If you’re anything like the typical Nigerian, humility is a virtue that you rank highly, in yourself and in others. Your boss showers praise on you for winning a huge account for the company, you try and explain that you were not the only one on the team and others should be praised too. You are flustered and uncomfortable because you’ve been placed in the spotlight.Your husband who does not normally notice your new hairstyles and self- care regimen suddenly compliments you on how great you are looking. You are in shock! Pigs are flying and the sky is pink- did he just say you looked amazing? You immediately start picking apart his compliment, pointing out how much weight you haven’t lost and how you’ve had the hairstyle on for 2 weeks. The poor man is bewildered, he thinks you look just fine.

You generally do not receive gifts or compliments without turning your face away bashfully or refusing it out rightly. You are uncomfortable with sincere praise and compliments, you prefer to attribute everything you achieved to others or to God. You definitely don’t like proud people.

You are humble. Always. Never willingly taking credit or accepting gifts, even if everything around you agrees that you deserve it.

Your humility is a problem and you may not even realize it.

Let me explain.

Like patience, humility is a virtue extolled as something we should all strive towards and possess and although the average Nigerian is innately proud, he is given to dramatic expressions of faux humility from time to time.However, it appears that our pride and ego, which should boost our self-esteem, often excuses itself when genuine appreciation for our person or effort is shown.

You’ve probably seen this scenario play out several times, perhaps you even played the lead character: Someone gives you a gift or money and you vehemently refuse it until the frustrated giver dramatically presses it into your itching palms. As a Yoruba person for whom faux humility is a natural characteristic, I have witnessed and participated in this, as giver and receiver. It is quite amusing to watch.

Others make a big show of refusing compliments, ” Aunty, oju yin ma fresh gan” ( Aunty, your face looks fresh, you look good), ” Emi ke? Iya ma n je mi!” ( Me? I am suffering o!).

Evidently, this automatic deflection of compliments or gifts is some kind of reverse psychology which is expected to increase the compliments or the gifts. The funny thing is that it does work in cultural settings because it is part of some sort of unwritten law governing social behaviour. Outside those settings, however, it becomes a problem and gets in the way of other good things which could happen to us and for us.

Although I write this from a Nigerian perspective, the inability to receive compliments is not a Nigerian thing. For a lot of people, the immediate reaction to a compliment is to turn it down, to downplay it, deflect it or outrightly refuse it.

Unfortunately, this abnormal social behaviour which is deeply rooted in cultural upbringing, self-esteem issues and societal rules may be holding you back from attracting good things into your life. From childhood we are taught to be humble and modest, “He that down needs fear no fall”, we are not really encouraged to take pride in ourselves or what we have achieved because it might come off as being boastful. We are told that being boastful is not an admirable quality to have and so we think we are building character when we are really just tearing ourselves down.

Consider this: Why is your default reaction to a good thing negative?

Perhaps you may not have noticed that you do this at all because it has become normal behaviour for you. Truth is, you automatically deflect compliments because you do not consider yourself worthy of such magnanimity. You didn’t really do anything special to deserve the accolades your boss showered on you after your stellar presentation. After all, we are nothing but pencils in the hand of the creator. Have you ever considered that perhaps, you are a damn good pencil?

I like to think of humility as a double-edged sword, capable of elevating us when used sparingly and in the right situations and also capable of suppressing the greatness in us when we don’t recognize its power.

If you constantly find yourself deflecting, then it’s time to look inwards and ask yourself why? Do you not consider your work valuable? Do you not rate yourself highly? Perhaps you believe anyone who compliments you is lying to you or has an ulterior motive?

I do need to point out that there is a difference between being proud of yourself and your achievements and being a haughty jerk. Sheer arrogance and making others feel small is definitely not a desirable quality. On the other hand, when you consciously accept compliments & commendation, you feel good about yourself and you are able to transfer that positive energy to others because a healthy self-esteem is contagious.

In fact, there are studies to show that accepting compliments has the same effect as receiving that mood-lifting credit alert. You feel on top of the world!

It’s time to unlearn ‘Humility’. We need to unlearn ‘humility’ as we have grown to know it. This is particularly critical for parents and people who are responsible for other people. It is so vital that we begin to take pride in ourselves and achievements, thus building a healthy self-esteem, so that we can propagate that to our children and others.

Today is a good day to examine what kind of beliefs you have about yourself and to create a new set of beliefs if you don’t like what you see.

Good things come to those who are able to receive them. Be that person that receives consciously, joyfully and with gratitude. Multiply the effect by showering others with compliments too and be astounded at how much more confident you’ll be.

Don’t let humility stop you from thriving. You are valuable and you deserve ALL the good things that come into your life.


Culled from: Bella Naija

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  1. Pels

    This is a pretty good write-up.
    I laughed to myself as I read this.
    I do this all the time, refuse to accept praise.
    And I don’t do it because of humility but because I am a perfectionist and will have nothing short of perfection.
    If I don’t think it is good enough, then it simply is not, no matter what anybody says.
    I’ve learnt a lot from this. Thank you.

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