It often is little things that trigger a longer thought process. In this case, it was a short interaction showing me that I had an image in mind about humbleness that only allowed me to detect what doesn’t feel humble.
Searching the internet didn’t allow for a clear answer either. There is a sea of articles sharing the characteristics of a humble person, giving instructions to become humble, and leaning into the benefits of being humble.
A lot of which also seem to focus on the ideas of how one has to be when being humble. They link the explanations with some external moral standards, leaning into a perspective of shame should one not abide by the rules. And it often is what social norms are for, they protect a system. Norms are part of the social glue, and it is shame that serves as the function to stay within these norms.
But social norms are also the testing ground to find one’s space between obedience to and rebellion against the system we belong to. They thus also create tension between our self-esteem and our ability to be humble. Humility being located between too much self-esteem and too little self-esteem.
Taking it from there I wondered about a definition of being humble that uses our senses instead of moral standards. It’s a bit more challenging as it requires being willing to stay connected to oneself and listen to how it feels instead of how it may be perceived.
To me, being humble is fundamentally linked to being connected and a part of the world. It’s a presence we have that knows that we are not its center. A world full of wonders doesn’t put anyone nor anything at its center. It is the center.
A way to know if we remain connected to the idea of being the center of the world ourselves is by looking at our own presence. Are we pulling attention towards ourselves or are we pushing the attention towards others?
By pulling attention we tend to our desire to be seen by others. By pushing attention we seek to feel safe by making others more visible than ourselves.
Being humble thus becomes knowing how to show up without the need to transform the attention to our self. Once we become aware of this need we also know when it isn’t there.
Using this knowledge we will show up as we are and know that this is enough as much as it is right.
It’s a state to be grateful for when it is present.