A friend recently asked me how to be humble. The question perplexed me somewhat because it seemed that she was seeking approval from the people she was coaching in order to have a greater connection and therefore be more successful. The reality is that humility cannot be turned on and off like a switch. Humility cannot be used as a vehicle to better our message or improve our brand.
In this article I want to focus on principles that will foster humility within one’s life. We cannot offer what we do not have, so the simple answer to the question is to choose humility and then apply the principles that allow it to grow.
The purist definition of humility is, “To believe and embrace who you were created to be”. We need to accept who we are with all our flaws and strengths, choosing to not allow the flaws to hold us back, but rather focusing on our strengths and building on them.
A big revelation for me was recognizing that I was created for the purpose of caring for others. This has empowered me to trust my heart and has stripped away many of the fears and insecurities I have battled. Fear of failure used to drive me to present myself in a false light and drove me to try and be successful without understanding what true success was. Fear of rejection led me to being a ‘people-pleaser’. As is true for many people, I just wanted everyone to like me. The combination of these two fears made me that feel nothing I did was ever good enough. I felt I had to embellish my accomplishments in order to be accepted. It created a mirror personality that reflected the wrong person and led to pride and arrogance.
Yet within who I was created to be was a genuine desire to care for others. When I dealt with those fears, insecurity lost its power. I am able to live out of my destiny, rather than perform out of fear. This has fostered humility as it is exciting to see the impact of the ‘real me’ on others. I discovered that as my true heart to help others came into focus, that gift was recognized not only by me but by others too. My response, rather than pride, was humility.
Here are four principles that foster humility:
1. Transparency – Letting people see the real you is not a weakness; it is strength. Certainly there will be some who take advantage, but true friends will honor you. It will develop intimacy in your life. As I said in an earlier article, another definition of intimacy is ‘into-me-you-see’. This fosters genuine humility because there are no secrets, and therefore no room for pride to take hold.
2. Meekness – Some think that meekness is being a doormat, or weak. Not so. True meekness displays a strength that will protect your emotions and bless others. It is a conduit for deep connection. It fosters humility, because meekness places value on people so we come under and lift up them rather than trying to rule over or impress others.
3. Excellence – Accepting who we were created to be allows us to approach everything we do with excellence. When we try to be excellent in order to create a façade of greatness we appear arrogant and prideful. However when we believe we are placed in the life of a person or group for a purpose, we will do it with excellence as we recognize the great value and privilege of the opportunity. This will foster humility. Jean Baptiste Lacordaire said, “Real excellence and humility are not incompatible one with the other; on the contrary they are twin sisters.”
4. Opposition is Opportunity – Finally, if we can see the negative experiences in our life as an opportunity to grow, it will foster humility. Anger is birthed from fear and usually comes through pride. Humility protects your heart from being hurt and angry. Relationship difficulties in our lives bring us to a place of two choices. We can choose anger which will lead to more opposition or we can choose humility which leads to great opportunities for growth and peace.
Humility is a choice that requires us to add to our lives, things that will foster it, and remove from our lives that which would erode it. In a real way most people who have true humility don’t really think they do. It is counterproductive to be proud of your humility! Better to focus on the principles that foster it and not on the humility itself. At the end of the day it will be others who will identify and acknowledge your humility, not you.