Humble on and humble up

"Humilde" is the Spanish word for humble.  Growing up in Panama in the 80's, being 'humilde' was the politically-correct way of saying you were poor.  So you can understand my confusion growing up when one was asked to be humble and to be driven and successful.  Fast forward me arriving in America to face a nation of exuberant confidence.  It literally took me four years living in the USA before I encounter the word "humble" in a book (OK I was studying engineering, but still).

After living here for twenty years, I must say confidence is one of the added traits of being an American, of which I am very proud, and Confidence is key to getting ahead in life. It helps you do better at work, in relationships, and in interviews. Overconfidence, however, can make you seem like a genuine, how can I say this humbly?  asshole . We all know that one person that thinks they are the strongest, smartest, and just all around best at everything. Truthfully, we all dislike that person to some degree.

So, while confidence is essential, it's important to stay humble as well (the two aren't as contradictory as I used to think). Remember the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes: It's okay to be wrong about something and, more importantly, it's okay to admit that to others. This shows that you not only value your opinion and decisions, but that you also value the opinions and decisions of those around you.

People respond well to humility because it shows that you place yourself at the same level as them, and not above them. Plus, it has other benefits too. Psyblog has an eye-opening list of these benefits that can occur in your personal and professional life. Here are just a few:

  • Soothe the Soul: Humble people are better able to cope with anxiety about their mortality. Instead of erecting self-defenses against death, humble people tend to find it provides a useful perspective on life and how it should be lived. When it's not all about you, it makes death easier to contemplate.
  • Higher Self-Control: Having high self-control is one key to a successful life. Oddly, perhaps, studies have found that an obsession with the self can paradoxically lead to lower self-control. The humble, though, because they place less importance on the self, exhibit higher self-control in many situations. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that humble people tend to know their limits.
  • More Helpful: Humble people are, on average, more helpful than people who are conceited or egotistical. In a study by LaBouff et al. (2011), participants who were more humble, were more likely to offer help, and offered more of their time, to those in need. Unsurprisingly, humble people have also been found to be more generous.

The full post lists even more benefits, and is worth a look.

That last one, "More Helpful," can be especially useful to you. To experience the life we want, we often need help—and what better way to get that help than from those we've helped already?  So even if you're a little overconfident on the inside, practicing humility can actually get you ahead.

Posted on June 13, 2014 and filed under inspiration, Spirituality, wellness.