blood, sweat and tears it takes isn’t doing anyone any favors.