You Have to Be Humble to Be Successful

Being humble is knowing how to be empathetic and respectful and not overpowering others. It is a useful concept that's worth practicing.
You Have to Be Humble to Be Successful
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

Being humble is more than a virtue, it is a value that we should all practice and pass on to our children.

However, nowadays it seems that many confuse “success” with power, and this is when they become egotistic.

There is an interesting Arab proverb that states: “We are born innocent creatures that become camels. Later we turn into lions and, finally, we become children.”

Human beings make complex personal journeys where we sometimes aspire to acquire strength and power. In other words, we wish to become “lions.”

Later on, we discover that we can find our true worth by having a gentle soul, which approaches life matters in a wise and humble way.

It’s not easy to be humble in our day to day life. It requires small changes and other approaches that will allow us to live a more harmonious life.

We invite you to reflect on this subject.

Successful people don’t look down on others

There are people who believe the word “humility” denotes a lack of something. In other words, they believe that humble people always put others before themselves.

On the other hand, other people often associate humility with Buddhism. This is a spiritual movement where Buddha reminded us of why it’s so important to have a noble heart and to detach ourselves from material things.

Buddha also reminded us of the importance of not clinging onto people to feel freer, more upstanding and respectful.

However, you don’t look for complex explanations for something so simple and basic. Because to be humble is not to be poor. It doesn’t mean being a member of a certain religion, movement or spiritual practice.

It’s common sense: humility is not believing you’re better than everyone else.

Instead, humility is believing and practicing reciprocity. Above all, humility is not preached, but practiced.

Let’s delve into this concept a little more.

Those who don’t practice what they preach

We all know of a public figure, politician or big businessman who preaches the need to help the disadvantaged, to share, to foster more respectful environments.

  • People like this preach great virtues that they don’t carry out in private. For instance, think of cheap labor carried out in poor conditions in other countries, or labor exploitation and living standards of those who are publicly defended.
  • Furthermore, we don’t need to look at this issue on a wider context. We can find examples of people who don’t practice what they preach closer to home. For instance, we all have those friends or family who often talk about how much they do for others, and mention everything they have given up…

In other words, they boast about how great they are when, in fact, the only thing they have brought to the table is unhappiness to their closest relatives or friends.

It’s necessary to reflect on this and take it into account. Every word we say aloud should match up with our behavior. We must act consciously and consistently.

Hence, those with a humble heart can truly reveal their noble actions, words and intentions. This will make us feel truly protected, respected and inspired by their behavior.

We can all learn to be humble

Positive psychology, founded by the psychologist Martin Seligman, understands and sees humility as an indispensable factor capable of creating happiness in our lives.

We can’t forget that positive psychology emerged as a clear need to provide human beings with adequate strategies to be in charge of and create their own well-being.

For a long time, psychology was created to treat diseases.

However, Martin Seligman has encouraged psychology to adopt this necessary turn in the opposite direction, which focuses on  reflecting on happiness, joy and optimism.

We can all learn to be happy, joyful and optimistic. To have a more complete and balanced life, there is nothing better than to adopt and practice certain behaviors, that all involve humility.

Strategies you can follow

  • Recognize your mistakes and have the emotional maturity to correct them. Don’t do this to only promote your own well-being and growth. Do it to also to bring happiness to those around you, who can see the effects of your evolution.
  • Learn to value what is important in life. Love, friendship, affection, sense of humor, empathy or being curious will give you that happiness you seek.
  • Don’t believe you’re more important than everyone else. This will make others avoid you.
  • Appreciate the simple things in your life. Focus on the present. Observe, look at and try to learn everything about what surrounds you, including people.
  • Be a good role model for children. Teach them to be humble, to understand their emotions and to connect with and respect their peers.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Tangney, J. P. (2002). Humility. Handbook of positive psychology, 411-419.
  • Wright, J. C., Nadelhoffer, T., Perini, T., Langville, A., Echols, M., & Venezia, K. (2017). The psychological significance of humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(1), 3-12.
  • Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Humility and modesty. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification, 461-475.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.