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June P. Tangney

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


Although humility is often mistakenly equated with a sense of unworthiness and low self-regard, true humility is a desirable character trait, one of a family of character strengths identified by the recent positive psychology movement. True humility entails an accurate assessment of one's abilities and one's place in the world, willingness to acknowledge one's limitations, and a “forgetting of the self.” A scientific understanding of humility would provide informed guidance to parents, teachers, and social leaders who wish to foster the development of this virtue, for the benefit of individuals and society. Complicating empirical study of the topic, there exist two widely held, but very different, definitions of humility For many, humility simply means holding oneself in low regard. Abridged dictionaries are inclined to adopt a “low self-esteem” definition of humility and this is the sense often adopted in common lay usage. Psychologists, philosophers, and theologians, in contrast, tend to favor definitions of humility that emphasize accuracy in perceptions of the self and one's place in the universe. Drawing on these perspectives, positive psychologists have identified humility as one of the core human strengths or virtues. In brief, the key elements of humility are thought to include: •  an accurate assessment of one's abilities and achievements (not low self-esteem, self-deprecation); ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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