Say, for example, someone believes that they are completely useless, but when you ask people that that person knows, they tell you that the person has helped them through several dark times and is always putting everyone else before themselves.

I'm sorry if it feels very specific, but I have to do a character profile on a character with this trait, and I'm looking for an elegant term to use.

Thanks in advance!

  • Z. Dash, I think you should clarify which trait you are asking for (the more general one in the title, or the more specific one in the body) with an example sentence. Because, for example, a person who views themselves much more highly than other people see them also fits the question in the title.
    – vpn
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


I suggest using the phrase sell oneself short, as it is defined by Wikitionary in the following excerpt:

  1. To belittle oneself in judgment; to underestimate oneself and one's abilities (and thus avoid being acknowledged to the fullest or purest extent).

    You're selling yourself short by not mentioning your years of experience.

(Wiktionary offers its text under the terms of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license.)

I might use it like this: Don't sell yourself short by thinking he is has any more experience than you have.


One possibility is "Impostor Syndrome".

Here's the definition of "Impostor Syndrome" from Cambridge Online Dictionary:

impostor syndrome

noun [ U ] /ɪmˈpɒs.tə ˌsɪn.drəʊm/ /ɪmˈpɑː.stɚ ˌsɪn.droʊm/ ​

the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve praise or success:

  • Students from working-class backgrounds often suffer from impostor syndrome, a deep-seated sense that the world of high culture is not for them.

Source: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/impostor-syndrome

  • This fits the example given, but it does not satisfy the general definition provided in the question.
    – vpn
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 0:19
  • Impostor syndrome is one possible cause for this person's behavior. It does not describe the behavior itself. E.g. this person could just be humble, or doing so out of politeness, in which your answer does not apply. (I know you said "one possibility", but that is ambiguous as to whether you mean "one way to fully describe it" or "a way to describe one specific subset of this behavior")
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 12:00

there are a number of possibilities for characterizing this person.

1 :modest: According to Macmillan Dictionary:a modest person does not like to talk about themselves, their achievements, or their abilities, even if they are successful.

Peter is genuinely modest about his achievements.

2:self-effacing:According to Macmillan Dictionary:a self-effacing person does not want to be noticed by other people and tends not to talk about their abilities or achievements

his demeanour was self-effacing, gracious, and polite

self-deprecating:According to Macmillan Dictionary : showing that you think you are not very good or important.We use this word when we want to describe a persomn who is modest.

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