“Anyone who has gumption knows what it is, and anyone who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.” ~ L.M. Montgomery
Gumption is one of my favorite words. I love the way it sounds, and I love what it means. And actually, I disagree with Montgomery. I think that folks who don’t have it can learn to have it, so I shall define it. Gumption means boldness and shrewdness. According to Merriam-Webster, it also entails common sense, or “horse sense”. Another definition lists chutzpa as a synonym. Okay, so common sense is not something that can be faked, but the rest? Sure!
I like to think that I have gumption. It’s up there with grit as one of the things I like best about myself. Yes, grit and gumption are in large part why I am where I am today. And do you want to know a secret? A lot of times the gumption has been faked. Many times I’ve been quaking inside but made the decision to act with the gumption I wanted to have. I faked it till I made it. There are plenty of times I didn’t fake it–when defending a student or a friend or something I believe in passionately, I’m fearless. But when it comes to sticking up for myself or promoting myself? Not so much.
And I think that’s a quality I share with many people. Advocating for others comes naturally, yet advocating for myself is a struggle. And while this sounds selfless and modest and yadda yadda, in reality, this is something that holds me back from attaining the dreams I talked about yesterday. And I am sure it is something that holds many people back.
I’m reminded of airline safety talks. They always tell us to put on our oxygen masks first and then attend to our child. In my head, I know it makes sense–I am stronger and more of a help to my child when I can breathe. But I think many parents hear this and think, “yeah, right–my child is first.” And this holds true on airplanes and off–our children, our families, those we care about seem to come before ourselves. Selfish is a negative word, one we hurl at people when they put themselves first. Pushy, obnoxious, bitch, bastard. That’s what we call them.
But why does advocating for one’s self have to be a negative? Of course, I do think that one’s approach to gumption has a lot to do with it. And I do believe that there’s a huge difference between gumption and selfish, but often we internalize the negatives and hold ourselves back. Selfishness is always putting one’s needs first with no thought about the impact on others. Gumption is having the boldness to go for our dreams. (I always assume that people’s dreams are positive ones. Well, not always, but I assume the people who take the time to read this blog are already a notch up the emotional evolutionary scale!)
So it’s time to embrace gumption on all levels! Not only will we be better off as people, but our society will only gain when people are helping themselves come the best people they can be.