Being Humble Isn’t What You Think It Is

If you know me well, you know that my response to most of the compliments I get from my friends is “I know” with a light-hearted laugh. People think it’s funny – I mean, there IS an element of humor in the response, yes –, or even arrogant at times, but actually it goes much deeper than that.

Humility is definitely a virtue, a very good one at that. Modesty is an attractive quality. But I don’t think people know what it actually means to be humble. To be humble is defined as not thinking of yourself as better than others. You might then think accepting and admitting that you are an amazing human being with wonderful capabilities and lovable qualities is not at all humble, that you should be considerate of others and keep those amazing things that are happening to you to yourself.

But “being”, the state of the way you are as a human being, is much more than the outward appearance. You can say all you want that your house isn’t actually big enough, that your achievement isn’t that great, and that you’re all together just not a good person at all, but that doesn’t mean that you actually believe that. If you think about it, aren’t you believing that you ARE, in fact, better than the other person or people around you, that you feel the need to ‘mask’ or ‘belittle’ whatever it is that the other person is complimenting you on—that people who don’t “have it all” are somehow worse off than you and must be, what, jealous? Aren’t you actually linking certain aspects of your life to add up to the value of yourself as a person in a sense? This line of thinking, that supposedly is supposed to keep everyone’s emotions in check and make everyone happy, might actually be encouraging the perpetuation of creating an even more capitalistic (in the extreme sense) society, where everything, including the people, is priced, and mostly based on the value system that ultimately puts people who “don’t have it all” down and unappreciated, which “being humble” is supposed to prevent.

Being humble doesn’t have to look like putting yourself down. In fact, it shouldn’t. It should look like building each other up, accepting and celebrating everyone’s uniqueness as is and understanding that we all have something amazing inside of us. Just as the true spirit of competition is to excel and create the best outcome, rather than ensuring that others will fail, being modest should look like creating an environment where people can celebrate other people’s success and be inspired to do their best, instead of becoming bitter of the others, seeing everyone as someone who will potentially take away what you should have been given.

So stop pretending you’re not the greatest human being that ever lived; you are. All you have to do is just admit that all the others around you also are. That’s how you do humility. That’s how you do modesty.

Written by: Jess (Ye Seul) Kim


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