The role of humility in community contribution

Developers, designers, artists, musicians… to you I speak. Many of us followed a similar path into our respective creative fields. We spent years as a sponge. We sat quietly on the sidelines, reading as much as we could about our industries. As a result, many of us can proudly say that our livelihoods are the result of long hours of self-teaching and, above all else, an unquenchable passion for the subject.

Eventually we all come to a crossroads. It’s not that our desire to learn begins to wane. No, for most of us that will never happen. Our jobs are our lives. Rather, we begin to desire greater community involvement. For me, this desire brings about a struggle: feeling strongly enough about my own contributions to present them to the community.

This post is not about self-esteem. What I am suggesting here has little to do with self-esteem and much more to do with humility. I’ve strived for humility all of my learning life. I find much greater satisfaction in personal achievement than in public recognition. Unfortunately, this character trait doesn’t mesh very well with pushing opinions out to the public.

Here’s the thing: after you spend a great deal of time reading and learning from the work of community leaders and people doing exceptional work, they become mentors. You show great respect for their work and look up to them for helping teach you so much of what you know. Putting yourself on the same level as them and presenting your work and opinions for anybody and everybody to judge can be exceptionally intimidating.

Embracing community

Thankfully, there are other reasons to push yourself to contribute back to the community that should (hopefully) trump even the most humble among us. Namely I am referring to feedback. The thing I’ve always loved most about the web development community is the cooperation. People speaking ill of each other or sabotaging others work or progress happens so infrequently that it may as well be nonexistant. Chances are, when you finally take the step to show the community something you’ve worked on (or currently are working on), you’ll find others who are both excited about it and eager to give their opinion, whether it’s suggestions, ideas, feedback or praise.

Granted, I should be following my own advice here and contributing to the community more than I do. That being said, you are reading this blog post, so I suppose I am doing my part and at least embodying what I preach here.

Balancing act

Let me finish by summarizing the thought that led to me writing this in the first place. Community contribution can be intimidating for those of us humble by nature. For me personally I recognize that community contribution must strike a happy medium between humility and valuing your own opinions enough to share with others. In this way we share and collaborate with others while continuing to learn from those around us. And in this way, our community continues to prosper.