By: Ivy McGraw

It can be really tough to be humble. 

To be not proud, to not think of yourself before others. 

Sure, it is pretty manageable to maintain a low profile of pride. You can prohibit your mouth from bragging or spouting out things like, “you’re wrong.” You can keep your self-confidence on a minimal level of declaration (sometimes this is easily done…those days our self-confidence seems to have gone missing). You can be so skilled at subduing any expression of pride that your friends all rave over how humble you are.

But the definition of humble doesn’t say, “appearing to be not proud, seeming to think of others before oneself.” The word describes a way of thinking, not simply a way of acting. Now, a certain way of acting is usually derived from a certain way of thinking, which is probably why coming across as humble can deceive others into assuming our inner thoughts match.

Now bear with me as I divulge some thoughts (no pun intended) about an individual’s thought process. Trust me, it’s for the sake of understanding humility a bit more:

Someone tells you what they’re thinking—like they preface what they want to say with something like, “This is what I think…” How do you know for sure that is a true representation of what they are thinking? You just have to take their word for it, I guess. Luckily, a lot of the time, our behavior and interests in conversations can give away our true thoughts. 

But whose thoughts are you privy to well ahead of the rest? Your own. 

Who have you known in all walks of life? Whose collection of thoughts have you had access to throughout each stage of life? Yourself, and probably — hopefully — nobody else.

I bring the matter of your thoughts to light, because you most likely trust your thoughts the most. And why not? Your brain is impressive — look at all that you have learned! Look at all the experiences that have affected your ability to reason and draw conclusions. 

So, we only have genuine, primary insight like this into our own brain. We can’t experience anyone else’s thoughts in such an intimate, all-knowing way.

My theory, all this considered, is this: it is no wonder that we are all a little proud, a little biased, a little prejudiced, and a little confused by positions much different than our own. It is natural that I view myself in a separate light than I do other people — admittedly, perhaps a more favorable light?

Okay, I admit it. I am guilty (this is where you say, “So am I…”). 

Disclaimer: I am not trying to insinuate that it is impossible to be humble. I experience times of genuine humility. And it is beautiful. I have witnessed moments of humility. In people who open themselves up to possibilities they view as uncomfortable and inconvenient, people who step away from familiarity and towards the questionable, people who admit they’ve made a mistake and need help — a word, a lesson.

These people are genius minds, brilliant wonderers, and thoughtful analysts like you. I have no doubt you are very smart, and have so many wonderful qualities worth an array of accolades. You can think humbly, at least for moments at a time — even if you’re the smartest person in the world. I believe that the smartest ones are those who yield their pride and assume a humble way of thinking despite all they have to be proud of, thus acknowledging how much more there is to life than we have yet imagined.