“Enough with the Humble” started as a slide in one of my presentations about self-comparison and the destructive impact it has on our minds. While pitching this presentation to Anne Duffy one afternoon for her Dentist Entrepreneur Woman (DeW) retreat, she interrupted and asked if I could build an entire presentation around that one slide—the slide titled “Enough with the Humble.”
“Sure,” I answered without hesitation. I then spent weeks delving deeply into how humility has become such a significant part of our upbringing, shaping who we have become today, and the price we pay for rigidly adhering to its principles. Sometimes we forget that our thoughts and how humbly we perceive ourselves materialize. By remaining humble, we often miss out on recognizing the rewards of our tireless efforts. We were never taught that celebrating is a choice—a choice simple enough to make. It almost seemed as if we were instructed to wait for victories and great achievements to find us, or worse yet, to resist them when they surfaced.
We were never taught that the absence of celebration, whether for major accomplishments or everyday occurrences in our lives, is ultimately what prevents us from leading a joyful life. We were never encouraged to etch our successes in stone and our challenges in sand; in fact, we’ve consistently done the opposite. Without an opportunity to celebrate, living in the shadow of humility, we wander aimlessly from one challenge to another. Celebration is what has been missing, and its absence is the reason we often feel inadequate.
“Be humble”—that’s what we were told. If you grew up professing any kind of faith, you likely learned that humility was, and still is, an irreplaceable core value. The Christian tradition has always upheld humility as a virtue, though Christians did not invent it; it has always been present in Hebrew scriptures.
That includes this:
“He who humbles himself, will God elevate; he who elevates himself, him will God humiliate. He who runs after greatness, from him greatness will flee; he who flees from greatness, him will greatness follow” – ER. 13A
As well as this:
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – Peter 5:5
Islam maintains that humility leads to one of the pleasures of Allah, a golden ticket in the paradise.
“And the servants of the Beneficent God are they who walk on the earth in humbleness” – Quran 25: 63
Humility is an essential part of the spiritual practice of Buddhism.
“Through humility, you realize absolute truth. The sun is radiant at all times, but the blind never see that radiance. In the same way, without humility, you will never be able to recognize absolute truth.” – Maitreya
Hindus believe that humility exalts us, that it does not make us small. It spreads: “consider yourself as less important than a blade of grass.”
Sikhs, as well as all of the above other faiths, bow humbly to their creator.
“The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure. With Humility they continue to meditate on the Lord, the Treasure of excellence. The God-conscious being is steeped in humility. One whose heart is mercifully blessed with abiding humility. Sikhism deal Humility as begging bowl before the god.” – Guru Nanak, First Guru Of Sikhism
And so, in whatever home you grew up in, it is likely that humility was talked about and placed as the highest virtue to uphold.
“Be humble,” we were told, as it was seen as the very antithesis of pride and egoism.
“Be humble,” we are told, as if there is no other middle ground. There was, is, and will be so much wrong with egomaniacs and self-aggrandizing boasters that the only viable option in avoiding being prideful and selfish was to have remained meek. Upholding the value of humility, leaning towards being more obliging than feral, may have led us to live with a lack of celebration in our daily endeavors.
HUMILITY ENDURED IN EDUCATION
It was with humility and cautious optimism that we progressed throughout our academic careers. At times, feeling a sense of trepidation, we studied, took the exams, and anxiously awaited their results. School seemed to stretch on endlessly, and the absence of immediate feedback on our exam scores brought a moment of pause. This pause kept us humble. Each of those moments presented the possibility of either perpetual failure or moving on to the next step. The uncertainty within that pause contributed, in part, to shaping us into the individuals we are today.
The humility earned during those hours, and sometimes days, of waiting became the motivation to strive for more, to excel in grades, and to acquire additional credentials behind our names. For those who reached their set goals, we recall that the less success we experienced, the more grounded we remained, and the more determined we became. Humility drove us towards higher levels of achievement, yet we often neglected to take a moment to acknowledge the victories we had actually achieved. As humble as we were raised, so humble we continued to be.
DICHOTOMY OF HUMILITY AND FEAR
As mentioned, messages endured from our upbringing and academic background kept us humble. And humble we have remained. We stayed humble to meet the expectations of others, humble for the fear of judgment, humble to ensure we don’t make someone else feel small. We’ve even remained humble for the fear of enticing jealousy and envy from another.
We have even become so humble that most of us don’t know how to accept a compliment. Yet, I am here to argue that the reason our humility continues is entirely based on a fear that all the good that we have amassed could be taken away. And also, humility lies in the fear that if we celebrate, or if we let others know we are worthy of celebration, we will be proven undeserving of the good, we will be proven to be an impostor.
Allow me to illustrate: If you love or have loved, if you’ve been loved, and especially if you’re a parent, you may have found yourself almost asleep some night counting your blessings. You are calm and grateful, and you surrender to the happiness you’re feeling in the moment. Whoever or whatever had brought you the love in life, the children you’d go to the end of the world to protect, you are cradled between the pillow and blanket in awe of its presence. And the moment you are about to let go and fall asleep, in that moment of peace and tenderness, you are all of a sudden taken over with thoughts of the worst that can happen.
You imagine an invasion, a death, kidnapping. You imagine deception and cruelty. You imagine an end to the harmony and to the serenity. You are so afraid of losing the love you feel and the love you give, that you can no longer bring yourself to celebrate (as you have just before), not even for a moment, not even in private. The fear of inconceivable loss pushes you away from a rejoice and pushes you back toward humility.
You conclude: “If I don’t think the good thoughts, if I remain meek, I will not suffer with the bad thoughts.”
So, in the coming moments, when you try to fall asleep tomorrow or the next day, when you’re about to count all the goodness you’d amassed, you’ll stop yourself for the fear of feeling what it’s like to lose it all. I have done this dance and the fear is, in fact, paralyzing. Thus, as we have boxed ourselves into humility so much that we lack celebration, we are unable to feel the success that we have become.
We are unable to get the reward for our hard work. Humility is what makes us participate and return to the rat race. Humility keeps us incessant. Humility is part of a loop we have created in our minds to keep writing our challenges in stone and successes in sand. Humility is the thing that will not let us rest.
ENOUGH WITH THE HUMBLE
Humility may have started as an important virtue within the backbone of our creation and development. But has humility remained within the scope of what we find comfortable because of fear and a sense of worthlessness? Has it forced us to inadvertently pause celebrations, moments of self-satisfaction? Dare I say, now: enough with the humble! We know our minds are powerful. They are capable of trickery, sorcery, and alchemy, for we have not yet completely understood how and why they work as they do. Studies have shown us that we can increase muscular strength simply by thinking about it.
In a 2006 study , volunteers performed mental (not physical) exercises of their fingers and elbows. They gained 38% of strength in their fingers simply by imagining the movement, compared to those who physically exercised it and gained 53%. In another study , 11 out of 13 children, sensitive to poison ivy, developed an allergic reaction by being told their right arm was exposed to an allergen. The arm was being touched by a plant that held no poison to the child. When they were, in fact, rubbed by poison ivy (and told it was an innoculant), they did not develop a rash. The main point in both of these studies is that our minds are far more powerful than we give them credit for, and whatever we feed them, whatever we believe, we manifest and create. So, again, enough with the humble!
Enough with reducing our own self-worth by living in fear of what will most likely never happen.
The opposite of humility may be egotism, but there is so much space between humility and egoism to live a good life. That middle ground is the sustenance our minds need to feel successful; it’s the reward for the tireless hard work we’ve put into getting to this point. Humility may be the protective barrier between the very vivid, gut-wrenching, and heart rate-increasing fear—one that we may not have been aware of before. But living in its shadow prevents us from the reward, from basking in the joy of the love surrounding us. Keeping ourselves from resting on our laurels eliminates the spoils that have come from the tireless efforts of our days.
If we continue to stop ourselves from celebrating on account of how we’ve been brought up, on account of what’s expected, on account of how we’re judged, or what we fear, our days will blend and be bland. No reward and no award. So, I tell you once more: enough with the humble. Open your mind to believing in your own ability to actualize, open your mind to actually feeling the successes you’ve created without the fear of any impending doom.
- Ranganathan VK, Siemionow V, Liu JZ, Sahgal V, Yue GH. From mental power to muscle power–gaining strength by using the mind. Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(7):944-56. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.11.018. PMID: 14998709.
- Ikemi Y, Nakagawa S. A psychosomatic study of contagious dermatitis. Kyushu J Med Sci. 1962;13:335–350.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Maggie Augustyn is a practicing general dentist, the owner of Happy Tooth, a faculty member at Productive Dentist Academy, an author, and an inspirational speaker. She obtained her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Augustyn is passionate about reading, researching, writing, and speaking on topics that encompass the human experience, including our struggles, pain, and moments of vitality.
Her personal mission is to inspire individuals to embark on a journey toward a more authentic self-actualization. She has a notable presence in the media and is a frequent contributor to Dental Entrepreneur Woman. Dr. Augustyn takes great pride in her role as a contributing author to Dentistry Today, where she publishes a column titled “Mindful Moments.”
She has also been featured on various podcasts and is a sought-after national speaker, emphasizing the significance of authenticity and self-discovery.