Question: Help, people think I am too proud and arrogant. Is humility a good thing?
Answer: You have asked a very important question. Humility can be seen in two different manners, one where someone thinks that they are good for nothing, are worthless, keep focusing on their lack and failures and act submissive to others or try to avoid other people. This may not be helpful in any manner. On the other hand, humility can also express itself in a manner where there is understanding about one’s own strengths and weaknesses, compassion for oneself and well as for others, being able to find harmony with others and where one is not only able to acknowledge one’s success but is also able to celebrate other people’s contribution in one’s own success. When humility manifests in this form, studies have shown it leads to protection against stress, anxiety, and more gratitude, forgiveness, and overall better interpersonal relationships.
Question: How can I develop a balanced amount of humility?
Answer: Behind humility, there is a choice and an understanding that we are neither above nor below others, we are all equal and connected. Knowing oneself better, both in terms of one’s strengths and weaknesses, what motivates and what challenges oneself, and accepting them would help. Avoid comparing yourself with others. When it comes to learning, Intellectual humility is the first step, which starts with knowing what you don’t know, and being curious about new ideas. It is also important to have a regular personal spiritual / contemplative practice, remembering our own moments of weakness and how human life brings a variety of experiences including that of suffering, would add to our empathy and kindness along with humility. Also experience nature in its beauty, gaze at the star filled night sky and discover awe filled humility.
Avoid talking too much about your own strengths, and acknowledge others’ strengths too, and give credit. While accepting you may have flaws, ask for others’ help too when required, without feeling diminished. Learning to listen, taking turns in conversations, allowing others to speak, taking their feedback and when required apologizing would be helpful. Find what is good in other people and try to learn from them, also help others when required. Also find goodness in people from other communities, region, religion, country etc. Develop gratitude and volunteer for some social cause.
Focus more on what makes life good in itself, like relationships, knowledge, creativity etc and not the material good we acquire in life. Be aware when you want to dominate someone who might be weak, and hold back this impulse. Let go of a feeling that you are better than others and thus deserve special treatment or that good things should happen to you. Also drop the need to display yourself in good light all the time, and let it be ok that you can have flaws like any other human and you are trying your best to grow. Find people whom you might admire and try to learn from them.
“True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.” – Ralph W. Sockman
Expert: Dr Jyotsna Agrawal
Dr Jyotsna is assistant professor of Positive Psychology at the Dept. of Clinical
Psychology, NIMHANS, Bangalore