The danger of humility

A student walks in and hands you their assignment. You look it over, and you think” wow, this is absolutely amazing, A +”. When the student comes in to collect their assignment, you praise them, you tell them how proud you are, and they respond with “oh shucks, thank you but I’m sorry I could’ve read a few more books, I wish I had made it a better by including this source or expanding more on the conclusion.”

What do you think about this student? Quite humble? What is going on when a person doesn’t feel they are ever good enough. Or that, as a society, we often admire those who humble themselves in the presence of praise? Why has society made it a “good thing” to deny our worth? Isn’t this humility a lie? Is this humility not denying the very thing we seek after so desperately? To be accomplished, to be the best version of ourselves we can be? Why have we made it a virtue to be self-effacing liars?

Nietzsche asked all these questions of the Morality, with a capital M, in his time. This predicament is quite strange to me still. When someone thinks much of themselves, when they enjoy who they are and others can tell, people often think they are arrogant, or big-headed, or they need their ego checked. It is apparently bad to be exactly what many people strive to become, that is capable, proud, accomplished human beings.

So many people, in my experience, seek so desperately to become something, to become something great, someone who is admired or at least admires themselves. But we have made it a virtue to do exactly the opposite. Humility is what we encourage and praise. Humility to the point where we cannot even accept our own praise. Humility so that we always check ourselves when we accomplish something we want to proud of by reminding ourselves that we are no better than anyone else.

I think Nietzsche would argue that this type of life-denying humility is subtly preventing us from accomplishing exactly the life which we set out from in setting meaningful goals. We accomplish something, then we counteract the joy through self-effacement.

There is a clear distinction to be made between the obvious potential selfish, arrogant human who refuses to help anyone but themselves, and the self-effacing individual. Obviously, it would be destructive if everyone screamed there accomplishments to the world, but it is just as destructive to the individual to deny ourselves praise and worth. There is a battle going on between these two forces humility and arrogance. To enjoy our accomplishments and our abilities, but not to demand gratuitous attention for them, seems to be the most life-endorsing for everyone. Live it up, take pride in who you are, who you’ve desperately strived to become.

Hustle it up!

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