Humility and How I Achieved It

Humility is not a personal quality that one would post as an accomplishment on Linkedin or Facebook.

In fact a humble person is hardly conscious of the fact that he/she has this character trait. Mention to the person that you view him/her as humble and you are more than likely to hear the response “What me, humble? I don’t think so!”

Before we look at the ‘real thing’ consider some examples of people who leverage humility for ego needs. 

False Humility

We have all seen people who pose as humble when what in fact they are saying is “Look at me. I stand head and shoulders above others in my humility”. Here are some fictional examples.


“I have been so busy lately working at the soup kitchen helping the homeless. By the way, it is the one where (name of famous actress) works as well. So I am very sorry that I did not visit you while you were in hospital with your cancer surgery.”


I hang around very important people (name dropping)

I am very busy (That makes me important)

You really do not matter all that much to me anyway even though you are supposed to be my friend.

I am really humble (I work with the homeless)

Text of Holiday Letter.

It is really so astounding that despite the humble beginnings of our family our son received a scholarship to study law at Harvard. Our daughter received a special invitation to perform at the Tanglewood  festival. Our dog, despite being a street rescue dog, won the champion of champions prize at the Beverly Hills dog show. We have been so blessed. By the way, how is your daughter doing at the community college?”


 Your kids don’t hold a candle to ours

We have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps (and not depended on public assistance – a government grant – like you did for your schooling).

The universe has singled us out for special favor because we either deserve it or are so special.

The basis of all these proclamations of humility; humble beginnings, charitable work etc., are that they are used as a frame for self-promotion. The sad fact, however, is that they come from a place of deep insecurity and self-negation.

Humility – The Real Thing

Intuitively most people recognize the real thing when it comes to humility. Humility has the following criteria.

1.    No one person is more deserving than the other.

2.    A person is humble and does not really know it.

3.    There is no attempt to showcase one’s humility.

4.    It is a sign of the person’s character far above all their achievements in life.

So the title “Humility and How I Attained It” could be a skit on the TV Show “Saturday Night Live”.

In the end humility is what defines a person as great. It is one of the great human virtues because, with it, one is transcending the needs of the self and working for the greater good.

See also “Humility and Inspirational Leadership”

Humility Quotes

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest may err.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“If you consider the careers of the people on Wall Street, the ones who were humble lasted and prospered; the ones who were self-centered and thought they had the whole answer often made mistakes. More than half of the mistakes made on Wall Street are because someone thought they knew it all. They didn’t have humility.” Sir John Templeton.

“How can you be humble if you are always paying attention to yourself? True humility excludes self-consciousness, but false humility intensifies our awareness of ourselves to such a point that we are crippled….” Thomas Merton.

Follow Cedric on Twitter @firedupleaders


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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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3 Responses to Humility and How I Achieved It

  1. Jerry steward says:

    Here’s an old joke about Humility: There was once a rabbi who, overcome with a sense of humility before God’s magnificent creation, threw himself before the altar of the temple and cried, “I am nobody! I am nobody!” The cantor, observing the rabbi from the rear of the synagogue, was moved by the rabbi’s humility and devotion. He, too, joined the rabbi at the altar, crying, ‘I am nobody! I am nobody!” Then the janitor, sweeping the floors in the hall, heard the cries of the two religious men and, similarly moved by their devotion, also joined them at the altar crying out, “I am nobody! I am nobody!” At which point the cantor turned to the rabbi and, indicating the janitor, remarked, “Look who thinks he’s nobody.”

  2. Regina says:

    Reblogged this on hidden thoughts inside and commented:
    humility. yeah (:

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