This article is part of The Melanin Series’ “Know Your Worth” short-read miniseries. This series addresses the varying elements of knowing one’s value and self-worth.
One word that was tossed around a lot while I was growing up was the word “humility”. My Caribbean-Canadian mother would scold me if I bragged about new gadgets to my friends or siblings. At that point, my father would quickly jump in the conversation to tell me about the importance of staying humble. His main argument was that “bragging is rude,” and that would usually get me to stop.
Looking back on my youth, I realize that I understood the basic premise of the word “humility”. However, I struggled to understand the importance of humility beyond the general idea that it was rude. As I grew up, I began to realize that humility is important in understanding and building your self-worth. Overall, it is not only an important part of maintaining your relationships with others, but it is essential to understanding who you are and what you aspire to be.
What is “humility” exactly?
In layman’s terms, according to Oxford dictionary, humility is defined as:
A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.Lexico (Powered by Oxford Dictionary)
While this definition provides us with a very simple and common understanding of the word, I do not like this definition. I will explain why a little later on.
My definition of humility is faith-based. I define humility as understanding and being confident in who you are so much that you are comfortable enough to do the right thing, even when it is not what you want. When I think of humility I think of relying on God when times get hard and giving Him when you are successful. I think of accepting criticism from peers. Humility reminds me to apologize to those I have disagreements with for the sake of restoring peace. When I have humility, I don’t need to be right all the time. I do not have to be boisterous nor weak. With humility, I can be tough, yet courteous.
Humility is important for many reasons that go beyond making other people feel comfortable around you. Humility is a part of wisdom. Wisdom is all about making the right decisions for yourself and those around you. Humility allows you to avoid conflict, expand your knowledge, increase your leadership capabilities, and make you more compassionate. All around, humility provides you with the tools you need to be the best version of yourself.
Now, in my definition of humility, did I talk about grovelling or reducing the “view of one’s importance”. No! There is a simple reason for this.
Humility does not equal having low self-esteem.
I cannot stress this enough. Having humility does not mean that you allow people to walk all over you, or that you accept defeat, or that you are weak. It works the same way for confidence. Just because you are confident, it does not mean that you are self-absorbed, arrogant, or cocky. The way you perceive and project your confidence and humility that affects the way that it is received, both by yourself and others.
This is something that a lot of people I know, including myself, have had difficulties understanding. I think that this is partly because our society values aggressiveness. Humility involves putting others first. When this happens, many people view this as an invitation to take advantage of your kindness. If this is the case for you, then cut these people out of your life! Loyal friends and companions won’t take advantage of you when you exercise virtues like humility.
Yes! You can be bold and humble at the same time. My definition of humility includes examples that allow people to display their power and strength. The important thing to keep in mind is that you need to be self-aware when speaking up and defending yourself. Is it because you want to feel right or be right in a given situation, or is it because you want to help another person? No matter the situation, when you are voicing your opinions it is important to be respectful.
How does your humility impact your self-worth?
Humility allows us to go beyond the scope of seeking perfection because we actively seek to learn. Humble people accept the fact that there is always someone out there who knows more than they do. Rather than using this fact to self-deprecate, people who practice humility use this fact to learn from these people and improve their skills.
Practicing humility is an opportunity for you to look at the bigger picture rather than your desires. When you look beyond your needs, you can help others. Contributing to something bigger than yourself, you allow yourself to fulfill your purpose, which helps you to understand yourself and your self-worth.
Believers find that humility can be used to strengthen their self-worth by relying on God to be all they can be instead of just relying on themselves. Worth comes from God because he created each human to fulfill the purpose that he made for them. Relying on God means that you are accepting the identity and purpose he has in store for you, which in turn helps you to realize your worth.
What can I do to practice humility?
- Put others first. Making an active effort to practice love and kindness puts you in a position to care for others. Caring for others and seeing how you can contribute to your environments gives you the chance to participate in something bigger than yourself. Through this process, you are not only improving your communities, but you are also learning more about yourself. Insecure people constantly feel the need to have attention drawn to themselves as an affirmation of their worth. When you take the time to show attention to others, this gives you the chance to build somebody up.
- Work on understanding and loving yourself for who you are. Sometimes if someone is boisterous or brags about themselves, they are trying to mask the insecurities they feel inside. This does not apply to everyone; however, if you do feel this way, learning to love yourself can help to humble yourself. With self-acceptance, you do not feel the need to overcompensate for your insecurities. In turn, you practice humility.
- React to conflict with peace. This is not always easy. Many of us want to have the last word or prove that we are right in many situations. This mindset feeds our ego. Walking away from arguments or apologizing for the sake of peace is not a sign of weakness. This is a sign of maturity. This practice tells the other person and ourselves that we do not need affirmation from other people to determine our correctness or worth.
What are your thoughts?
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