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Forgotten soft skills: Episode 2/3

“Humility is the modesty of the soul, it is the counterpoison of pride.” – Voltaire

So where do you stand with your equanimity? I’m sure it has no more secrets for you and in that case you are already ready for our second episode of forgotten soft skills: humility. Better known than equanimity, not always better mastered or highlighted, humility is one of the soft skills that is often put aside and yet so important. So if you enjoyed learning how to master your equanimity, you will love learning more about your humility! Shall we go? Let’s go for a little humility lesson emage-me style (don’t see any pun borrowed from a famous expression 😉 ).

Humility, what is it?

Larousse® definition:

HUMILITY: feminine noun (from Latin, humilitas, -atis, from humilis, humble) Feeling, state of mind of someone who is aware of his or her inadequacies, weaknesses, and is inclined to belittle his or her own merits: To confess one’s faults with humility.

2022 (already 😱!). The era of social networks, reality TV, selfies in all circumstances and places… For a few years now, we have been living in an era where the culture of appearing rather than being is growing. Even more worrying, this new era of the virtual and often fake “me”, would it not also see the development of a cult of narcissism among a young generation sometimes already robbed of a certain level of curiosity and professional maturity?

In order to see humility a little more clearly, or rather, to “read” it a little more clearly (well, okay… warmed-over joke from episode 1 😝 ), we must first of all define it well. If on the one hand we have a lot of trends with negative connotations that equate humility with weakness, inadequacy or low self-esteem, on the other hand we fortunately have a definition with a definite positive connotation, which we will retain here. A positive connotation that will define the fact of being humble as a reference to self-knowledge, to inner work, to the search for truth. Another way of defining humility could be to understand our mistakes, to be aware of them and to avoid repeating them.

But in the end, isn’t humility just appreciating what we already have? In other words, to be humble is to accept not being the best without being bad. Besides, the philosopher Spinoza said:

Humility occurs when someone, without going as far as self-contempt, knows his or her own imperfection”.

No matter how it is defined, humility is a term that is often linked to sincerity, to the way one welcomes criticism from others, to the recognition of others and to the acceptance of their success(es).

All these notions feed the definition of humility. Everyone can make their own interpretation, but it will always lead to a common point: humility is to be aware. To be aware of oneself, to be aware of one’s own limits and to accept them. BECAUSE ACCEPTING YOUR WEAKNESSES IS ALSO A STRENGTH!

Is being humble to be modest?

The mistake we often make is to confuse humility with modesty. It’s a trap we easily fall into through a poor definition of humility (hopefully if you’ve made it this far you’ll soon remedy that 😉 ) or through ease of language. Minimizing one’s qualities or confessing one’s ignorance are proper to both modesty and humility. Yet there is a major difference between the two. Modesty will have a more superficial and more or less “hypocritical” tendency than humility. It is a tendency to devalue oneself in the eyes of others and sometimes even to exaggerate one’s features, whereas often, unconsciously or consciously, we think the opposite. It is for this reason that we sometimes encounter the term “false modesty”.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote:

Modesty is the virtue of the lukewarm.”

Let us understand by lukewarm those who lack moral ardor or conviction in their commitments. In modesty we also mean moderation. To be modest is to know how to show restraint in the appreciation of oneself and one’s qualities. And this tendency to increase or deny one’s strengths and weaknesses that is found in modesty will not be present in humility. Besides, the word modesty itself comes from the Latin term modus, which means measure, whereas humility has its origin in the word humus which means earth. CQFD! (Well… for the more philosophical and Latinist among us 😂).

In short, on the outside and on the surface, modesty will be more of a social convention, while on the inside and deep down, humility will express the truth of oneself. And then you think, “What? What does self-truth mean? Don’t panic, we’re getting there!

In short, humility is an attitude that we will adopt without ever putting ourselves above things and others, even unconsciously. An attitude in which we will always respect the qualities that we possess as well as the points to be improved. In humility one fully accepts the existence of things as a whole. In modesty one will have an automatic and sometimes unconscious way of adapting or even manipulating them, according to the acts, facts, conditions, situations and even one’s audience. For the English psychiatrist and philosopher Neel Burton, humility is much less likely to crack under pressure or circumstances than modesty.

To understand the nuance, being humble is a real work of consciousness and construction. Humility does not devalue us, nor does it overestimate us, but it makes us aware of our assets and our limits. It protects us from disillusionment and allows us to keep our feet on the ground. To be humble is also to know that we must always work, at least to maintain our achievements and at best, to improve ourselves. It is an ETERNAL LEARNING process that creates the desire to go further and better. Contrary to modesty, humility is based on what I really am, what I KNOW I CAN DO OR NOT DO.

How to find the right humility?

Once we are aware of the deep value of humility, the hardest part is to measure it… You will certainly have understood that to become humble, you must accept your limits. Experience, obstacles and personal trajectories, in short experience, are a major factor in the degree of humility of an individual. Let’s not forget the parameters of education and environment. If our personal experience will shape the way we tame our humility independently of others, there are however some good practice tips common to any individual wanting to develop a more humble state of mind.

We’ve selected 10 rather easy ones for you to apply to develop your new forgotten soft skill:

✅ Stop comparing yourself to others: if you spend your life comparing yourself to others, you’ll never feel like what you have is enough! 👀

✅ Accept that you don’t excel at everything: you can’t be the best at everything you do! 🥇

✅ Be optimistic: you can’t be humble if you waste your time complaining about the bad things that happen to you! 😁

✅ Praise others: you are rarely 100% responsible for your success, remember to acknowledge that other people made it possible! 👏🏻

✅ Appreciate your talents and the talents of others: being able to appreciate not only your own talents and qualities but also those of others can also show you qualities that you want to improve or possess! 👥

✅ Be grateful for what you have or don’t have: some people are certainly luckier than others but the most important thing is what you do with your luck! 🍀

✅ Acknowledge your mistakes and shortcomings: judging the mistakes of others is much easier than judging your own mistakes! ⚖️

✅ Learn from others: it’s easy to recognize that you make mistakes and that you’re not always right, it’s harder to recognize that in many cases others may be right! 👩🏻🏫

✅ Avoid bragging: if you’re that great, people will recognize your efforts and congratulate you on their own! 🤳

✅ Stop talking: if you spend all your time talking about yourself or sharing your ideas, you’re not going to learn from others or appreciate what they have to offer! 🎤

Okay. We’ve already told you a lot so we’ll leave the conclusion to Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who has worked a lot on altruism. Because we always need a final word and because his vision of humility is still really good to conclude 😝 :

“Humility is a forgotten value of the contemporary world, theater of appearances. Magazines are constantly giving advice to “assert oneself”, “impose oneself”, “be beautiful”, appear to be for want of being. This obsession with the favorable image that one must give of oneself is such that one no longer asks oneself the question of the unfoundedness of appearances, but only that of how to appear well.”

Sources :

  • passeportsante.net
  • lesmotspositifs.com
  • en.wikihow.com
  • lanouvellerepublique.fr
  • YouTube : Thom Reo