What it Really Means to Be Humble

Never dull your shine.

Israel Adesanya, a.k.a. The Last Style Bender, who is the current Middleweight Champion of the UFC, recently spoke on the Joe Rogan Podcast about the word “humble.” He talked about how he hates the word and believes that it misunderstood and overused.

There are many people who consider Israel Adesanya to be arrogant because he “brags” about his successes.

To this, he responds, “Humble is when I have Dan Hooker on my f*cking neck – Hangman; humble is when I have Steven Warbie cracking me with an uppercut; humble is when Carlos kicks me in my liver and makes it go AAAHHH! That’s true humility; but for me to dull my shine to make someone else feel comfortable, that’s not humble.”

We have all grown up hearing our elders say to us: “don’t get ahead of yourself, don’t act too big for your boots, and don’t be too smart.” All of these variations essentially translate to: don’t be an arrogant prick. It is hard to argue with that advice because it happens to be good advice.

The word humble has solidified itself into our collective consciousness as a core moral value.

We understand that humility among individuals allows us to build trust with one another and further our collective goals. This creates a greater sense of security. In contrast, arrogance is self-serving and can be viewed as a threat.

No one enjoys the company of a person who constantly talks about how great they are but at the same time, our self-esteem as a society is deteriorating.

We struggle to give ourselves pats on the back when we do a good job, but we are quick to reprimand ourselves when we make a mistake. We are great at giving compliments but terrible at receiving them. We crave recognition deeply but don’t feel worthy of it when we receive it.

Many of us consider humility to be the act of redirecting recognition or never taking credit for our work. When we receive praise or a congratulations, we often undersell our accomplishments or find a way to self-deprecate in the moment to make sure we do not take up too much space. This is a manifestation of our lack of self-worth.

When we deprecate our successes in front of other people, we think we are being humble, but in reality, we are shrinking ourselves so that they don’t feel threatened by us. At the same time, we give others the opportunity to make us feel better about something that we don’t really feel bad about in the first place. It opens the floor for a disingenuous exchange that creates a cycle of reassuring one another of each other’s lack of self-worth. Neither person walks away better for it.

There are two true forms of humility.

1. A low sense of importance of ourselves.

2. A high sense of importance of our actions.

When a musician writes a song, but no one listens to it, she must remind herself that it is not personal. People are busy, they don’t have the time, or the capacity, and neither are they obligated to make the time.

This allows her to understand that her art, in relation to all the things that people have going on in their lives, is lower on their priority list. This humbles her.

She understands that her level of importance in relation to the lives of others deviates, yet she is completely dedicated and devoted to her craft. This stance cannot be taken by someone who is not humble. If she was arrogant, she would make up all sorts of stories about the world, the people in it and why they aren’t listening to her music.

If she does succeed, part of her celebration is attributed to continuing to make music after realizing her own lack of importance. Her process is an act of humility.

When we accuse someone of not being humble, it is possible it is because their actions cause doubt and insecurity to rise within us. If after a person fails, we find satisfaction in their failure, we are not being humble. False humility can be a veil behind which deeper insecurities lie.

“Be humble” is an assertion that can be used by individuals or groups as a blanket term to create conformity amongst those who decide to step outside the norm.

When we are accused of not being humble, we feel that if we do not conform, we will lose our position in the group. Similarly, when someone else is accused of not being humble, other members who might not agree may remain silent so that they do not jeopardize the order that this value brings.

Understanding what it really means to be humble is an extremely important step in being able to determine whether someone is being arrogant or owning their successes.

When we feel that someone around us is not being humble, we need to ask ourselves if they are being arrogant, owning their success, or stirring up insecurities within us?

If we feel more comfortable around people who self-deprecate then it is likely that we self-deprecate too.

Being humble is not done exclusively around others. In fact, that type of humility is less meaningful.

True humility is practiced when no one is looking. It is knowing our limitations, putting in the work, being vulnerable, failing in front of others, and having the character to say thank you when someone gives us a compliment as well as when someone gives us criticism.

Being humble is taking all of the shots along the way but not letting them get in the way. It is showing up, showing out; and having the courage to own our success without being concerned about making others around us feel uncomfortable.


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