What Does Humble Mean

This isn’t a photography post although it arose from a photographer.  It actually goes much further back but I was reading a blog post by Syl Arena, a great photographer who wrote a couple of books, one of which I have.  I like the book and learned a lot from it.  He was writing about updating his bio and this updated bio included the following sentence.

“I’m humbled to say I have written two bestselling books on lighting…”

This caught my eye since I think the use of humble has changed recently.  I have heard people accepting awards talking about being humbled.  Here, Syl is talking about being humbled to have sold lots of books.  I really think people don’t understand humble anymore.

If you think you are something special and then learn that you aren’t, that could be a humbling experience.  If you meet someone who is demonstrably more capable than you are, that can be a humbling experience.  If you find yourself stranded in the middle of a vast ocean with no way home, that can be a humbling experience.  Being told you are great or seeing proof that you are is not humbling!

Why is it used then?  I don’t know.  I have a thought as to what it might be but I can’t get inside the heads of others and say why they use it and I am certainly not trying to put Syl down in this case – he is just an example of something happening a lot.  Maybe it is a fashion that is being followed.  However, I suspect it is a way of pointing out that you are not big headed about your success while acknowledging you have been successful.  Being grateful would seem a more appropriate term but I don’t control others and I probably won’t find myself in a situation that needs me to worry about addressing such success.  If I do, I wonder whether I will really be feeling humble?

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