"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself...For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility." - Benjamin Franklin
"It's hard to be humble," says an old country song, "when you're perfect in every way." Very few people, of course, actually think they're perfect in every way, but it can still be pretty hard to be humble, especially when you live in a society that encourages competition and individuality. Even in such a culture, however, humility is an important virtue. Learning to be humble is of paramount importance in most religions and spiritual traditions, and humility can also help you develop as a person and enjoy richer relationships with others.
Appreciate your talents. Being humble doesn't mean you can't feel good about yourself. Self-esteem is not the same as pride. Both come from a recognition of your own talents and qualities, but pride--the kind of pride that leans toward arrogance--is rooted in insecurity about them. Think about the abilities you have and be thankful for them.
Understand your limitations. No matter how talented you are, there is almost always somebody who can do something better than you can. Even if you are the best in the world at doing one thing, there are other things--important, worthwhile things--that you cannot do, and you may never be able to do some of these things. Add to this the fact that there are a great many things that no person can do, and you can get some idea of your limitations. Recognizing your limitations does not mean abandoning your dreams, and it doesn't mean giving up on learning new things or improving your existing abilities. It does mean coming to terms with the very real limits of your abilities.
Recognize your own faults. We judge others because it's a lot easier than looking at our own faults. Unfortunately, it's also completely unproductive and, in many cases, harmful. Judging others causes strife in relationships, and it prevents new relationships from forming. Perhaps even worse, it prevents us from trying to improve ourselves. We make judgments about others all the time, and we often don't even realize it. As a practical exercise, try to catch yourself in the act of judging another person or group of people, and whenever you do, judge yourself instead and consider how you could improve yourself.
Stop comparing. Why? Because, it's just about impossible to be humble when we're striving to be the "best" or trying to be "better" than others. Instead, try describing things more objectively. Rather than saying that so and so is the best guitarist ever, say what exactly it is that you appreciate about his skills, or simply say that you like his playing style. Let go of meaningless, simplistic comparisons, and you'll be able to enjoy doing things without worrying about whether you're better or worse at them than others.
Appreciate the talents and qualities of others. Challenge yourself to look at others and appreciate the things they can do and, more generally, to appreciate people for who they are. Understand that everybody is different and relish the chance you have to experience different people. You will still have your personal tastes, your likes and dislikes, but train yourself to separate your opinions from your fears and you will appreciate others more--you will be humbler.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Never be afraid to admit that you made a mistake. Part of being humble is understanding that you will make mistakes. Understand this, and understand that everyone else makes mistakes, and you will have a heavy burden lifted off of you. Why do we make mistakes? Because we don't know everything. Any one person can know only the smallest bits and pieces of the tremendous knowledge that has accumulated over the past. What's more, we experience only a sliver of the present, and we know nothing of the future.
Don't be afraid to defer to others' judgment. It's easy to acknowledge that you make mistakes and that you're not always right.
Rejuvenate your sense of wonder. Because we, as individuals, know practically nothing, you'd expect that we'd be awestruck more often than we typically are. Children have this sense of wonder, and it inspires the curiosity that makes them such keen observers and capable learners. Do you really know how your microwave works? Could you build one on your own? What about your car? Your brain? A rose? The jaded, "I've seen it all" attitude makes us feel far more important than we are. Be amazed like a child and you will not only be humbled; you will also be readier to learn.
Seek guidance. Contemplate moral texts and proverbs about humility. Pray for it, meditate on it, do whatever it takes to get your attention off yourself. If you're not into spirituality, consider the scientific method or vipassana. Science requires humility. It requires that you let go of your preconceived notions and judgments and understand that you don't know as much as you think you do.
Think about yourself under different circumstances. Much of what we give ourselves credit for should actually be credited to luck. Suppose you graduate from an Ivy League university at the top of your class. You definitely deserve a lot of credit for the many hours of studying and for your perseverance. Consider though, that there may be somebody just as intelligent and hardworking as you who simply had different parents, grew up in a different place, or simply had the bad luck to make one wrong choice in life. That person - you, really - might be in jail now, or they might have been killed in a war or starved to death. Always remember that with a little bad luck yesterday, your whole life could be different today and, furthermore, that today could be the day your luck changes.
Help others. A big part of being humble is respecting others, and part of respecting others is helping them. Treat other people as equals and help them because it is the right thing to do. It's been said that when you can help others who cannot possibly help you in return, you have learned humility.
Keep in mind that being humble has many benefits. Humility can help you be more content with your life, and it can also help you endure bad times and improve your relationships with others. It's also essential to being an effective learner. If you think you know it all, you won't be open-minded enough to seek out new knowledge. Humility is also, somewhat counter-intuitively, an excellent tool for self-development in general. After all, if you feel superior, you have no incentive to improve. Most of all, being humble allows you to be honest with yourself.
Pretending to be humble isn't the same as being humble, and often people who pretend to be humble do it in order to seek out praise. Other people will recognize this, and even if you fool some, you won't derive the same benefits as you would through actually developing humility.
Similarly, don't confuse being humble with being sycophantic (being overly-praiseful of someone for your own profit). This is a common misconception, but the two attitudes are completely different.