Personal Core Value: Humility

Personal Core Value: Humility


  5 Min Read

The Personal Core Value: Humility is an Neutral Motivator.

Delve into the role of humility in shaping relationships and self-awareness, based on Self Determination Theory.

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1. What is Humility?

Humility is a multifaceted personal value characterized by an understanding and acceptance of one's own limitations and an appreciation of others' strengths and contributions. Contrary to common misconceptions, humility is not about self-deprecation; rather, it's about maintaining a realistic and balanced view of oneself. This core value involves recognizing that no individual is superior or inferior to others, fostering a sense of egalitarianism and respect (Tangney, 2000).

From a psychological perspective, humility encompasses several key elements: an accurate assessment of one's abilities and achievements, acknowledgment of one's mistakes and shortcomings, openness to new ideas and feedback, and a lack of arrogance or superiority over others. Psychologists argue that humility is closely linked to other virtues like empathy, patience, and compassion (Exline, 2012). It encourages individuals to see beyond their own needs and interests, promoting altruistic behavior and enhancing social harmony.

Moreover, humility has been found to play a vital role in leadership effectiveness. Humble leaders are often more respected and inspiring, as they are perceived as authentic and trustworthy. They create environments where creativity and honesty flourish, driving team success and organizational growth (Owens & Hekman, 2016).

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." - C.S. Lewis

2. The Interplay of Humility and Self-Determination Theory

The interplay between the core value of humility and Self-Determination Theory (SDT) offers a compelling perspective on personal development and intrinsic motivation. SDT, conceptualized by psychologists Deci and Ryan, emphasizes the basic human needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness as central to fostering motivation and psychological growth (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Humility, often characterized by a realistic assessment of oneself, an appreciation for others, and a lack of arrogance, intersects intriguingly with these components of SDT. It enhances the element of relatedness by fostering deeper connections with others, as humility involves acknowledging others' strengths and contributions, thus creating more empathetic and respectful interpersonal relations.

In terms of autonomy, humility might seem, at first glance, to be at odds with the concept. However, true humility involves a self-aware choice to recognize one's limitations and strengths, which aligns well with autonomous behavior – acting in accordance with one's true self. Humble individuals often show a greater openness to experiences and feedback, which is crucial for autonomous self-regulation and personal growth.

Furthermore, humility contributes to the sense of competence. By maintaining a balanced view of one’s abilities and achievements and recognizing areas for improvement, individuals can engage in lifelong learning and continuous self-improvement. This approach is fundamental to developing competence in various life domains.

The synergy of humility with SDT highlights that humility is not just a passive submission but an active engagement in understanding oneself and others. It suggests that humility can coexist with a strong sense of self-determination, as both can lead to authentic and fulfilling human experiences. By embracing humility, individuals can foster their growth in a way that is both self-affirming and inclusive of others, embodying the essence of self-determination in its most holistic form.

3. Real-Life Examples of Humility

Real-life examples of humility can vividly illustrate its positive and negative implications, providing a clearer understanding of how this value impacts personal and professional contexts.

Positive Examples of Humility:

  • Leadership in Business: Consider a CEO who credits their team for the company's success and openly acknowledges their own mistakes. This humility fosters a culture of trust, openness, and mutual respect, enhancing team morale and productivity. It also encourages others to share ideas and feedback without fear, leading to innovative solutions and business growth.
  • Academic Settings: A professor renowned in their field who remains open to new perspectives and continuously learns from colleagues and students exemplifies humility. This attitude not only enriches their knowledge but also makes them a more effective and respected educator.

Negative Examples of Humility:

  • Excessive Self-Deprecation: While humility involves acknowledging one’s limitations, excessive self-deprecation can lead to undervaluing one's contributions. For example, an employee who constantly downplays their achievements may be overlooked for promotions or challenging projects, hindering their career progression.
  • Misinterpreted as Weakness: In competitive environments, humility can sometimes be misinterpreted as a lack of confidence or assertiveness. This misconception can lead to a humble individual being underestimated or overshadowed in scenarios where assertiveness is valued, such as in certain corporate negotiations or leadership roles.

4. Humility, Personal Power & The Modern World

In the modern world, where personal success and assertiveness are often highly valued, the concept of humility can seem contradictory to the idea of personal power. However, balancing humility with personal power is not only possible but can lead to more effective and authentic leadership and personal growth.

Defining Personal Power: Personal power in the modern context is often associated with self-confidence, assertiveness, and the ability to influence others. It's about knowing your strengths and using them to make a positive impact.

The Role of Humility: Humility doesn't diminish personal power; instead, it complements it. A humble person recognizes their strengths and achievements but remains grounded and aware of their limitations. This self-awareness prevents arrogance and fosters continual growth.

How to Balance Humility and Personal Power:

  • Acknowledge Your Achievements: Recognize and celebrate your successes, but understand that they don’t make you superior to others. This mindset promotes self-confidence without arrogance.
  • Stay Open to Learning: No matter your level of success, always stay open to learning from others, including those at lower levels or from different fields. This openness is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Empower Others: Use your personal power to empower and uplift others. Leadership is not just about leading; it’s about making others better as a result of your presence and ensuring that impact lasts in your absence.
  • Practice Empathy and Listening: Even in a position of power, actively listen to others and show empathy. This approach not only earns respect but also provides diverse perspectives that can aid in better decision-making.
  • Self-Reflection: Regularly reflect on your actions and motivations. Are you leading or acting with a mix of confidence and humility? Are your actions benefiting just yourself, or are they also positively impacting others?
  • Balance Assertiveness with Compassion: While it's important to be assertive and confident in your decisions, balancing this with compassion and consideration for others’ viewpoints is crucial.

5. Conclusion: Harnessing Achievement in Personal Growth

In the modern world, balancing humility with personal power is about leading with confidence while remaining grounded and empathetic. It's a powerful combination that can lead to respectful, inspirational, and effective leadership and personal relationships. This balance is not a sign of weakness but a hallmark of mature, impactful, and sustainable success.

Recognizing humility and its influence on our actions can be transformative. By aligning our goals with our values, we pave the way for genuine, fulfilling success. Moreover, understanding where the value of humility sits in your personal value hierarchy can be enlightening. By taking our personality assessment based on the PVQ-RR, you can delve deeper into your core values and discover the importance of humility in your life. Visit to learn more about your personal value profile.

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