What Is Humility?

                                                            by Brad Bell

       Humility can be viewed as a concept in psychology and a personality trait.  Thus, it is important to define humility.  What is humility?  Below is one possible definition of humility.

Humility Definition:

Humility is the willingness to acknowledge one's shortcomings and to present one's positive attributes in an accurate way.

Examples of Humility:

     To gain a clearer understanding of the definition of humility, it may be helpful to provide some examples of being humble.  Below are some examples of being humble:

Describing one's abilities in an accurate manner.

Acknowledging that one has certain weaknesses.

Not taking full credit for an accomplishment that reflects the contributions of others.

Acknowledging that there way be other ways to solve a problem besides one's proposed solution.

Listening to the views of others

How is humility different from boasting and overconfidence?

         In order to have a clearer idea about the concept of humility, it may also be beneficial to compare humility with other concepts such as boasting and overconfidence.  

      People who lack humility may often be boastful.  However, this does not necessarily mean that people who are boastful are always considered to be low in the trait of humility.  A person could boast about certain accomplishments, but this person may be considered humble in general.  For example, a student may express pride in receiving an A in a psychology course, but the person may still acknowledge his or her many weaknesses, and may in general describe his or her abilities in an accurate manner.

      Overconfidence reflects that a person has more confidence about something than is justified.  For example, a student who has average academic ability may believe that she or he can receive an A in most of her or his courses.  People who lack humility may be overconfident.  However, overconfidence does not necessarily mean that a person is low in the trait of humility.  Humility may reflect a willingness to acknowledge one's shortcomings and present positive attributes in an accurate manner.  A person may be willing to acknowledge his or her shortcomings and to present his or abilities in an accurate manner, but he or she may not be aware of some weaknesses.  Thus, for example, a student could be overconfidence about his or her expected grades in some courses due to a lack of accurate knowledge about these specific abilities, but the student may be willing to acknowledge shortcomings and may strive to generally present his or her abilities in an accurate manner.  The student may express some doubts about some of his or her abilities.