False Humility: 6 Ways to Spot a Fake

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False Humility: 6 Ways to Spot a Fake

“Pride comes before the fall.”

This well-known quote is actually the common abbreviation of a Biblical proverb, which describes the consequences of pride and arrogance. If we’re honest, every single one of us is susceptible to allowing our egos to take center stage. It’s easy to be focused on selfish ambitions and, as a result, disregard the wants, needs, and circumstances of others. The antidote to this self-serving life is humility.

Unfortunately, not everyone has figured out how to live a truly humble life. There are some individuals who don’t even pretend to be humble (and they are VERY easy to spot), but the great majority of people understand that at the very least, being perceived as humble is a good thing. So how do you spot a fake? Here are 6 characteristics of those demonstrating false humility:

They talk about how humble they are

Also known as the humblebrag, these offenders take every possible opportunity to let everyone know how humble they are. If you’ve never seen humblebrag in action, here’s a collection of some great ones on Twitter. This is particularly visible on social media, where the accounts of offenders are typically built as shrines to their own accomplishments, and often is demonstrated by posting how they’re so humbled by an opportunity that they have, or an acknowledgment that they’ve received, or some other personal success. The problem is that they’re not humbled, they’re excited and they want the whole world to know, which is the opposite of humility. Those who are truly humble don’t talk about it, they live it.

They talk about the importance of service without actually engaging in acts of service

These false humbles like to talk about how much service matters, but they rarely serve others. They typically set themselves up as a special breed, set-apart and have an entourage or a group of handlers that follow them everywhere they go. They see themselves as too good to do certain tasks, typically those that are labor-intensive. Humble people are focused on how to improve the conditions of others, and this requires getting their hands dirty and serving.

They are two-faced

The falsely-humble have one side that they display in public or in front of superiors, and a very different side that they expose in private or around colleagues or those lower on the totem pole. They see value in appearing to be humble around those that can impact their status and are very good at projecting the necessary image, but when the cameras are off, the façade of humility disappears. Real humility has only one face.

They are respected least by those that know them best

There’s a belief that we don’t really know a person until we have spent at least 6 months with them. This is because people can only pretend to be something that they aren’t for so long. When it comes to those faking humility, the people closest to them know the truth and will typically lose respect for them based on what they see behind closed doors. It’s difficult to watch a person be celebrated as a hero by strangers from afar when you see the same person act like a monster up close without your respect for the person taking a hit.

They allow themselves to become more important than the cause

This goes far beyond accepting deserved credit: a humble person knows how to accept a compliment in an appropriate way. I’m talking about those who intentionally position themselves to be the center of attention. Some who fake humility promote themselves by encouraging others to build them up. They allow others to put them on a pedestal and do absolutely nothing to stop it from happening. Those who are truly humble don’t allow themselves to become larger or more important than the team, the mission, or the organization.

They invest in others primarily when it serves their own selfish purposes

A sign of a genuinely humble person is that she invests in others when there is no direct benefit for her. In contrast, those who are faking it typically see others as a means to an end and will only invest time and energy in people when it serves their purposes. We all know people who only call us when they need something then we don’t hear from them again for months or even years. This is a telltale sign of false humility. True humility sees value in people for who they are, not what they can do.

If all of these signs aren’t enough to help you spot a fake, there’s one more indicator that you can use: your gut. If you feel in your heart that someone isn’t who he says he is, you’re probably right. If you’re a supervisor or peer of someone faking humility, try to influence that person in a positive way by bringing the behavior to his attention through honest feedback and by modeling true humility through your actions.

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