Why You’re Not As Humble As You Think


If you’ve ever watched a celebrity awards show I’m sure you’ve seen it happen; the winner clutches her hefty new prize and, with tears in her eyes, leans into the microphone to announce, “I’m so humbled to be receiving this award!”

Right there. That’s where she lost me.

How can anyone be “humbled” by such a great honour? The actress receiving the award might actually be a humble person, but that’s in spite of the award and certainly not because of it. To be humble means to be low in some way, whether by importance, rank, opinion, status, or pretty much any other way you measure it. If you have a humble view of yourself it isn’t developed on a stage while being honoured above all others in front of millions of people.

So why do people keep using the word “humbled” in this way? Are they merely confusing the meaning of the two words, “honoured” with “humbled?” Or is it done deliberately? After all, celebrities need to be concerned with public opinion and that involves being aware their win means other well-liked celebrities have lost. Claiming to be “humble” might simply be a nod to the talent of their competitors. A way of saying “I don’t deserve this!” whatever their true feelings on the matter may be.

Or it could be a way of letting fans know this award doesn’t change who they are as people. That whatever it is their fans admire most will not be adversely affected by the great honour they’ve just received. I think to some degree we want to believe celebrities are just like us, which explains the avid interest in the personal lives of these people we’ve never met in real life.

Whatever the reason, people who say they are “humbled” by great honour must either be lying or mistaken because calling yourself “humble” is the least humble thing you can do.

I’ve had a longtime battle with pride and over the years I’ve claimed more victories than losses. But I still have times when I’ve said or done something and thought afterwards, “Wow, I really handled that well, I am so humble! Look how great I am at being humble! There is no pride left in me at all! Other people might be prideful but I’m definitely not!”

I hope you realize the problem with those thoughts. As soon as I start thinking about how humble I am, I have ceased being humble.

Experiences that are humbling, like many things, are easy to identify in retrospect. You were humbled when you realized all your close friends from college have great jobs and you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. Also, the time a friend stopped by when your house was super messy (as usual) and you know that her house always looks great. There was last year when you had no way to pay for something you really needed and were forced to borrow money from someone even though you didn’t want to. And, of course, that one time you were nominated for an award and, even though you deserved it the most, someone else won.

Each of these experiences can feel pretty awful at the time but can lead to better things if you’re truly willing to be humbled. That means not remaining in anger or living with a sense of injustice about the situation. Maybe you do deserve better but dwelling on that fact isn’t going to help anyone, least of all you. Instead, let these times in your life serve as reminders that you’re not defined by your job, your house, or any other superficial measurement. Being humble is having an attitude of recognition about your true worth as a human being. You are no better, no more deserving but also not any less valuable than others. Note that people with low self-esteem can’t be considered humble either. Just like those with over-inflated egos, these people also have a mistaken idea of their own worth.

Once you have humbled yourself you will be better equipped to serve others. Often in our lives, a humbling experience occurs right before we are given the opportunity for important work. Take the experiences you’ve had in your life where you’ve struggled and let yourself be humbled by them. You’ll learn invaluable lessons that you can then put to use to benefit the people you care about most. Because extending the value you place on your own life to the lives of others is the only way to truly live a humble life.

Just don’t call yourself “humble” when you get there.


  1. Igert says:

    Great post. I would say feeling humbled when losing makes more sense. It can certainly make you eat humble pie.

    Don’tbe humbled by an experience. Be humbled by life and stay that way.
    Thanks for sharing.

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