He says

Nihal Arthanayake on the ‘futility of humility’ — off the record

Forget our traditional British modesty, says Nihal Arthanayake - the time has finally come for us all to sing when we’re winning
Nihal Arthanayake on the ‘futility of humility’ — off the record
May 4, 2017   |    Nihal Arthanayake

Recently, I started thinking about humility and whether or not it is an overrated quality. As you sit reading this copy of Balance, I am sure you are a bastion of humility. Not a day passes without rays of modesty emanating from your soul. Each triumph is delivered with mild embarrassment as friends and colleagues applaud your latest endeavour, while you stutter like Hugh Grant in a rom-com, saying things like ‘There’s no “I” in team’ and ‘I’m just good at blagging it’. But surely these can only be the actions of a human being who has never listened to Stand Up by Ludacris, Touch The Sky by Kanye West or any number of other rap songs.

If that is you, then I suggest you listen to both songs now by streaming them on to your phone. Make no apologies to the person sitting next to you on public transport for the music that is about to enter their personal space. For both songs illustrate the futility of humility.

They revel in the glory of triumphalism. If you are the boss, floss. Even if you aren’t the boss, act like a boss and, subsequently, still floss accordingly.


The reason I have recently changed my mind about humility is down to the success of the football team I support. We have an arch-nemesis who, for more than two decades, have been superior to us. As is the way with football supporters, my friends who support said team have been less-than-gracious in the way they have spoken to me over the years.

For most of the 2016/2017 season, the team I support has been the better team and this success has been in contrast to the dire football played by our sworn enemies. There is, of course, a difference between crowing about your own successes and denigrating the failures of others. In this context, though, it has felt damn good being able to do both.

I wrote a Facebook post recently saying I’d be dispensing with humility for the remainder of the season. With each victory, I will post my glee at winning – I’ve decided to act as if there is a full horn section playing every time I bask in our superiority.


You might find the idea of living like this distasteful: how profoundly anti-British it is to blow one’s own trumpet. But accept the plaudits merely as justified recognition of your greatness and think so much of yourself that if you were an ice cream, you’d lick yourself.

They say that confidence without a sense of humour is arrogance, and there is no way that I would encourage you to be arrogant. I would simply like us all to have a bit more swagger in our step.

Cast off the modesty and embrace the big-ups as they come your way. Think of the hard work, the challenges and the moments of doom and gloom you have had to endure on the way to where you are and stand 100ft tall, as you recognise your worth.

OK, that is a bit schmaltzy. Maybe just do as James Brown once did when someone was ushered backstage to meet him after a gig. The Godfather Of Soul asked the star-struck individual if he had been at the show. After replying ‘yes’, James simply replied in that funk-fuelled tone of his: ‘You lucky!’ That’s next-level swagger.

Nihal hosts Afternoon Edition on BBC Radio 5 live, Monday-Thursday, 1pm-4pm, and the Asian Network’s Big Debate on Fridays, 10am-4pm.

Share your thoughts with me @therealnihal @BalanceLDN

Read more: Nihal talks Connor McGregor and getting fit

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