I just met with a woman who impressed me a great deal. I’ve worked with her before, but have recently gotten to know her better. She is smart, confident and a leader. And, she has had success in both the private and public sectors. Other women who I have worked with, and know, exhibit similar qualities. However, what makes her stand out is that you get the sense, after being around her, that your impressions of her are real. She speaks from the voice of experience, yet her words are not spoken in vain. I left our conversation feeling absolutely sure that she is more than capable of delivering on anything she sets her mind to achieving. Given my background, and the people I work with, that’s saying a lot.
One part of her, which honestly came as a surprise I wasn’t expecting, was her humility. I want to be clear here. I am in no way judging her. In fact, the only reason I noticed her humility was because she admitted it to me. I also want to reiterate that the woman I spoke with is very secure in herself and accomplished in her own career. There is no hint of uncertainty, nor lack of confidence in this woman. During most of our conversation, her knowledge and confidence surpassed mine. All of this factored into why I was surprised at her humility. Which I recall her saying she, “needed to improve.”
There is nothing wrong with certain forms of humility. In fact, I know there is a virtuous side to it. Being humble and acting modest can be good. And, let’s admit it, more often than not, modesty is our first response to complements and praise. However, there is another side attached to, and meaning associated with, the term which is damaging to all of us. And that, according to the dictionary, is defined as, “…a low view of one’s own importance.” In a career setting this sounds like the exact opposite of what you want most people to think when they say, “She has humility.”
Now you know my reason for wanting to share this story with you. If an accomplished woman needs to accept complements and work on her humility, what about those women who are just beginning their careers?
Most professionals I respect who are given praise accept it in a humble, rather than conceited, way. They kindly take complements of worth to build upon confidence in their careers. This allows them to stay centered on activities that make a difference while remaining confident and always secure in themselves.
I realize that women can be held to different standards of confidence and that wrongful displays of confidence can be taken out of context. These are more about over expressions of confidence and less about the connection between the confidence and humility. That gets me back to the main point I want to make.
As it relates to careers, you should be aware that humility is a loaded term which can ultimately be associated with a lack of confidence. Because of this, I would discourage you from making any references to, or acting out any expressions of, humility when starting your career. Instead, you should willingly accept complements and take credit due for all of your hard work, results and performance. You have every reason to believe you can stay grounded and use any credits you receive to build upon confidence in yourself to boost your career.