“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”― C.S. Lewis
If you want to talk about underrated qualities, then we have to talk about humility.
Some people think humility seems old-fashioned, that when someone talks about being humble, they’re just finding a new way to brag about themselves. Maybe, but that isn’t true humility then, is it? True humility is something we all could use more of, especially these days. It is, in fact, one of the most powerful traits you could possess and one of the most important for growth and success.
Humility helps you build trust with others. Humility helps facilitate learning. Trust and knowledge are two of the most important aspects of personal development and are necessary for any type of success, whether you’re in a leadership position or otherwise.
If you can’t be honest with yourself, then you will never be able to make the impact you want. The greatest people to ever live haven’t just been honest peacemakers or profoundly intelligent. They are humble.
Jonas Salk cured polio and he understood how important a contribution this was and ensured it remained patent-free so that it was available to everyone. Had Salk patented it, experts believe the patent would have been worth $7 billion today.
He was humble enough to know that while he did the work, it wasn’t his vaccine to own. Salk was not focused on monetary success, he was focused on the impact his work could have on the world. His vaccine ensured that polio was eradicated. There hasn’t been a case originating in the United States since 1979.
Humility. Let’s define it.
According to Merriam-Webster, humility is defined as “freedom from pride or arrogance”. It is the act of humbling yourself or being humble. You lack pride, but it can also be a feeling that you have no importance that makes you better than anyone else.
It’s that last bit that’s often a sticking point for people because it sounds negative. Humility doesn’t sound like strength and if it isn’t strength, then it must be a weakness… right? Think of it as being modest. A modesty that will help you succeed and beyond that, excel.
What puts humility in the right light is when you think of the opposite trait. The opposite of humility? Arrogance. Someone who thinks only of themselves. Someone who believes they’re better than anyone and everyone, so much so that they can’t recognize their own flaws. An arrogant person has a fixed mindset because they don’t believe they can get any better than they already are.
Someone with humility has a growth mindset. They recognize that no matter how good they are at something, they can still get better. That’s what you need for success. If you ask Serena Williams where her flaws on the court are, she might not tell you because she won’t want to let opponents in on that information, but you can guarantee she will know what they are. You can guarantee that she works on those.
The same goes for the all-time greats in every sport and throughout every industry. A true contender for success recognizes that life is a journey of learning and growth and it’s one that never ends. Pride steals all of that away.
The Need For Humility
Humility doesn’t mean that you can’t be proud of your accomplishments, it’s simply that you know when and how it’s appropriate to share that information. There are all kinds of different ways in which you can show your humility to the people around you.
- When you lose an opportunity to someone else, you can congratulate that and learn from the experience.
- You can be open to constructive criticism and take it on board to fuel your development.
- You can apologize when you are in the wrong or make a mistake.
- Take responsibility and hold yourself accountable.
- You can wish the best for your friends, family, and colleagues without attempting to keep all the success for yourself.
- You can compete with yourself rather than trying to compete with everyone else.
- Offer others a hand up instead of trying to keep them down.
Humility is an excellent (and necessary) tool for self-improvement and without development, you won’t find your success. When you start living with humility you will be more honest with yourself about what areas of your life have room for improvement.
With humility comes emotional intelligence, letting go of preconceived ideas and fuel for growth. It also has an important role to play in your inner well-being. It’s natural to feel angry or frustrated when you experience failure or struggle. You can’t escape struggle, you will experience failure. These are as natural to humankind as anger, sadness, and joy.
Humility is a trait that helps you pick yourself back up after you fall down. The deeper your humility runs the more resilient you tend to be. If you can recognize your own missteps in failure and struggle, then you do the work to change it. If you allow your passion and humility to combine? You’re going to be unstoppable!
Key Steps To Humility
I can’t talk about humility without offering you some advice on how to develop yours.
Increase Your Confidence
It starts with confidence. Yes, humble people are also confident people! It isn’t about seeing only weakness, it’s about understanding your strengths and using the right assets to find success as you have defined it for yourself.
How do you build confidence? Start by looking at your wardrobe and dress in a way that makes you stand tall and feel confident. It can make a major difference in how you feel about yourself. Another great trick is to take a moment at the end of each day to reflect on the accomplishments of your day. You have to celebrate the small wins because that’s what success is — an accumulation of small wins.
Abandon The Comfort Zone
The best things happen outside the comfort zone and you will never find success if you’re busy living in the comfort zone. You have to get comfortable with discomfort. It’s what will help you build resilience and it will increase your chances of success because you will be more open to taking risks and jumping into the opportunities that arise.
You have to take time to reflect on your behavior because your behavior is a direct reflection of your thoughts. Think of your actions as the fruit of your thoughts. Self-reflection lets you know whether you’re on the right track and by doing so regularly, you can make course corrections regularly before you veer too far off the beaten path. If you use a journal for your self-reflection, you can review it weekly to look for patterns of behavior. From here on out, view every weakness you identify as an opportunity for growth.
Humility starts by accepting everything you are and everything that makes you human. That step alone will help you retain control of your outlook and attitude.
You don’t know your limits which is why you have to keep pushing yourself to learn, grow, and develop. As far as you know, there are no limits on your abilities, and that means there is no limit to what you can do to enrich your life.
George J. Ziogas is an HR Consultant with 15+ years of experience across a number of industries with a specialization in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). He is a qualified vocational instructor/teacher and personal trainer. George is also a blogger and top writer in numerous categories/tags on Medium. He speaks several languages (English, Greek, Macedonian), and enjoys working out/keeping fit, music, reading, and traveling. He is married and lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
Image courtesy of Stijn Dijkstra.