Impact of humility on mental well-being

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse

Mental Wellness

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their  community. 

In an increasingly self-absorbed world where arrogance and self-pride is devastating our families, communities and society, humility can be key to maintaining our balance and mental well-being.

What is humility and what are the mental health benefits of humility?

Humility is:

 An attitude of modesty

 An ability to control our need for attention from others

 An ability to have an accurate perception of ourselves and our achievements

 An ability to acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations and our knowledge gaps

 An appreciation of the role and the value of other people in life

 An awareness and understanding of our worth and value in the context of the value of others

 An ability to focus less on ourselves and more on others

 An ability to control and quieten our ego

Humility is not:

 Weakness

 Low self esteem

 A low value of oneself

 A lack of self confidence

• A lack of assertiveness or being a “push-over”

When we are humble we are:

 Better able to understand ourselves

 Teachable

 Adaptable and mentally flexible in the face of challenges

 Better able to build and repair relationships and thus build stronger social support networks

 Better able to be grateful

 Less stressed and this protects us from physical health complications of stress

 Have a lower risk of anxiety and depression

The mental health impact of a 

lack of humility

Pride and arrogance can have a detrimental effect on our mental well-being. A lack of humility can result in:

 Excessive self-centredness, selfishness and even narcissism: A person with a narcissistic personality will often have excessive pride and self- interest at the expense of others; values attention and respect from others and often feel superior to others. This person resists any criticism and almost always feel they are correct. The person is also highly sensitive to correction or embarrassment and struggles to introspect and accept any weakness or limitations and may lack compassion and will often be inauthentic. 

 Annoyance or even aggression when one’s ego is threatened or bruised

 Stress and frustration when one cannot get their own way

 An inability to form strong, genuine reciprocal loving relationships

 Breakdown of relationships and a weak social support system

How can I become humbler for 

my mental well-being?

Humility is beneficial to our physical and mental health. Working on becoming humbler can involve:

 Developing self-awareness and being able to regulate one’s emotions: Humility will require us to develop an accurate understanding of ourselves and not overvalue ourselves. For good mental well being we must have positive self-talk but we must also learn to regulate prideful thoughts. 

 Acknowledging your limitations, gaps in knowledge and remaining teachable: Humility will also require a teachable attitude that allows one to acknowledge what they do not know, accept past mistakes as well as to be willing to make corrections and learn from others. 

Humility is essential when seeking feedback and in acknowledging constructive criticism. 

 Learning to value others and building genuine relationships: To be humbler means to value other people and their achievements and to celebrate others without bringing attention to oneself. Humility will require us to be less judgemental and more accepting of others. 

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with mental health problems linked to excessive self- pride or a lack of humility, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse, consultant psychiatrist.

Feedback: Dr Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) (www.ahfoz.org; [email protected])

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