Does your mind ever alter between the extreme states of “I know everything” and “I know nothing”? Say, after chatting with someone you feel extremely proud or you feel like a drop in the ocean? Let’s see how one can find a state of balance and practice humility in this tug of war between self-worth and ego.
My first encounter with the word humility was when I had got a sticker for it in school. Each of us in our group was being awarded a sticker according to the trait they most reflected. I received humility. With a black sticker background. It felt negative and mysterious for some reason.
Sure I had seen the word somewhere before but had never deeply understood what it meant. The dictionary meaning of humble said, “having or showing a modest or low opinion of your own importance; of low rank; not large or special”.
I thought to myself, “Why would I do that?” Why would this be considered even a good trait? Thinking low of oneself – isn’t that bad?
Taking the first step towards humility
The entry of the word karma, which stood for what goes around comes around, also helped me in understanding the importance of humility. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.
Although knowing the meaning of a word is not where you stop. That was just the introduction. The actual energy of the word has entered your play-field (life) and now it’s time for you to master it.
#1 – Seeing the opposite -I’m bigger than anyone else
Usually the first step we take in understanding a concept is to understand what’s the opposite of it.
What is hate you ask? It’s the absence of love and vice-versa. (Sometimes hate is replaced by fear. The trio is: love, hate, fear. Only one of it can stay without the other two.) Dark is the absence of light.
How can we understand what is humble if we don’t know what is being egoistic? The first lesson usually starts with us feeling we are above everyone else.
When you get good grades or a medal, win a competition, or have all your successes in check, it’s usually a lesson to make you learn about staying humble about your achievements in life. The real life spirituality hasn’t started yet but it’s a good workout for you to differentiate between your ego vs your true self.
Usually early-on during childhood we’re always taught to be The Best! The best is what everyone is seeking to be. The best in sports, dancing, singing, writing, etc.
While being the best is not the problem in itself, the world can surely benefit from talented people, but the attitude the person carries makes a huge difference. Anybody would love to connect with a person who is genuine over someone who is all about show-off.
#2 – Being humble
Usually the most modest people don’t talk about being “humble”. They just say, “it’s their duty” or “they’re glad to be of service”. They think it’s all a small effort in making people’s lives a bit better by just BEING a bit better. Change comes from within right?
What could be a greater service to humanity than to be what you want to see the most in the world?
Differentiating between humility vs spiritual ego
This is where it gets tough. Now that you’re a “good person”, your ego will start telling you, “Very good! You’re the greater person now”. Your mind will start making excuses and sometimes it’ll tell you, “I’m doing this because people need this! I’m doing a service and people should feel grateful for it” or “I’m so caring. What are you doing with your life?”
As an example, some people will actually take a photo of them doing a good job and post it on social media. “God are you watching? Sending some good karma my way, xoxo”. Hilarious, indeed. It is possible for ego to take pride in your humility.
The point is not about doing a good job and then showing it afterwards. It’s about the intention behind doing it. Sharing with the world your good deeds isn’t a problem.
The thing about being “humble” is that people who are that, don’t boast about it. Did you do it with a good heart? Did you genuinely love helping people or did you just do it for the appreciation? Only you can answer that.
One other thing that happens with the spiritual ego is that people start giving their deeds far more worth than they should. Being a karam-yogi means you do the deed without caring about the result you’ll get from it.
Sometimes when we do something good to others our mind goes into a spiral of being the savior. Don’t steal the lessons away from people by doing that.
You are not helping by being the savior. Instead, nudge or encourage the person to save their own selves by helping them take their power back.
Also, at times, while being on this conscious journey people start looking up to others and get intimidated by seeing all the good or the magnificence that a person may carry.
Xyz has mastered so many clair senses and I don’t even know the spiritual lingo!
It is important to gain inner peace, empathy and love without boosting our ego or undermining ourselves.
The next part will explain you the way we put ourselves above or below anybody else and later we’ll see some tips we can use to balance it out.
The humility quotient
One thing tricky about humility is that the dictionary explains it as, “having a low opinion of oneself”. That didn’t sit right with my younger self and it was for a good reason. Below I’ll explain how I see humility, an attribute like any other, should be kept in balance.
It is easy to be on either of the extremes: being boastful or having fairly low self-esteem can both be dangerous.
Since the infinities extend in both the directions, being humble is exactly in the middle of the scale. Its to balance out one’s excessive good and excessive bad self-worth.
Low can be subjective and it is this middle-ground that people sometimes confuse with being low in dignity and value.
Being humble doesn’t mean being a pushover. People shouldn’t just take advantage of your kindness and politeness or should take more from you without giving back much. Usually we do find these people around us who are “happy to help”.
We should understand the fact that just because someone helped you last minute-in, doesn’t mean he’s your saviour now or someone you could walk to at any time to ask for anything. They don’t owe you anything.
15 Tips to Practice Being Humble In Daily Life
The best way to practise it is to watch people who are humble and adopt what you find best in them.
Take older generations, for example. In my opinion, they’ve inherently got this attitude of being humble about most things in their lives. Mostly our grandpas and grandmas do far more (compared to the younger generations) but still boast less about it. According to them, that’s just the way of life.
When you’re becoming more spiritually aware and mature, it’s easier to think that you’ll develop these things naturally. But it takes real work to do even the most basic of the things outlined below.
Here are a few practices that may help you be more humble.
#1 – Staying true to yourself.
At the end of the day we’re all responsible for ourselves. Our conscience will always ask what is tough to help us stay true to ourselves each time. By doing that we can speed-up your growth.
It’s not wise to give ourselves fake brownie points for things we know are of no real worth. It wouldn’t help us in the long run.
Related read: 5 Tips To Be More Authentic
#2 – Being open to critique/feedback.
Hard thing to do is to look in the mirror and say, “I accept all your flaws”.
Being of the mindset that you are who you are and you would try to be more open to receiving criticism that might hurt you (if you’re too much in the ego) but you’ll try to accept things more kindly and take what is useful for you and reject what’s not, you could be doing yourself a great service.
#3 – Being more sensitive to nature.
God is the greatest artist and nature is our greatest gift of inspiration. Here, nature includes both the seer and the scenery.
We should take responsibility for our home (Earth) and start treating everything with the respect it deserves. This isn’t just a logical truth, but a deeply spiritual one.
For example, Advaita Vedanta is the school of thought which means that the Brahman (universe) is everything, you are the Brahman (universe), so you’re one with everything, and that differences or duality do not exist.
Walk down such schools of thought in a way that brings humility towards the entirety of your existence.
#4 – Volunteering or being more of service.
Don’t always be of the attitude what could this person/institute/organization give me that could benefit me. Rather turn the question around and ask what could YOU contribute for the betterment of the world, relationship, or organization.
Being of service to others more means you want to be more useful in the world and take your existence seriously. You should have fun doing that. Volunteering wouldn’t be a success if you do it with a heavy heart. It’s fruitful when it’s done with a passion for service.
#5 – Acceptance.
This can come in two ways.
Accepting people, situations & conditions
Many people have a hard time accepting things for their face value. The forest is burning up, what can you do? Someone in your family or friends is struggling with depression, what can you do?
Once we can take the first step of accepting things for what they are past all the blaming others/waiting for the saviour to come, we can get faster towards solving the problem.
Being comfortable with all the good/bad in you is as important as accepting other things in life. The first step to being a more humble person is realising that you too have faults. Probably even after reading so many self-help books you can’t help manage your thoughts and when in crisis you start reacting instead of responding.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Accepting that you have a long way to go and taking one-step-a-day is one of the keys in staying humble.
#6 – Being conscious of what you eat.
What does this have to do with being humble? It’s there to increase your sensitivity about living beings and to help you avoid eating food for selfish reasons.
We are not living in survival mode anymore that we have to eat only meat. Ideally, human beings should eat things that require the least amount of violence. If you cannot cut down entirely, try eating lesser portions of meat and include more veggies on your plate.
Here’s a great resource for those interested in veganism.
#7 – Forgiveness.
We all can benefit from having a little less tension in our lives and if a relation is on-the-verge of ending we could just forgive each other in our hearts (if we cannot do that physically).
Forgiving people lets you dissolve the negativity that could turn into bigger problems in life.
#8 – Sitting with your craft.
Let it simmer. Would you prefer eating a stew that’s been prepared in half an hour or one that’s been simmering for 3 hours on low flame (if not all night long)? The longer you sit with your craft, the better you’re able to understand it.
You’ll spend a huge amount of time looking at it from n no. of perspectives. It’ll take you some time to get better at it. If you start spending more time doing things mindfully, you’re getting closer to living life more humbly.
#9 – Being in someone else’s shoes.
When in doubt about if it was my fault or if it was his, try putting yourself in another’s shoes and see what you think and feel from their point of view.
You’ll often realize it is neither of your faults and it was only a lesson you’re both trying to learn. Doing this practice can help you realize that we keep switching our roles from time-to-time.
The time is never the same for anyone. Remembering this fact can make you more humble towards a specific person you are having conflicts with.
#10 – Less is more.
This can be explained in two ways too.
The next time you think about buying extra stuff for when-in-need-I’ll-have-a-supermarket-at-home, try buying lesser. Hoarding material goods is not beneficial to us rather than the normal thinking and less is not equivalent
to being poor as the society has programmed us to believe. In fact, people worldwide have given this a more modern term, minimalism.
Having sufficient for you and then sharing what you don’t require can help in two ways. People in need could benefit from the resources more and you are benefitted by not overwhelming yourself.
Whenever you get a chance to explain something to someone, do so as you’re explaining to a kid.
Don’t expect people to know the jargons. Be as thorough and as easy as you can. Anybody could flaunt their talents but it takes more patience to explain things more easily yet potently.
#11- Check your humility quotient amongst others.
Being more sensitive to the naive is also an important aspect of being humble.
Say, a casual meeting happens and this man is so full of himself that he wouldn’t stop boasting about his knowledge in his field of expertise.
Thus, showing others that they’re nothing and can benefit somewhat from their intelligence (sarcasm also is considered an intelligent form of humour but rarely do people think about the emotional aspect of it).
Having a good HQ is as important as having a good IQ (humility quotient, a subset of EQ emotional quotient).
#12 – Smiling
A genuine smile which comes straight from the heart is something that people will remember for a long time. It is free and the easiest to give.
People say having a smile is of utmost importance to make yourself more appealing, even if it is a fake smile. I think that having a good heart counts. Genuine smile can only come from inner reflection.
#13 – Having a chat with someone in distress.
People have become more disconnected now than ever. Some may experience feeling lonely in a crowd.
It’s ironic with all the technology in this day, we’re creating a more empty generation. You would definitely find someone in your circle feeling low at times. You can strike up a conversation with them.
Sometimes being heard is all that people want. Seeing a human face that would give them a smile is all they need to get back on their feet.
When you see someone in distress, be their guide.
#14 – Taking your time to speak.
Taking your time to formulate your thoughts before speaking is a very good habit.
They say the first thought that comes to your mind is what you truly think. I believe that our ego is the first one to jump at us in many situations. Somebody called you a curse word. You think, “Well, why don’t I shower you with some natural slander?” (hint: that’s not your true self. That’s your negative ego-mind)
#15 – Handling successes and failures alike.
It’s easier to keep your calm when you’re climbing up the ladder of success but rarely do people learn how to cope with failure.
Practise remaining stable with both your ups-and-downs. Your failures can give you wisdom and your successes can give you a chance to practise more humility.
Other Practices For Humility
Some other things you can do to be more humble are
- practicing gratitude,
- bowing/doing a Namaste (which means, I honor the divine in you),
- having daily personal reflections.
After learning how you can be more humble, what’s left is finding the place to practice that. What is the best space than the world we live in? In your office, school, street, home, garden, wherever you are right now, look for ways you can be more humble.
“All the whole world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” – Shakespeare
Patience, humility, kindness, compassion goes hand-in-hand. It’s easier to practise other traits easily if we work on one from the list. They’re synonymous in the larger sense.
Being humble is being of the shunya (zero) mentality. People think zero means nothing. Rather, shunya is that something which is nothing. Therefore, being humble doesn’t mean you are nothing. It simply means you understand the worth of things enough to not get it to your head. Good luck being the humble-bee!
Sending you love and appreciation,