The Art Of Humility

by Edward Mullen

Something that has been bothering me for a while is humble-braggers. We’re all guilty of it. You know what I’m talking about – you update your status with some self-congratulatory pat on the back, like, “I’m so exhausted; running your own company is hard work.” Or you inundate your feed with contrived and often scantily-clad selfies. 

Our society places a lot of emphasis on not caring what other people think. We are encouraged to be ourselves, not to be phony, and most importantly be humble. If these messages are ingrained in us from an early age, why do so few of us behave this way?

There are two reasons why most of us do these sorts of transparent boasting:

  1. We think it will impress people
  2. We recognize how valuable other people’s opinions are.

Impressing others is how we get friends, partners, jobs, promotions, money, respect… It therefore seems logical and even necessary that we care, to some extent, what other people think about us.

Since being successful is another thing our society strongly values, many of us are willing to be a little creepy if we think we can get away with it. We are all in a rat race trying to make it in this world. If a little bit of “hey, look at me!” can get us ahead, most people have no problem doing it. But how much energy should we expend trying to impress others? And how sneaky should we be at disguising our efforts?

In order to answer these questions, you have to ask yourself – what is important to me? What is undoubtedly important to most people is being happy. Happiness is the end goal for nearly all of our actions. We are even willing to put up with a lot of pain just to acquire more happiness.

If this is true, then it stands to reason that the right amount of effort you should put into trying to impress others is up until the point where your happiness is maximized — the point whereby expending any more effort would cause you unhappiness.

For example, wearing nice clothes is one way to impress others. It makes employers confident that you can do the job, it makes other people feel at ease around you, it may even get you a date. However, driving a gold car will likely turn people off.

They will draw unfavourable conclusions about your character, they will resent you for your brash display of opulence, and they will no longer be impressed by you, but rather will be turned off by your apparent pretension. This is true in most cases – confidence is good, over-confidence is bad.

The best way of impressing others is by not trying to impress others. This does not mean coming up with sneaky ways to conceal your achievement in some fake form of humility. If you are self-made, successful, talented, or smart, then people will discover it on their own. Most people have no problem with your talents or achievements provided that you don’t rub it in their face and that you have earned it.

There’s a joke that says, how do you know if someone’s vegan?… they tell you! This joke applies to the marathon runner, the blood donor and the millionaire. People love to talk about their accomplishments because it in a way it validates them, primordially it tells the tribe that you are a worthy member.

The best combatants to pretension are to be self-assured and self-aware. Have confidence in yourself so that you don’t feel the need to brag, and know how you come across to other people. In other words, run a marathon and then don’t talk about it. That will truly impress people!

Edward Mullen | Elite.

Edward Mullen is the author of “The Art of the Hustle” and “Destiny & Free Will.” Follow him on twitter @writermullen.