An always interesting question is how people relate to others and how they express that. In many ways, when people think about being humble, being empathic, or caring for others they will take it as an invitation to put all their attention on the other and his desires. It often implies putting themselves aside to give all the space to the other.
They’ll establish a contrast between being humble and being proud. Or they’ll think that being empathic may not allow them to set boundaries. And in caring for others they’ll forget to pay attention to their own basic needs.
In his excellent “The graduation speech – Reflections on Happiness”, Manfred Kets de Vries brings up the idea, that “to experience true happiness, we have to learn to forget ourselves”. This idea might seem to support the behavior described above. However, that would be to miss an important point in the equation. The point in forgetting ourselves is to experience true happiness. That is, we need to do both at the same time. Interestingly, it doesn’t need to be our happiness that we seek to experience, actually it may be the one of the people we make happy.
The human need for connection runs so deep, that someone else’s true happiness will reflect on us if we let ourselves experience it.
It may help to think about it in terms of true happiness. It’s a reminder, that there is a difference between what we imagine will make someone else happy and what they experience as making them happy.
There are times when it is as simple as giving a genuine smile.