• christinemackenzie

Hubris : exaggerated pride or self confidence

I wasn’t sure whether to publish this - and then I heard Anne Summers, noted Australian writer, journalist, leading feminist, editor and publisher on the radio this morning talking about her recently published memoir which includes her failures. She wondered why people pretend everything is always wonderful, because it isn’t. So here goes:

Sometimes I like to add a more personal story in my blog - to make a break from the official controlled version of events that I report on.

The last time I did this I talked about motivation and what drives me. In this blog I’d like to go a bit darker and explore how things aren’t always the shiny bright version of life that can appears on the blog / Facebook / LinkedIn view of the world.

My understanding of hubris is when you get too complacent and relaxed and don’t recognise that you can stuff things up. In my case this relates to presentations. I’m getting pretty used to presenting now, and mostly they go over pretty well, at least I like to think so. I love telling the story of how when I tried to say good morning in Arabic to an audience in Tunis, I actually said shit - it is easy to tell these sorts of stories against yourself. Generally, I’m across the content and especially with a smaller audience fairly relaxed (well, as relaxed as an anxious person can be.)

But what about when you really don’t hit the mark? This happened to me recently. I had been asked to deliver a presentation on the UN 2030 Agenda and what IFLA was doing. Easy peasy, done that before! Then I was kindly sent a pre-prepared presentation which seemed so much more intelligent, insightful, and logical than what I was intending to do. Oh, this is much better, thought I. This is what I will present. After handwriting the talking points (too late for access to a printer) and checking the powerpoint, I was committed. But it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t my voice, it wasn’t what I could convey in an easy flowing way. The further I got in to the presentation the worse it seemed to get. I was reading my hastily scrawled handwriting, not so legible, the content was too dense, with no personal anecdotes, and the connection with the audience - gone. UGGHHH.

Well of course I soldiered on, feeling sorry for the audience and truthfully, sorry for myself. As I was wallowing in self-doubt and disappointment afterwards, I realised I needed to get a perspective on this - no one died, not even of boredom. The best I can say is that it was a very valuable lesson for me, and I will try not go into another situation where I am not across the content ever again, because I, like everyone else, really want to do the best I can, which in my case, is for IFLA, for libraries and for me.

And so, I decided to share this, to show that while we all try and do our best, it doesn’t always work out to be as good as we hoped or expected. And sometimes we get a bit comfortable and start to take things for granted. Which makes for hubris, and that is not a good thing!!

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