What personality traits set humble people apart from the rest?
It’s easy enough to say “humility, of course!” and then leave it at that, but that’s unsatisfying and doesn’t tell you anything. It’s one of those abstract concepts that can change depending on who you ask.
So to help you get to something more concrete, I will describe in this article the personality traits of people who are humble.
1) Humble people control their ego
Everyone will have had a brush with ego at some point in another.
Think of that anger or frustration you might have felt when someone mocked your grades in high school, or that desire to prove yourself when a colleague calls you out for falling behind.
And, yes—this includes people we consider “humble.” Even they would feel offended when someone insinuates that they’re not capable of something, or that something they really love isn’t even that good.
What sets humble people apart from the rest is that they have learned to stamp down this inner voice, and to keep their ego from taking control.
2) They don’t put themselves above others
A humble person does their best to have a realistic view of themselves.
They’re not going to draw the Mona Lisa and say “I’m so bad at this, sorry for making trash” or look at the 1 million dollars in their pocket and look at their neighbors and think of them as literal peasants.
Instead, they would see their achievements as just that—they painted something pleasing to the eye, and they have one million dollars.
Neither of these justify them seeing themselves as somehow better than others, so they don’t try to cut into lines, demand exceptional service, or go “don’t you know who I am?!”
3) They’re concerned about the feelings of others
A humble person is someone who puts a lot of effort into making sure that people around them are comfortable and happy.
It’s easy enough to go “how was I supposed to know that?” or “THAT offended you? Grow a thicker skin!” after having accidentally offended or hurt someone with a careless remark.
A humble person would instead apologize and try to ask if there’s anything else they should try to do to avoid hurting them unintentionally.
A humble person is keenly aware that their words can and do have an effect on the people around them, and if they know that they can be rude sometimes, they will own up to it and apologize instead of going “oh, deal with it!”
4) They avoid comparisons
By that, I mean that they don’t waste their time and energy valuing their self-worth and identity by comparing themselves with others.
When they do make comparisons, it’s with a clear goal in mind, like “what can I learn from this person.”
It’s just a fact of life that no matter where you are in the world, there will always be someone above you, and someone below. So trying to rely on others for your self-worth is a futile gesture… and humble people understand this.
And when they do mean to try and define their self-worth, they do it by comparing themselves with who they are from the past.
5) They are confident
It might seem like confidence is opposed to humility, and I won’t fault you if you have this impression. A lot of people confuse confidence with arrogance, which IS the polar opposite of humility.
But it’s actually the other way around—arrogance is when an insecure person pretends to be confident or fools themselves into thinking they are, while humility is what happens when one is genuinely confident.
When you are confident in yourself, you aren’t driven by any need to “prove” yourself, and you simply don’t take things that personally.
So when someone says something that offends you, it’s relatively easy for you to take a deep breath and calm down instead of exploding on the spot.
6) They question themselves
This might seem like it contradicts the previous point. After all, how can someone be confident if they’re always questioning themselves?
Well, consider that they could afford to be confident precisely BECAUSE they question themselves all the time. They know that they can be mistaken, or they might be mostly right and yet end up forgetting a couple of important things here and there.
That is to say, they understand that they’re not perfect so they keep an open mind and always consider the possibility that, no matter how confident they might be, there is still a chance that they are wrong.
7) They ask and listen
Humble people don’t try to make themselves heard unless it’s absolutely needed. They know that, sometimes, it’s just not their time to talk.
So instead, they ask and try to keep an open ear and an open mind.
Not everything they come across will fit their understanding of the world, and sometimes they might even find themselves uncomfortable or disgusted. But rather than pass judgment, they try to listen and be understanding.
A man of faith might feel uneasy around a firm atheist, for example. But rather than write them off as a godless infidel, he would instead ask to know why they don’t believe in a deity without making any attempts to convince them to join his religion.
8) They don’t take others for granted
Prideful people tend to neglect others, devaluing the things that others can or have done for them and assuming they can live without others’ help. And rather than ask for help, they instead demand it.
In contrast to that, a humble person values other people and is always mindful of the struggles and triumphs that others face day by day.
When someone does them a favor, they smile and say thank you.
When they see someone in need, they do not think twice and rush in to offer help.
When they see someone being proud about having achieved a milestone, they happily join in and give congratulations.
And of course, being humble also means recognizing that sometimes people do have skill or knowledge that they themselves don’t have… so when they’re facing problems they can’t handle alone, it’s not a big deal for them personally to ask for help.
9) They avoid stereotypes
One way you can distinguish people who are truly humble from those who are simply faking it is to pay close attention to how they talk about other people.
If they stereotype people and say things like “all men are…” and “all women are…” and “all gamers are…” then they’re most likely not really that humble.
See, the reason for this is because stereotyping means dehumanizing other people and assuming things about them because of some traits that they just so happen to have. And this is very much the opposite of what one needs to do to be humble.
To be humble, one must look past appearances, gender, status, and see people for who they are—to be conscious of our differences, but to focus on the things we have in common nonetheless.
10) They aren’t concerned about status
This isn’t to say that they ignore it completely, of course.
They still know that they will have to be careful with their words when they’re talking to, say, a superior.
But they don’t put status on a pedestal.
They’re… say, that cool artist who makes masterpiece after masterpiece and yet happily talks to beginners like they’re equals and praises even seemingly “sloppy” sketches.
They don’t worship someone simply because they’re richer, more successful, or more skilled than they are. At the same time, they don’t look down on those who are poorer, less skilled, or less healthy than they are.
Humility is not a trait that you can simply get by itself.
Instead, it’s what will naturally come to you when you see others with respect and empathy—to see others as people with strengths and weaknesses of their own—and see yourself as just another face in the crowd.
It’s simple enough in concept, and yet frustratingly difficult for a lot of people to grasp. And it’s easy to see why.
It might be comforting once you come to terms with it, but this idea that you’re nothing particularly special is too much for a lot of people to accept.
Being humble is not easy, and you simply can’t try to “learn” to be humble—do that, and you’ll end up with false humility.
Instead, you must start from the ground up…you must go inward, learning all those small things that, when they come together, give you that personality trait that people call humility.