Is modesty the best policy?

Being Humble is something we’ve all been internally programmed to follow. A trait that has been scoring one of the highest spots (second only to honesty and sincerity) in the moral compass of our brains since we were toddlers. “Pride has its fall” they warned us. And yet, how does one truly achieve the state of being genuinely and whole-heartedly humble? And if it is indeed so important, how are so many of us still condoned for being grossly narcissistic and worse, completely unapologetic about it? When written on paper, it is a pretty straightforward task. Do your duty and avoid letting the credit get to your head. But in reality, isn’t that one of the hardest things to achieve? After all,Every ounce of handwork and perseverance we invest in a mission is to ultimately reap its benefits- validation; in whatever form it appeals to us.

So how realistic is it to expect to achieve your best when you are setting yourself up to eventually gain nothing? This was my take on the theory, until recently. So what changed? Nothing really. Except that i began to pay more attention to my favourite people (both famous and not) and why exactly they were. And that made me question-what is that one quality I admired the most about every individual who has achieved a great deal of success in their chosen field of career? The answer staring right back at me was their ability to stay and appear convincingly humble. You and i can get a kick out of Robert Downey Jr’s ego once in a while. But it wouldn’t equate to the sheepish grin Tom Hanks, the man with multiple academy award titles to his name could give you, while thoroughly enjoying himself lip-syncing to a Carley Rae Jepsen track. Nor would it be the same kind of respect J.K Rowling evokes as she (till date) religiously replies to interesting Harry Potter tweets YEARS after the series ended.

And to me personally, that is one of the most attractive qualities a person could acquire. I say acquire and not possess because it’s something that has to be constantly worked on. In a world which is designed to test our limits and goad us to prove ourselves every single day, it is all too easy to get carried away by a minor success and lose sight of the bigger picture. We are all itching to be recognised, to be noticed for that one thing we excel at. To be declared the best at something we have been working on mastering for years and to actually be able to say that you and i have indeed “made it”. So why would we give up that well-earned high just to be put on a pedestal for being modest? And by whom? And how long does one have to wait for it? what is it that makes this trait so wonderfully appealing anyway?

I tried to break down the concept in my head without letting myself be distracted by its counterparts such as “arrogance”, “pride” and “self-righteousness” and simply view “humility” for what it is- the ability to not take oneself too seriously. I came to this conclusion by starting to picture all the high-achievers i admire, in a room, heartily congratulating the other person on their work and ending up laughing it off when it was their turn to be congratulated instead. And THAT is not to say that they are unaware of how good they are or that they don’t value it. But to show that that’s not the only entity they attribute all their self-worth to. And this, was an interesting pattern i observed in most people i believe to be humble, right from Emma Stone dodging a compliment with an unrelated yet endearingly awkward story about how she’s afraid of heights or Robin Williams magically transforming into a child every time he gets to have a normal conversation in the place of an interview.

In an era where “stand out or stay behind” is the motto fuelling everything, it takes a massive amount of self-realisation and depth to be able to separate your successes and failures alike from what defines you as a person. Greatness comes with power. Humility comes with the will to voluntarily relinquish that power. Naturally humble people are diamonds in the rough. And those who aren’t, could always mould themselves to be one. It IS daunting to constantly be encouraging yet critical towards our own assets and talents. But it could also be one of the best things we do to/for ourselves in the long run. Just a matter of sowing the seeds and waiting for the roots to germinate. At the end of the day, staying vehemently grounded is a miniscule price to pay if it lets you set your soul free, isn’t it?