7 Ways to Spot Someone with False Humility

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If there are any people in the world we aspire to be like, it would be people with humble hearts and reputations.

Humble people are gracious, even amid adversity and personal challenges. They know their weaknesses and don't boast about their strengths. In fact, humble people don't think they're better than anyone else. And they have no trouble apologizing and admitting they were wrong.

Humble people make the best leaders. They are the coaches who credit everyone for the team’s success.

Humble people are the bosses who don’t mind allowing their team members to shine. They are the spouses who don’t mind deferring to the strength of their partner in certain aspects of the relationship.

But with humility being such an excellent quality, why would there be any need for anyone to demonstrate false humility?

In this article, we will define false humility and why people feel the need to engage in this deceitful practice. Then, we'll look at ways to spot someone walking in false humility.

What is False Humility?

False humility is pride in disguise.

It's like a Halloween costume; just because someone dresses up as Abraham Lincoln doesn't make them the real honest Abe, does it? People engage in false humility intentionally to appear to be humble.

So, their humility is not genuine. It can be highly toxic and problematic in relationships because it says one thing, but it really means another.

False humility can be as simple as someone complimenting you on your dress and telling you how beautiful yet expensive it looks. But rather than accepting the compliment, you attempt to devalue the dress by saying that it came off the bargain rack or that it's an old outfit you've had for years.

You said those things to appear humble and impress others with false information or information they didn’t ask for in the first place.

False humility and self-satisfaction go hand-in-hand.

In a relationship, your girlfriend might apologize to you for always mistreating the weight staff when dining out. However, she actually felt justified in her actions. She just said she was sorry to appease you. False humility in these situations is easy to spot because the bad behavior will resurface again.

People with false humility often profess to be humble because they feel this will get them ahead. In fact, they will appear proud to announce their self-proclaimed humility. That in itself demonstrates a false humility.

Why Do People Engage in False Humility?

Humility is a great quality, and it opens impressive doors of opportunity. It is an attribute of the world's most successful people. So, why do people choose false humility? Here are a few reasons why people engage in false humility.

They don’t want to offend other people.

Many walk in false humility because they don't want to offend others. However, it doesn't always work because we come across as insincere, which can be very offensive. People would rather see us sincerely brag rather than be a humble bragger. 

They try to eliminate competition.

Many try to eliminate competition by appearing less competent to do a task or job than others.  It's similar to a person who deceitfully gambles at the game of pool.

insincere modesty | fake humility | feigned humbleness
Numerous individuals attempt to reduce competition by portraying themselves as less capable of performing a task or job than their peers.

They play poorly, lose several games, and then up the ante to “get their money back,” suddenly, they don't miss a shot. The attempt is to lull you into a false sense of security to hide their competitive nature.

To indirectly show pride.

Since prideful behavior is such a turn-off, many choose false humility as an indirect approach to exalt themselves. Often, false humility is shown by downplaying one's success and deflecting attention about a positive feature or quality.

For example, your friend is beautiful and posts amazing selfies on her social media pages. Yet, in the caption, she detracts attention from herself by putting down her dress, hairstyle, makeup, lighting, etc.

She may even post something irrelevant to the photo or refer to an object in the back, anything to deflect from how she looks in the picture.

She would secretly love to post and say, “I look amazing in this picture, don't I?” But that would show pride too directly. Only those utterly clueless about what's socially acceptable would do that.

They fish for compliments.

Who doesn't love compliments, right? It's incredible when someone has glowing words to express about us. Compliments can be rare; so many, through false humility, fish for compliments.

They manipulate others.

Many manipulate others through false humility because they don't feel they have favor enough with them to be direct and ask for something.

They will appear helpless to do a thing to manipulate behavior in their favor and make you feel bad if you don't come to their aid. However, this behavior can be annoying. People just want you to be upfront and ask for help when needed.

7 Ways to Spot Someone with False Humility

1. They humblebrag.

People like this enjoy telling everyone how humble they are. This behavior is seen all over social media as many will build an elaborate post highlighting their accomplishments while stating that they are humbled to be considered for such an honor or other form of success.  

While it's not wrong to be excited, the difference between someone humblebragging and a genuinely humble person is that the humble live it and don’t have to talk about it.

The one demonstrating false humility wants the whole world to know about their accomplishment. Still, they are hiding it behind a thin cloak of a humblebrag.

Unfortunately, I did this when my book hit #1 on the Amazon Best Seller List. And just by mentioning it here, I did it again.

2. They demonstrate two-faced behavior.

A surefire way to spot false humility is when someone acts one way in public in front of their neighbors, bosses, or pastors but behaves differently in private. A person's status could be impacted if they did not appear humble and project a good image.

Their true colors would be off-putting, so they fake it. Being truly humble demonstrates a consistent behavior we all should have.

3. They only invest in others when they have something to gain.

This false humility is easy to spot. Someone only serves or gives to others when they stand to gain notoriety or other forms of advantage in return. My little sister used to do this when we were kids.

She'd approach Mom and say, “I love you, momma.” Instantly, we all knew she was trying to curry favor from mom to do or have something she wanted.

Politicians and corporations do this as well to boost public perception.

Humility serves from a place of genuineness without the need to publicize it or gain favor.

4. They feel they are bigger than the company or organization they represent.

Have you heard the term “inflated sense of one's own importance?” This is true when spotting someone with false humility.  

They will promote themselves and strive to be the center of attention. They love to be put on a pedestal and will use others to get ahead, then give them no credit for the success. Those with false humility will even credit themselves for all the success a company or group achieves.

deceptive modesty | phony humbleness | counterfeit humility
They relish being elevated above others and will exploit them to advance themselves, all the while failing to acknowledge the contributions of those who helped them succeed.

Humble people always make their efforts and accomplishments about the team, organization, or mission. They realize they would not have achieved such a great outcome without it.  

5. They don’t receive feedback well.

You can spot false humility in a person when they don't have a teachable attitude. Many leaders within a company see this with employees. They may appear humble at first, but they become defensive when offered constructive criticism to improve their work performance.

Many who demonstrate this behavior lack self-worth or have a low self-image. So, they fear correction. But those who are genuinely humble look for ways to be better, even when it comes from constructive criticism.

6. They talk a good game, but their actions don’t back it up.

Many great and humble people are known for standing up for noble causes and giving their lives to make a difference. But those with false humility talk the same way without putting forth the effort to make it happen.

Many celebrities have been accused of this behavior. They raise money to promote awareness of a cause like cancer research or to help those devastated by storm damage and other unkind acts of mother nature.

But don't serve or donate money themselves, even seeing themselves as “too good” to do specific tasks or feel using their platform to raise money and awareness is enough.

However, humility won’t just “talk about it but be about it.” The actions of the humble usually exceed the efforts they ask for from others.

7. They don’t appear to have the respect of those who have known them the longest.

The longer you know a person, the more their truer colors come to light. So, they can only pretend to be something they are not for so long. When someone consistently demonstrates false humility, it is a turn-off to people.

And when those close to them don't care to hear what they have to say, roll their eyes, and show a lack of respect, you know something is a little off.  

A person with false humility has family members and friends who know how they are behind closed doors.

It isn't easy to hear a man be celebrated as a great guy when he is not the same way at home with his family. Humble people will be honored as much if not more, from those who know them the most.

Final Thoughts on False Humility

None of us are perfect. We all have a little bit of false humility in us. So, please don't be too hard on others who demonstrate it too.  

The best thing for anyone to do to combat this behavior during self-reflection is to be honest with ourselves. Then, work to be honest with others about our feelings.

If you feel you’d lose friends over your feelings, here are a few more things you can do to combat the desire to demonstrate false humility.

First, you can develop an attitude of gratitude and realize how fortunate you are to enjoy what you have (good looks, success, etc.).  Then, don’t wrap your identity into your position or title. Those things come and go and will not fulfill you long term.

Also, don’t devalue your accomplishments, but accept praise graciously. A simple “thank you” is often all you need to say.

Lastly, focus on serving others so you don’t have time to focus on yourself. If you do these things, you won’t have time to walk in false humility. Remember, humility elevates us in all areas of life, but according to the bible, pride and arrogance lead to destruction and failure. – Proverbs 16:18.

And if you’re dealing with narcissistic and negative individuals, you might want to check out the following resources:

false humility | signs of false humility | what is false humility