Do you value being modest? I seem to be encountering both men and women lately who have a thing for being humble. Some are leaders within their organizations who see humility, or even self-deprecation, as a means to getting respect from their teams by putting them on the same level. Others are entrepreneurs who don’t want to “oversell” themselves or toot their own horn. Both groups are selling themselves short and diminishing their power, and the power of those around them, by hiding their light.

Two Signals that False Modesty is Impacting Your Bottom Line

1. You are annoyed by people who you perceive as arrogant, egotistical, or self-absorbed.

If you find yourself evaluating people based on whether or not they are too arrogant for your liking, first, you need to know that these people are pressing a “button” within you, and it’s got nothing to do with them. (Button-pushing is another topic, so trust me for today!) Second, recognize that you are wasting valuable energy on this evaluation of them and of yourself relative to them. Any time we have a button that costs us energy, it is affecting our bottom line results – financial and emotional.

2. You are struggling with clarity about your personal “branding” because you are afraid to claim and promote your talents and gifts.

Whether your business is your brand, or you are simply looking at how you “brand” yourself with the behaviors or characteristics you employ in your job and family, you will struggle if you put modesty and humility on a pedestal. I am not advocating you ignore what you appreciate about these qualities, but there are hidden commitments at work. As Marianne Williamson says, “we are all meant to shine,” and it is our biggest job here on earth to let our light shine, giving others permission to do the same. If you are not willing to do this, you are not only hurting yourself (people need to know your talents so they can employ them), but you are disempowering the people around you. “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

“False” Modesty’s Hidden Commitment: Playing it Safe

First, why do I say “false” modesty? Because I believe all modesty is false. We are each put on this planet with unique gifts and talents that we are meant to use and let shine. When we choose to be modest, we are discounting those gifts. If you are being modest to avoid being rude, isn’t it also rude to discount your gifts? The hidden commitment behind false modesty, in my experience, comes back to a commitment to playing it safe. Safety manifests itself in different ways, however. Which resonates with you?

  1. Safety means keeping love. If we were scolded as a child for bragging, or told that it was wrong to share our gifts boldly, by someone important to us, we will associate bragging with a loss of love. If our own parents (siblings, teachers, etc.) don’t want to know about how great we are, why would anyone else? If we have this subconscious connection going on, we will harshly judge those who we see as “bragging,” while deep down we long to own and claim our gifts in that way. The impact: We feel sad, empty, and disconnected because people don’t see our true gifts.
  2. Safety means avoiding the expectations of others. We may not wish to talk up our own talents for fear of creating expectations we then can’t meet. Perhaps this happened to us at some point in the past, and we learned that if we train people not to expect a whole lot from us, maybe we will surprise them with our performance and earn their praise. This seems much safer than putting the pressure on ourselves to deliver. The impact: We play small and train ourselves not to expect too much. We get passed over for opportunities, we undercharge for our service, and we work harder than we need to.
  3. Safety means staying on the same playing field. We may have been taught it was bad to judge people or to put oneself first, or we may have lost a friendship because we chose to shine and someone else was too jealous to be around us. If you find yourself being hung up on whether or not you are being judgmental by claiming your gifts, you may have this one. It is fear that you will lose friends or connection to others if you let yourself stand out in some area. You don’t want to be “too big for your britches.” The impact: We spend a lot of time trying to decide whether we really do have a talent that someone else doesn’t, and finding evidence that we don’t. We spin our wheels, wear ourselves out, and don’t move ahead.

So, what do we do about this? Well, I believe it is always helpful to identify and resolve the underlying cause of our hidden commitments, so we can recognize that they are not necessarily the Truth. If you know where yours came from, you can do that now. I am happy to coach you through that.

Decide to Shine

You can also simply DECIDE to change and let yourself shine. If you are aware of the impact that playing small is having on you, and you are ready to let it go, just do it. “Your playing small does not serve the world.” If you are ready, here are some things to keeping mind.

  • Your parents, siblings, teachers, etc., likely didn’t know how important it was for you to shine your light – they were just passing on what they were taught. It is not true that it is wrong to “brag,” it is simply old “knowledge.”
  • When you are in harmony with your purpose, shining your light will not look like bragging. Think about someone who you know who powerfully owns their gifts, yet isn’t arrogant. They are in harmony with their spirit, and you can be too. It is only when you are concerned about arrogance that you will appear arrogant.
  • Diminishing others’ expectations of you so that you don’t set yourself up to “fail” also diminishes your own expectations of yourself. Your words are powerful and contain energy… you cannot enroll another into your smallness without also enrolling yourself.
  • There is a difference between judgment (deciding we are better or worse than someone), and discernment (understanding our unique talents and gifts as distinct from someone else’s). When we don’t view one playing field as better than another, but rather see them as different games we are uniquely suited to play, we can stop comparing our game to that of others, and let our light shine.
  • When you pretend to be less amazing than you truly are, simply put, you are discounting the people around you. You are saying with your actions, “they can’t handle the fullness of who I am.” That, to me, is arrogant.
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