False Humility: Definition, Signs, and How to Overcome It

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Can someone actually display false humility? Yes, they can. Even though spotting the disingenuous trait isn’t as simple, a highly intuitive person can sense when someone is faking humility.

They may avoid getting acquainted with the individual or push them away if they’re dating.

My guess is you’ve seen the fake personality trait in yourself and want to evolve out of it. First, let me say desiring to be a better person is a sign of self-awareness and emotional maturity. Secondly, you’ve come to the right place. I’m eager to assist you in developing genuine humility.

To do so, let’s explore the concept of false humility, from what it is to signs of false humility. Next are 14 steps that can help facilitate a shift in mentality and promote personal growth. 

Before diving into the steps, let us look at the difference between humility vs false humility.

What Is Humility?

The word “humility” comes from the Latin word humilis (meaning low). When interpreted as a positive personality trait, humility means the “state of being humble.” In the positive sense, a humble person is someone who is modest and free from pride or arrogance.

Humility is accepted as a virtue in some philosophies, religions, and cultures. There is a suggestion that being less occupied with oneself and knowing one’s place in the order of things are core signs of true humility. In some sense, it represents parting with one’s ego.

What Is False Humility?

False humility is when someone acts humble to hide or disguise their pride. It usually involves self-deprecation. In other words, undervaluing or belittling themselves to appear less important and make others think they are modest.

What they are actually doing is indirectly expressing their ego, arrogance, and conceited confidence.

In his Psychology Today article, Dr. Aqualus M Gordon Ph.D. writes that this is a form of self-loathing and a sign of an inferiority complex. Those with an inferiority complex often perceive themselves and their contributions as lesser than others.

In contrast, those with a superiority complex have a toxic high view of themselves. Fake humility is subtle, which makes it harder for others to notice the person isn’t being genuine.

Signs of False Humility

Spotting false humility isn’t always easy, even though a keen eye can tell when someone is disguising pride or arrogance. Let’s take a look at common behaviors that are actually signs someone isn’t truly humble.

Feel free to write them down and do some self-introspection. Check off any signs you see in yourself or even someone close to you.

  • You deflect praise when you truly want to accept it, e.g., saying “Oh, it’s nothing. Let’s focus on your achievements.”
  • You intentionally demean yourself to appear modest, e.g., saying, “Welcome to my humble abode,” when in fact you live in a mansion
  • You overcompensate, e.g., over-apologizing to keep the peace instead of expressing appropriate negative emotions, such as anger or resentment
  • You say everything is okay even though you’re hurt or raging inside
  • You give the impression you are helpless powerless
  • You tell harsh jokes about yourself using humor to disguise your flaws
  • You hide your accomplishments to seem relatable, e.g., saying “I’m just a regular person/or nobody” when in fact you have a long list of achievements
  • You tell others you’re humble (this is egotistical and a form of fishing for compliments the way vulnerable narcissists do)
  • Hiding your true nature to appear “nice” out of fear of negative criticism

The old me was found guilty of fake humility. In my mind, I honestly believed I was humble. Turns out, I was un-self-aware. Did this happen to you as well?

Remember you’re in a judgment-free zone. The exercise is about being honest with ourselves so that we can take steps to achieve self-growth.

By doing so, we can evolve into our authentic selves and have more positive social experiences.

How to Overcome False Humility in 14 Steps

If humility does not come naturally to you, that’s ok. There are ways to practice true humility until it becomes second nature.

So far you’ve learned important things about what true humility looks like. Now let’s go over a few key steps on how to put aside false humility. Think of the following steps as ways to improve so you no longer have to fake humility:

1. See humility as a strength

Contrary to what others think, humility is not a negative trait. This does not mean you lack self-confidence because you don’t brag about your talents, abilities, and accomplishments.

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Embrace your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, celebrate your wins, and recognize your unique place in the world.

Similarly, it does not mean you see yourself as meek, weak, submissive, insecure, or unworthy compared to others. In fact, humility is celebrated as a strength, not a weakness, in some cultures and religions, such as Christianity.

2. Practice self-acceptance

A false humble persona can develop if you subconsciously perceive yourself as inferior or worthless. Accepting yourself, flaws and all, can change that. Stop comparing yourself with others and then feeling bad about yourself afterward.

Embrace your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, celebrate your wins, and recognize your unique place in the world. These mini-steps help you to love yourself more.

When you truly accept who you are, you won’t feel as insecure as before. You will no longer minimize your personality to fit in or make others feel better about themselves.

3. Show yourself compassion

It is possible to exercise humility without forgetting yourself in the process by way of self-compassion. Self-compassion means loving and applying the same good treatment you give to others to yourself.

This translates to being kind and non-judgmental of yourself when you fall short of expectations.

For example, not judging yourself using harsh criticism or denying your own needs to seem humble to others. Learn to encourage and reassure your own self when things go wrong.

Treating yourself to a steady flow of compassion is also a way to keep self-love strong.

4. Assert your needs

Many of us falsely believe dismissing our needs or putting other people’s needs ahead of ours is a sign of humility. This is no more than a false demonstration of humility.

The reason is that it causes us to betray ourselves in favor of someone else so as not to appear weak. We are often left feeling dissatisfied, hurt, or regretful.

Change that by saying how you truly feel and want. Use “I” statements to express yourself mindfully and in a non-judgmental way.

For example, “I know you’re in a hurry to get there. However, I won’t exceed the speed limit and risk getting into an accident.”

5. Don’t envy others

Envy is one of the hundreds of emotions humans experience. All of us feel envious from time to time. That’s normal. Letting it get out of hand can lead to false humility.

For example, acting happy for someone else’s achievement. You want to appear humble and supportive when, in fact, you silently wish it was you.

Controlling envy can make space for humility to blossom and grow. Be truly happy for others by giving them genuine praise and credit for their contributions. Not only will envy others less, you will also grow more confident in yourself.

6. Work on increasing emotional intelligence

Humility and emotional intelligence seem to go together as if you can’t have one without the other. Here’s why. Emotional intelligence, or EQ (“emotional quotient”) is the ability to recognize and control your own emotions.

At the same time, you are also aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others.

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Humble people are not weak but are capable of accepting they have weaknesses just as they own their strengths.

That high sense of internal awareness of yourself and eternal awareness of others guide positive interaction with people.

Things you can do to increase EQ include accepting criticism without feeling unworthy or inferior. Also becoming more attuned to the feelings of others and respectfully sharing your true feelings.

7. Accept you don’t know everything

Arrogance fuels pride, and pride becomes false humility in your attempt to mask it with arrogance. What benefit is there in acting as if you have all the education, knowledge, skills, or experience in the world?

No one person knows everything or can do everything correctly. Believe it or not, others know that too.

If you are wrong or do not know how to do something, say so. When you choose arrogance, that’s really pride getting in the way. Instead, be teachable. Be open to learning. That is a true sign of humility and self-awareness.

People will draw closer to you for being honest with them and most of all with yourself.

8. Don’t dim your light for others to shine

There’s enough room in the world for everyone to ‘shine their light’ at the same time. You may think humility is making yourself small so that others can feel large.

That isn’t being true to yourself. You’re also giving off a false impression of who you are.

You can end up getting overlooked and may even lose out on great opportunities. Allow yourself to shine along with others, knowing that there will always be people greater and lesser than yourself.

And that is because everyone has their place and purpose in this world.

9. Tame your prideful ego

Earlier on I mentioned to be truly humble, we must part with our ego for the greater good, for everyone. Substituting pride for vulnerability is one way to tame the ego. However, the mind shift is a necessary part of doing away with false modesty and becoming truly humble.

I agree, it takes high emotional intelligence to see that presenting your true self is okay. People will love the true you better than the persona who hides in the dark to make others feel good about themselves.

They definitely won’t like it if they discover you use reverse psychology to exhibit your accomplishments or fish for compliments.

10. Feel your feelings

No one is perfect. Things will go wrong in your life from time to time. Anger, disappointment, and regret are some of the normal negative emotions associated with setbacks and failures.

Ego and pride may force you to say, “I’m okay” in front of others, or even quietly to yourself.

You’re practicing false humility if deep down inside you know you’re not okay. It’s okay to cry when you want to cry (vulnerability), instead of masking it with a smile to hide your feelings (pride). Showing vulnerability is a positive trait seen in humble people.

11. Accept your weaknesses

Humble people are not weak but are capable of accepting they have weaknesses just as they own their strengths. Having a huge ego filled with pride and arrogance prevents you from accepting you are flawed like everyone else.

Kill that part of your ego and fully embrace your inabilities. Others will see it as a sign of true humbleness. You may feel a huge burden lift off your shoulders from no longer having to pretend you’re strong.

12. Build up your self-esteem

Psychology experts see false humility as an inferiority complex. The opposite is a superiority complex. Neither is a positive personality trait.

Inferiority complex means you think low of yourself, while superiority refers to false high self-esteem or a perception you’re above everyone else.

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Empathy is the ability to pick up on the emotions of others and show genuine concern for their well-being.

Developing a healthy level of self-esteem can help fix that. It helps you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin. Over time, you also transform into someone who is self-assured yet humble.

13. Empathize more with others

Remaining humble enhances your ability to draw people in and connect with them from a place of empathy and compassion.

Empathy is the ability to pick up on the emotions of others and show genuine concern for their well-being. However, you have to be capable of putting yourself in someone else’s proverbial shoes in order to truly understand what they may be going through.

Another way to show empathy is by practicing empathic listening. As you see, overcoming false humility requires you to surrender the false ego.

This way, you can practice being less self-centered and more empathetic or attuned to the needs of others.

14. Realize that it’s not always about you

Those recognized as having true humility are typically less self-absorbed. They understand their relationship to people and people’s relationship to the world. 

Everyone has a role to play, and no one has to part with their true selves to be seen, heard, or understood.

When you spend less time being self-involved and more time recognizing that others matter, you are showing empathy and humility.

People will draw to you like a moth to flame because they can see your soul. They will be more willing to trust you for being genuinely interested in their well-being.

Final Thoughts on How to Overcome False Humility

I know you will be successful at swapping out fake humility for genuine humility now that you have some tools to work with. And if I believe you can do it, you should too!

Like any other attempt to change a deeply-rooted unwanted trait or attribute, making the mental shift will take time. Be patient and compassionate towards yourself throughout the process.

Keep this quote in mind as you transition: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” (C.S. Lewis ).  Want more on this topic? Read 7 Benefits of Practicing Humility Throughout Your Life.

And if you're looking for more articles about personal growth, be sure to check out these blog posts:

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