Here are some ideas that you might be able to use for yourself or could inspire you. I sometimes meet people who think that I’m really not humble. I found out that they project their feelings on me. They are never the humble people I could learn from to be even more humble.
My humble rabbi explained that being humble doesn’t mean that you think you’re a nobody. Rather, it means that you don’t use your excellence to get privileges. I remember once, that we needed to take the bus home and there was no place for me on the big bus. In half an hour, a smaller bus would come to pick up those left behind. I tried to convince the single young adults (half my age) to let me on the first bus because I needed to get home quickly to release our baby sitter, but no one budged. There was a supervising rabbi on the bus who I thought would rebuke them. Instead, he got out and said: take my place, please. I did and I was so impressed.
I met so many amazing people that it’s easy in comparison to stay humble. In fact, already when I was young, I found everyone else amazing.
I set out in life as extremely shy and a tremendously good listener. I developed the courage to be the life of the party and to talk. But I’m still, basically the same shy guy. And shy doesn’t jive with arrogant.
I’m a happy camper and you can’t be haughty and happy at the same time.
My father grew up poor. He “escaped” by being smart through no success of his own. He became a physician. His parents who had helped him were murdered in the Holocaust so he felt he owed them. He despised snobs. Sometimes there was a party of colleagues he had to go to at one of those villas with a piece of garden followed by forest. Returning he would whisper: “not a book in the bookcase.” Trade union leaders for their yearly checkup went especially to him because he was friendly. A good example!
I repeated to myself for decades: I will always remember that I’m but a drip on the ocean, a speck of dust in the universe.
I remember realizing that no one came to this life with the sole objective of making me happy. Everyone has the right to have higher priorities than me. At the same time, I try to be generous with the most precious thing I have: time, since I like to live in a generous world. As the last Rabbi of Lubavitch told me: The best way to receive happens when you give.
I heard from my rabbi that religious people know that they are obligated and so worry if they are living up to their potential. Any talent one has is a humbling obligation, not an asset to brag about. That helps. Whenever I succeeded in something, I remember how hard I worked for it which gives humble pride, or how little I did for it which erases any credit I could claim.
I like to imitate Inspector Columbo. Snobs don’t like my humble appearance so they avoid me. So their snobbism doesn’t rub off on me.
For half a century, I was convinced that I was stupid — like an anorexic person may see themselves as fat. I reasoned that my thinking was always so slow, not compared to others but to how fast I wanted it to go.
I don’t try to be extremely humble since I don’t need to camouflage being so great. So, I have no trouble quoting someone who calls me the greatest relationship therapist ever.
I pay attention to how G^d constantly makes fun of my attempts to do things perfectly. It’s hard to feel too important when you constantly lack the time and money to do all the things that you see the world is lacking.
I moved to Israel (when the owner of a factory wears jeans at work) and became part of a Mizrachic congregation (where warmth tops formality). Yet, some rabbis there seem so arrogant that they’d never make it in Ashkenazic circles. But the outside doesn’t always reveal the inside. One of them seems very arrogant but he prepares his lectures meticulously. That shows a lot of respect for his students and reveals his true humbleness.
I have much talent for doubt and I’m honest, so how could I be cocksure?
So, some of it is given, some circumstantial and some from my own effort.
My main reward is having been able to raise humble kids. That’s a lot!