Do You Take Pride in Being Humble?

In early 2016, a client hired me to do some website development and blogging work for his lifestyle brand. After a few months of working on the project, I finally got the opportunity to work with him in person. He greeted me with a compliment on the work I had done so far. I thanked him and told him it was hard work.

For a moment, my response caught him off guard. He burst into laughter and then, he said, “Please don’t ever change. Don’t fake humility. Take credit for your hard work. You earned it!”

Until then, I had not given much thought to the concept of humility. After all, I come from a culture that sports the lion as its “spirit animal”. We celebrate each success often and loudly. Being born and raised a Jamaican is success number one and we are unlikely to let you forget it.

Even so, there are many Jamaicans who practice humility. The keyword here is “practice.” These are people who, ironically enough, take pride in being humble. This is not a Jamaican-only past-time. I have noted this quite often among Americans, since this thought-provoking exchange with my client.

Of course, there might also be people who are genuinely humble — including a rare few Jamaicans. This article is not about you.

What Is Humility?

I can thank my sixth-grade teacher for contributing to my tough skin. I was one of her top students, but her constructive criticism was an everflowing fountain. Every compliment from her came with an asterisk. One criticism she gave me and other students fairly often was our tendency to latch on to specific words.

She explained that there were lazy words in the English language that people used so often, the words began to lose their meanings. Sadly, these are the same words sixth-graders find convenient for our English essays. For this very reason, she provided a list of words we could not use in her class. Her top pet-peeve was the word nice.

I don’t recall humility or humble being on her list, but layman English has changed a lot since I was 11 years old. It would most certainly now fit the criteria for one of the many words Ms. McKellop would ban to the detriment of those of us who scribbled our essays hurriedly in the last 20 minutes of lunch break.

But, what exactly does this over-used word mean? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “humility is the quality of not thinking that you are better than other people; the quality of being humble.” Merriam-Webster describes it as, “freedom from pride or arrogance.”

What Is Practiced Humility?

I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I would love to tell you it’s because it drives my book sales, which it does, but I just enjoy the banter. I follow some of the most brilliant and hilarious people I have had the pleasure of knowing. They, in turn, follow much of the same and help populate my timeline.

Several days ago, a tweep posted that there is a big difference between being “laid back” and plain old complacent. I agreed and shared that I have learned to avoid men who describe themselves as “laid-back.” Why? Because, in my generation, this is generally code for lazy and complacent.

Quite a few women shared their agreement, but several men rushed to defend themselves. As Jamaicans say, “Mi t’row me corn…” Or, as Americans would say, “A hit dog will holler.” The hollering was quite loud. One guy took an interesting approach and explained that men often described themselves as laid-back because they were humble.

I guffawed on my sofa at this ridiculous explanation. In response, I drew a parallel with the men who shout from the rooftops, “BUT I’M A GOOD GUY!” Almost none of them ever truly are. I added, “In my opinion, there are some things that are only true about a person when someone else says it, not them.”

The guy then responded in the way most Generation-X-and-younger men do when we point out problems like this. He decided that this was because of the men we knew, implying, of course, that he was a man apart from these scoundrels.

Well, that isn’t a very humble response, now, is it? Why no, but he sure took pride in being humble. Do you?

Are You Truly Humble or Just Well-Practiced?

I am a strong advocate for continued self-improvement. We are always capable of being a better version of ourselves tomorrow than we were today. There is nothing wrong with setting aside a list of attributes that you want to make true about yourself or values you wish to attain. However, when it comes to humility, claiming it for yourself invalidates the point altogether.

That creates a bit of a dilemma; doesn’t it? How so? If you rushed to answer yes to the question of humility, maybe you’re not as humble as you think you are. There is just no way to say, “Yes! I am humble!” without patting yourself on the back. That might beg the question: iANYONE humble?

That’s a debate I am open to hearing. As for me, personally, I see nothing wrong with thinking highly of yourself. The trick is to base those opinions on fact, merit, and a commitment to continued self-improvement. Thereafter, I say, celebrate as loudly and often as you like.

I don’t care if you just bought your first bicycle or you’re one day sober. Celebrate like you just won the lottery — and count me in!

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20 thoughts on “Do You Take Pride in Being Humble?

  1. This debate is like the “is anyone truly altruistic?” debate. The thing is, if you have to mention it, especially to show it off, then I don’t think you’re humble at all. What you can do, is practice some humility, but you wouldn’t *truly* be humble, in my honest estimation.

    I think humility is an amazing concept, but I don’t live in it 100%. There are times I indulge in the sins of social media and brag about myself just a little bit 😫😪. And then there’s times where I am thankful for my blessings and I work on making them greater, whilst never being too proud.

    I believe, like patience, humility is a virtue– one that many of us can/will never possess.

    1. I agree with you completely on humility. Once you start to brag about it, it cancels itself.

      Altruism is similar, but it’s also a little different. I don’t think mentioning altruism automatically cancels it. It depends on how the person says it. If it’s bragging, cancelled. If it’s posting for clout on social media, cancelled. But if it’s mentioned in more of a matter of fact way, then I think that’s fine.

      I guess we all have to draw our own lines somewhere. 😂

  2. I am reminded of Uriah Heep from Great Expectations–” I am so very very ‘umble.” I love the guys who keep insisting they are the exception when clearly they are sterling examples!

    1. The lack of self-awareness is very telling. I suppose we have all made ironic claims about ourselves, but to me, this one takes the cake.

  3. Love this post and the topic in particular.

    I was always told not to take pride in antyhing I did, for others could do it better (yea… I know). I am learing how to take credit for my brilliancy nowadays, but it’s a challenge for me. I’ve always been so good at praising others and not myself, it feels unnatural to state out loud the things I did well. So I guess you could say I was forcefed humility as a kid and still exude it today (albeit less).

    1. Samantha, I am going to ruin all that you’ve learned! 😂

      Take pride in EVERYTHING you do, no matter your skill levels. Acknowledge your wins as much as your losses and know your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

      The problem is that many people announce their successes but hide their failures. I think we should hold ourselves accountable for both. The fact that someone can do better or has survived worse should never negate your successes and struggles.

      Wishing you all the best on your journey to give yourself more credit. ☺️

    1. I don’t listen to country music, so I’ve never heard it before. I just looked up the lyrics. Thanks for sharing! ☺️

      1. I have fairly eclectic tastes in music, from the Brandenburg Concertos to rap. There’s some really good country pieces, of which this is one. Another is “The Dance” — whether the Dave Koz (jazz) or Garth Brooks (country) version. It could be argued that “The Dance” and Barbieri’s “Europa” are the two most romantic songs ever written.

      2. I’m more of an electronic and rock kinda gal. 😆 The two most romantic songs I can think of are “Breathe” by Angel and Airwaves and “Magic” by Coldplay.

  4. Humility is Equal to Meek
    As Love it Does the Very Best it Can And Will Always
    Stands Proud, Strong,
    Fearless; Never Demands Worship and Is Careful
    To treat all Others
    Including The
    Rest of Nature
    With Least
    Harm And Most
    Love What Humility
    Does Best is encourage
    Others They Have Potential
    To do Even
    The Meek
    Inherit the
    Ability To
    Make Others
    Real Heroes
    With Empathy
    Too… Where there
    Is Demand For
    Worship Ever
    And Ever Torturing
    There is No Love
    No Humility No
    Meek No
    Jesus or
    Other Lies
    That Do not
    Tell the Truth
    In Wisdom of
    Beauty’s Love
    All that is Left
    Is The Trump Meme
    And Theme indeed…
    For Us To understand
    What Love Is Not
    With SMiLes
    Of Wind That Sees😁

    1. The irony comes in when you say, “…will always stand PROUD.” Pride is the opposite of humility. I’m sure one can be proud of oneself without thinking one is better than someone else, but they are generally considered mutually exclusive terms. That’s the point of the post: the irony that claiming humility takes pride.

      1. No Lower No Higher
        Proud like the Wind
        Blows as Waves Flow
        As Ocean Stands Whole
        Pride as in Our Inherent
        Nature of Cooperating
        Together With Love
        All Standing Tall
        i find This
        Pride Naked
        And Real not
        The False Pride
        That CuLTuRaL
        Clothes Wears
        In terms of
        Castes of Higher
        And Lower… WHere
        Differences Are
        i surely don’t
        Believe i am
        The only
        This Place
        For when one
        Becomes one with
        Nature (God)
        THere is No
        Fall Or Rise
        or Need for
        Bows And
        Salutes As
        The Wave Neither
        Requires Worship
        Or Fears Criticism
        From Either
        Or Ocean
        Same Whole..:)

  5. i feel many people, myself included, do not take gratitude from others easily. why? i feel it is because we dont hear it often enough and we usually dont give ourselves the credit for doing a good job. we dont expect to hear positive things from others for we dont have good thoughts/feelings about ourselves. many will do just the minimum to get by.

    another good post

    1. Interesting! 🤔

      I think entitlement in this country is what may make gratitude so meagerly shared with you. People have this kind of belief that they are owed something, so when they receive it, they don’t really feel or show gratitude. Even the “thank you for your service”….just empty words half the time.

      In Jamaica, what we feel entitled to is the gratitude. You better say thank you or we’re either taking it back/undoing what we did/avoiding you for the rest of eternity. 😂 It’s considered EXTREMELY rude not to give gratitude and due credit.

      But …we also believe gratitude and credit should be earned. We don’t hand out A for effort.

      Thanks for reading as always. ☺️

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