What’s so false about false humility?

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD
3 min readJul 20, 2018

Sometime in the last one year, 11 months ago in actual fact, I discussed how it is no truly successful person in today’s world wants to be associated with the word ‘humble’.

The problem? The word humility was coined at a time during which formal education systems and labor markets had yet to be what they are today. In those days, you could not say you graduated Summa Cum Laude (Amerian system) or with First Class Honors (British system) from a Baccalaureate program. You could not say you had a Masters or a PhD. In work terms, you could not say you had raised US$30 million of Series A financing in attempts at raising an additional US$10 million. If humility is interpreted in its common definitional usage, all of the differentiation (graduation honors, levels of education, and objectively verifiable work achievements) enabled by objective third party attestations (universities or colleges) or interactions (raising of capital from investors) become useless, non-usable.

Quite the contrary, and in ancient times, you could compare the size of your farm with that of your neighbor. That, however, would be in bad taste especially if the difference in size merely was a function of inheritance. Humility meant you refrained from such a comparison because the difference in size of farms was obvious to the eye.

In the post referenced, I advocated relegation of the word humility to museum of English words, advocated a different term, ‘true humility’ as substitute for ‘humility’ with true humility defined to be:

True humility is believing you have yet to attain to the best you can be. True humility is the opium of people who attain to true greatness in life.

What I did not do in the prior story is define ‘false humility’. I took it for granted that having discussed how it is the word humility now is out of consonance with reality, it is sufficient to substitute true humility for humility. I have come to realize, however, that it is important to delineate false humility, the converse of true humility from outdated meaning and usage of the word humility.

So then, if humility can be false or true, or just its outdated self, what exactly is false humility?



Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos