As we embark on a new year, aspirations for personal growth and self-improvement take center stage. Renowned author and coach Anna Katharina Schaffner highlights the significance of humility, describing it as an “ancient virtue” that goes beyond mere low self-esteem, defining it as a form of spiritual modesty. As the philosophical intricacies of humility unfold, a closer examination reveals that true humility encompasses self-doubt, indifference to external opinions, and the pursuit of accurate self-awareness.
Philosopher Julia Driver delves into the paradox of humility, exploring the idea that true humility requires underestimating one’s own virtues, creating what can be termed an “ignorance account” of humility. The belief that to be humble is to be ignorant of one’s own good qualities is a complex perspective that challenges the conventional understanding of intellectual virtue.
However, the notion that humility necessitates having false beliefs is challenged by the philosopher Aaron Ben-Ze’ev. He proposes an “accuracy account” of humility, asserting that humble individuals possess an accurate perception of their own qualities. According to Ben-Ze’ev, humility strikes a balance, steering clear of servility with a falsely low opinion or pridefulness with a falsely high opinion.
This accuracy account introduces the idea that humility is not an all-encompassing certainty about one’s attributes. Humility thrives on the acknowledgment that even the most evident truths might be subject to doubt. In this vein, the self-doubt account of humility emerges, allowing individuals to proclaim “I am humble” while remaining open to the possibility of being wrong.
The typical declaration of humility, “I am humble,” often carries an ironic undertone as it contradicts the very essence of the phrase. In most cases, such proclamations are attempts to impress others, a behavior inconsistent with genuine humility. This realization prompts the inclusion of an “indifference account” of humility, emphasizing the importance of having the right desires alongside the right beliefs.
Philosopher George Frederick Schueler articulates this perspective, stating that humility involves not caring about impressing others with accomplishments or skills. True humility, according to Schueler, revolves around valuing the intrinsic worth of one’s goals rather than seeking praise or recognition. As individuals embark on their quests for self-improvement in the coming year, the reflection on genuine humility becomes a crucial aspect of their journey.
In practical terms, embracing humility means cultivating an open-minded approach to one’s capabilities, acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses. The self-doubt account encourages individuals to maintain an element of uncertainty, even regarding seemingly irrefutable truths. This mindset fosters continuous self-reflection and a willingness to reassess perspectives, thereby aligning with the essence of true humility.
Moreover, the indifference account challenges the societal norm of seeking validation and recognition. It prompts individuals to reevaluate their motivations, encouraging them to focus on the intrinsic value of their pursuits rather than external approval. In a world often dominated by the pursuit of accolades, adopting an attitude of indifference to external opinions can be a revolutionary step toward authentic self-improvement.
As the new year unfolds, let humility be the guiding light in your journey of self-discovery and personal development. Embrace the complexity of humility, weaving together self-doubt, accurate self-awareness, and indifference to external praise. In doing so, you pave the way for genuine growth, grounded in a profound understanding of your true self and a commitment to what you value most.