El Estoque

In my humble opinion: Why humility is a crucial but often overlooked trait

Roshan Fernandez

In many ways, MVHS students have mastered the humble-brag. We tell our friends how we got an “A” on our English essay even though we never read the book. We tell them how we aced a test we never studied for. We tell them how we completed our entire semester-long project the day before it was due and got the same grade as everyone who didn’t procrastinate.

The true purpose of these comments is to “flex” —  we subconsciously want our peers to know that we are smart enough to be exempt from working hard. We’ve practiced these humble-brags so often we think we’ve mastered it.

Except the humble-brags are ever so easy to see through, because humility is not something that can be faked. Defined as “a statement intended as a boast or brag but disguised by a humble apology or complaint,” the humble-brag is not often appreciated by others. But true humility — defined as “a modest view of one’s own importance” — is something that people genuinely appreciate.

Being humble improves performance, removes prejudice, increases helpfulness and strengthens relationships with others, which are all excellent traits for a leader, according to numerous different studies by psychologists Don Davis, Jordan LaBouff, Megan Johnson and Bradley Owens.

But when we take a look at those with authority in our lives, whether that be the leader of a group project or the president of our country or our sports coach, it becomes blatantly clear that we select people who appear confident. We select people who are passionate and definitive, inspiring and honest, good problem-solvers and good communicators. But rarely do we consider factors like humility.

So why don’t we value humility?    

Because people have a tendency to confuse humility with a lack of self-confidence and passion. The person who is reluctant to speak highly of themselves is passed off as someone who doesn’t care enough or isn’t proud of what they have accomplished. But the reality is that someone can be passionate and confident while still remaining humble.

Take rock climber Alex Honnold, who became the first person ever to free-solo El Capitan, a 3,000-foot wall of granite. Honnold achieved his lifetime dream and accomplished one of the greatest athletic feats in history. Yet despite the overwhelming publicity he received, his only goal was to push himself and fulfill his passion. Never did he intend to boast — though he was being filmed, he did not climb El Cap for the sake of the Oscar-winning documentary that was made about him. According to an interview with Jimmy Chin, the documentary director and one of Honnold’s close friends, Honnold only climbed to achieve personal goals and personal satisfaction.

“When I did the actual climb, all my friends texted me saying how impressed they were,” Honnold said in an interview on the day of the Oscars. “I mean, that means more to me than recognition for the film.”

Leonardo DiCaprio has also experienced fame during his acting career, but in 2007, he began raising awareness about climate change. Initially, DiCaprio’s move might have appeared to be a publicity stunt, an attempt to increase his fame. But more than 10 years later, DiCaprio continues his campaign. Already having achieved fame, he proved that his intentions are for the greater good: he’s going to keep pushing for what he believes in and he doesn’t expect special recognition in return.

Like DiCaprio, Rob Mendez pursues his passions regardless of external factors. Having no arms and no legs hasn’t stopped Mendez from being the JV football coach for Prospect HS, according to an in-depth feature by ESPN. Though he recognizes he could easily make far more money as a motivational speaker than a football coach, he knows that would not be his genuine self — that would be taking advantage of his disability purely to make money. So instead, he sticks to what he loves. Mendez is living proof that it’s possible to be both passionate and humble as a leader.

We should look for humility in every leader because it’s the basis of accountability. Those who are humble leaders will admit when they have made a mistake and take responsibility to ensure it gets fixed, which in turn enables them to maintain strong, personal relationships. Teenagers in particular could probably benefit from a bit more humility as a whole.

Teenagers frequently use the word “flex” when talking about someone’s intentional effort to show off. We often tend to judge how much someone “flexes” by scrolling through their Instagram or clicking through their Snapchat story; for our generation, that’s one of the easiest ways to measure a person’s humility.

In fact, social media is redefining what it means to be humble — the fact that our lives are now available on largely public platforms urges the notion that anyone who regularly uses social media cannot possibly have humility. But this isn’t always the case because it all depends on the intentions behind a person’s posts.

Posting a picture of your gains after a workout might be perceived as showing off, when in reality, your intentions might be to inspire others to come work out at the gym. Similarly, posting pictures of food from restaurants may be perceived as a subtle “flex” that you can afford to eat out on a regular basis, when in reality, your intentions were to share an aesthetic meal that your followers might also like to try themselves. It’s this sort of duality that makes it difficult to distinguish between an attempt to brag and just someone being their genuine self.

There is a fine line between being humble and what we consider a lack of self-confidence and self-pride, and there’s also a line between bragging too much and sharing our accomplishments. All of us cross these fine lines all the time.

But as a whole, we could all benefit from letting our accomplishments and actions speak for themselves. We could all benefit from being more conscious social media users by making sure what we’re posting is for the right reasons. And we could all benefit from a bit more humility.

About the Writer
Roshan Fernandez, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Roshan is a senior and co-editor-in-chief for his school's publication El Estoque. He enjoys writing, reporting, interviewing and photography. He was previously...