Do people think you are an arrogant jerk?
Updated: Sep 3, 2022
Do you really want to be humble? Isn't humility like having low self-esteem? Isn't it better to be bold and assertive?
Humility is not a lack of confidence. In fact, you can be bold, assertive and humble at the same time. Humility is realizing that you are not the most important person. Humility is being modest. Humility is freedom from pride and arrogance. C.S. Lewis describes humility not as thinking less of ourselves, but as thinking of ourselves less.
A humble person realizes that others are just as important. A humble person values others and themselves. A humble person is self-aware and seeks to continuously seek feedback in order to have an accurate view of themselves. A humble person is more likeable and enjoyable to be around.
Many of us can share that we did not become humble by choice. This unwanted development is very effective but also very painful. It requires being completely broken by life experiences and emerging with humility. It sounds so simple when I write it. Yet, if you have been through this type of rigorous development, you know what I am talking about. You are broken down and then rebuilt slowly over time with a firmer foundation than before. This rigorous, aggressive development plan is only recommended for the truly stubborn, like myself, who prefer to learn the hard way.
Though trials and unwanted circumstances can cause some to choose to become humble, it is not automatic. We can't teach ourselves to be humble. However, we can take the initiative to cultivate a posture of humility. The suggestions below are to lead us to that place. True humility is an inner working and a chosen response to humbling circumstances. The suggestions below are a starting place for you to have a light bulb moment for what you can do in order to grow in humility.
Ideas to cultivate a posture of humility
Develop empathy and understanding by getting to know people you have little in common with. This can be through conversations and going out of your way to really get to know someone who is different from you. Invite someone to lunch and get to know them with genuine openness and curiosity. Travel to other geographies and get to know the locals. Read viewpoints different than your own on social media with a researcher's viewpoint versus a combative one. As Stephen Covey taught us, seek to understand. You don't have to agree with other viewpoints, however, understanding them will help you grow. You can also read books about people you have little in common with. I recently read, "Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away" by June Cross. A book someone recommended to me that I have not read yet is "Gold Diggers: A Novel" by Sanjena Sathian. Please put your suggestions in the comments.
Go through some type of 360 feedback process. It's easier to dismiss an individual's feedback that you disagree with. However, it's harder to disagree when several people give the same feedback. Whether a true development need or a perception, it's helpful to know what others think about you. Culture Evolve can help you with this process.
Acknowledge your weaknesses to others. Rather than pretend to have it all together, be honest about what you are working to improve and where you struggle. Ask for feedback on how you are doing and for other suggestions on how to get better.
Purposely and actively work to submit to those in authority over you. This suggestion doesn't mean to do whatever your boss says even if it violates your values. It simply means to demonstrate healthy respect to others in authority over you. Yes, we should respect everyone but submitting to those in authority over you, creates a special type of humility in you and builds a posture of humility.
Receive correction and feedback from others graciously. It is much easier to talk behind your back than to give you feedback directly. Thank the person for their feedback and for coming directly to you. The feedback given may only have a kernel of truth but chew on the feedback until you find it. Some feedback takes years to truly process and understand.
Support others being recognized. Share the good work they are doing and give them credit for their contribution. Share a high profile project with them. Allow them an opportunity to be seen. Help them build their network.
Socialize with people of all statuses. Resist the temptation to show favoritism to those who can help you grow in status.
Be grateful. I have noticed that a lot of people do not express gratitude. While writing this blog post, I realized that expressing gratitude is a posture of humility. Maybe that is why it is not shown as often as it could be.
Speak well of others. Build others up in an authentic way. I am not suggesting flattery.
Challenge your motive for the things you do.
Evaluate your response when you are slighted, overlooked or underappreciated. That sting of self-pity we feel is pride demanding to defend itself.
Be careful not to become prideful because you are seeking to become more humble.
When the next humbling trial comes, will you embrace pride or humility?