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Why We Should Stop Using the Word “Humble”

Humility doesn’t mean what we think it means. Generally, we think it means selfless and wise. What it really means is modest and submissive, two principles that reduce one’s worth and value, especially that of women. This is precisely why we as a collective should stop using this counterintuitive word! Instead, when we feel inclined […]

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Humility doesn’t mean what we think it means. Generally, we think it means selfless and wise. What it really means is modest and submissive, two principles that reduce one’s worth and value, especially that of women. This is precisely why we as a collective should stop using this counterintuitive word! Instead, when we feel inclined to use the word humble, we should use the more accurately representative word: “mindful”.

As we humans have deeply embedded ourselves in the dogma that a “good” person is one of humility, we have also stifled our ability to recognize and understand our uniquely abundant worth and value as individuals on this Earth. How can we generously serve ourselves and others if we are constantly told by our cultures and societies to have a modest view of our individual importance? This is, after all, what it means to be humble. 

The concept of this word and its definition are harmful and counterproductive to human language and therefore, human society. I’ll first address how it relates to and impacts women.

The Oxford English dictionary defines “humble” as an adjective meaning: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.

The longstanding reign of patriarchal dominance has encouraged and actually tamed women to embody and internalize modesty as the standard and epitome of womanhood. This goes tenfold for Black women, as we are constantly fighting the projected stereotype of the angry Black woman whenever we use our personal agency to vocally advocate for ourselves, assert our needs, declare our thoughts, and express our feelings. And, the most marginalized group of people in America are women of color. Therefore, Black women and all women of color have every and all reasons to loudly and proudly champion ourselves upon achieving any accomplishment! We will not be tamed into taking a humble approach in our celebration of self!

Continually, as author Glennon Doyle has taught me in her 2020 memoire, Untamed, I am an untamed woman. So modesty is not a value I embody a means to dictate who I am as a woman, how I conduct myself as a woman, or how I communicate as a woman. And if we change the social and cultural chronicle that women’s identities must dutifully pledge allegiance to the comfort and convenience of others above our own, our society will get closer to dismantling the dichotomy between ascribed male and female gender dynamics and norms!

Human evolution cannot progress without the evolution of language. Language represents our feelings and experiences, giving meaning and clarity to our realities. And a collective human reality in which individuals live with unwavering self-respect will nourish a community of secure individuals and increased communal peace.

Moreover, expressing humility is often an unconscious act that largely and inconspicuously contributes to public health crises, social dissonance, political disorder, and personal suffering. When individuals have and show a low or modest view of their individual importance, of their worth, they don’t wear masks during a pandemic, they don’t practice anti-racism, they don’t vote, they don’t help others, and they don’t advocate for or nurture themselves. All of these absent actions are counterproductive to the progression of humanity!

Additionally, the expectation of having to be humble in the presence of others or a new situation insinuates inadequacy, privilege and elitism, all of which are concepts that hinder equality among people. Each person’s worth is infinite and sacred. Human beings are a social species neurobiologically hardwired for connection and community, we operate as a union. Therefore, no human’s worth weighs more than another’s; we are all necessary pieces to our shared human puzzle. Regardless of age, social status, or individual experiences, we each possess gifts to offer our global community as a means to support each other as a collective. Choosing to prioritize mindfulness allows us to support each other abundantly!

“Mindfulness” is defined as a noun meaning: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

We can only change what we are conscious of. We can only respect ourselves and live authentic to our unique nature if we are truly aware of who we are, how we want to live,  and why we believe and value what we choose to cherish. Awareness is a superpower innate to the human brain, and with dedicated practice to honing the strength of our senses and thoroughly assessing them and our emotions in the present moment, our awareness will deepen and elicit actions and behaviors rooted in self-respect and authenticity. 

Awareness fuels kindness, sensitivity, compassion, empathy, inner-security, and authentic communication between individuals. Awareness creates harmony and increases communal peace. Ditching humility and embracing mindfulness is a concept that supports us individually and collectively because it affirms and champions the fact that the worth and importance of each human being is uniquely necessary to the support of others and progression of our human family.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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