When trying to understand a concept, it isn’t just important to understand what it is, but also what it is not.
Humility: What it Is and Isn’t
We will begin with the definition of humility in order to understand what being humble is:
Humble: (Noun) the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance (1).
While it may seem like a simple, straightforward definition, a lot of confusion occurs when trying to understand what lies at the core of being humble. Humility is a view that an individual’s realistic position in the world is relatively low. Unlike what many seem to think in recent years, an individual is not the centre of the universe. While you are important on some levels, on a universal level not so much. This sounds harsh, but at the end of the day, it is a realistic view of the world that you live in. Humble people have come to this understanding that you are acting in a way that is motivated by a bigger picture, rather than the self. As Joshua Hook stated, “Humility is a very pro-social quality.” (2)
Humility involves a willingness to accept the self’s limits and its place in the grand scheme of things, accompanied by low levels of self-preoccupation.
Those who make judgements of humble people before fully understanding their mindset sometimes conclude that humility is less of an ideal and more of a weakness. This is when knowing “what humility isn’t” comes into play. Humble people are not weak. It takes strength to have a clear view of the self and to accept the roles of those around you. It is much easier to delude yourself and keep a small scope of the world than to live so openly.
In addition to this, being humble is not becoming a doormat. While a humble person is open to others’ views and opinions, they do not immediately abandon their own views and bend to another’s will. Having an open mind does not equate with being passive. In fact, as it will be shown later on, having an open mind is a strength that results in many benefits. The humble individual is sure of themselves, they just do not feel the need to rub it others’ faces.
Humility in Action
Now that you have a better idea of the basics of who a humble person is and isn’t, you may be asking yourself what do these individuals do in order to lessen their view of themselves. While it would be nice to be able to wake up one morning and have such an understanding of yourself that you are able to practice a humble lifestyle, it takes a large amount of effort to reach this level of awareness.
Don’t be discouraged, though, as there are several relatively easy practices that you can adopt on your journey. As long as a consistent approach is taken, you will begin strengthening this life skill in no time.
Five effective practices of humility:
An awareness of the self is a strong foundation to have when seeking humility. If you have never practiced meditation before, it may be easiest for you to begin with a guided meditation. Many apps exist on phones and online where these can be found.
During this meditation, a couple of things will occur. First, you will have time to evaluate where you are at mentally. How does what you are thinking relate to what has been going on around you? Learning yourself, what influences you and your biases, allows for a realistic world view to be possible. Secondly, you can strengthen your compassion skills, which will directly influence how humble you are. The more compassionate you are, the more you are able to put a focus on others and emphasize the selfless.
Once you have established a more concrete knowledge of yourself, you are ready to branch out and move onto the next practice.
2. Meet New People
Meeting new people doesn’t just mean finally saying hello to your neighbour that you normally avoid. This is a good start, but you should be striving to interact with people with different views, backgrounds, and experiences. These traits are possible in your neighbour, but more often than not those living in the same community may be quite similar in background and culture.
It is not enough to just venture out and develop a more diverse peer group; you must commit to listening and, on some level, understanding their views. You already know all of your ideas and opinions, so practice being humble and learn from those around you. Your mind will expand, and you may even discover ideas that you are more aligned with. Accepting that everything you believe isn’t the golden rule of the world is a major step in humility.
3. Embrace New Experiences
Does your daily routine consist of home, work, gym, home? It may be comfortable, but it is far from understanding the world around you. You don’t necessarily have to travel the world to accomplish this step, although travelling is a great way to be exposed to experiences you wouldn’t normally be around in your hometown. If you aren’t in the position to travel, search for new experiences nearby. Many cities have a cultural centre, classes, or leisure activities available that you may not have considered in the past.
Get out there and be open-minded.
4. Be Appreciative
This is an extremely important aspect. Those who have high levels of humility are aware that the world and others do not owe them anything. Therefore, anytime that others help or give you anything, you should be very appreciative and thankful. If someone helps you, acknowledge it, and sincerely thank them. Others should be made to know that you do not take them for granted. Everyone needs the support of others, and you know this .
5. Seek Knowledge
Seeking knowledge links closely with meeting new people and trying new experiences. However, you should take it a bit further and actively search to learn about views and ideas that you don’t understand, or even disagree with.
Go to a class, a debate, or have a discussion with someone that has different views than you. Research a topic that you don’t know about. You will begin to understand the other point of view the more you know about it. This doesn’t have to mean that you agree with it, but once you understand it you will be able to treat the standpoint and those who believe it with more respect.
This is the practice of humility.
The benefits you will soon discover …
1. Positive Outcomes
You may find yourself wondering what could possibly result from putting so much effort into strengthening your life skill of being humble. There are actually too many positive outcomes to be able to list them all. That is how useful being humble is. However, I will list a few so that you have some motivation to begin making changes in your lifestyle:
2. Stronger Relationships
When you are more open and understanding towards others, it is natural for bonds to grow stronger. People like to be listened to and not be negatively judged for their views. When you are humble, you are accepting of your friends for who they are. They don’t have to hide their thoughts to feel comfortable around you.
3. Professional Advancement
Humble individuals make great leaders and employees (3). You are open to hearing what your co-workers have to say and you are rational without letting personal views cloud your judgement. You will contribute to a comfortable and effective working environment, and others will notice this positive trait about you.
4. Increased Happiness Levels
It isn’t surprising that with closer friends, a better work environment, and a more accepting outlook on life that your happiness levels will rise. You will be able to stop looking at the world in a negative way, and open yourself to seeing all the beautiful aspects through your new experiences and friends.
So what are you waiting for?
Start practicing becoming more humble, and you will gain a new and refreshing view of the world. Stop being so self-focused and be ready to accept and understand your surroundings better.