Is Humility Holding You Back?

I have client, Paul, who’s bright, ambitious, a family man, entrepreneur, and very down to earth. In fact he is so down to earth and concerned about not coming off like a pompous jerk that he gets in his own way.

Compliment him on doing something well he’s quick to dismiss it.  When negotiating contracts with clients he’s swift to say “here are all the wonderful amazing things that I can do for you but don’t think that makes me a genius or that means I’m any better than you.”

Of course he’s better than his clients at what he does, that’s why they are hiring him.

When Paul says “but my skills and talents don’t make me better than you” he’s not allowing his most defining traits -the ones that make him really good at what he does and who he is- shine on their own. Inadvertently the message he sends is that he’s questioned his abilities and maybe really isn’t sure he’ll be able to deliver on what he’s promised.

But that’s not actually the case.

He’s apologizing for no good reason.

He is trying to downplay his talents and his finely honed skills to relate to other people and make sure everyone eels comfortable.  The idea that someone might see him as better than they are is just too much to bear so he’s quick to qualify his gifts and downplay them, in place of just letting them stand on their own without comment.

The irony is that he’s holding himself in higher esteem than the other person, maybe not in the front of his mind, but in the back of his mind. The very thing he’s trying to avoid.

When your humility turns into halting self-deprecation it stops being a good thing.

 Many people, maybe even you (I know I did), grow up with the message don’t put yourself on a pedestal or don’t get too big for your britches. Not being a self-centered narcissist is a really fine thing. It keeps you grounded and driving. And it helps you to notice what other people bring to the table. But it can lead to holding yourself back because you don’t want to show off or be perceived that you’re showing off.

Paul’s challenge is to simply own and honor his best traits -the ones that makes him who he is at his very best and the very reason people want to hire him- without apologizing for them or being pompous.  He’ll be humble, respectful and at ease and will make others feel at ease too.

If this is ringing a bell for you, maybe you’re holding back when you should not.  Here’s my challenge for you each day this week practice simply spotting your best traits and when you get to use them what happens. Don’t judge what happens as good or bad just simply notice. See what happens. See what you discover.

I’d love to hear about your experiences on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

All rights reserved@2013

Deirdre Danahar works creative professional ready to do their best work without sacrificing their quality of life. She is the owner of InMotion Consulting & Coaching, based in Jackson, MS. Reach her at


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