“You’re not very modest, are you?”
Oh god, the number of times I heard this sentence spoken in a very condescending tone… I’m not even sure I can count to that many.
The thing is, I’m not modest at all, and I don’t aspire to be.
For a reason I don’t quite understand, modesty is painted as this higher standard that we should aspire to. Like honesty. Or becoming a doctor.
As children, we’re told we shouldn’t brag about the things we own or the things we do. And while I kind of agree that bragging about things you own isn’t exactly the way to make friends (though, on many occasions, I got my friends to get something awesome because of how excited I was about my new purchase), this modesty-is-king attitude only manages to create problems later in life.
Because if little Johnny has always been told that he shouldn’t go around telling everyone that he won his trumpet competition, at some point he will think that his achievements are not worth talking about or mentioning to anyone. He will do his thing in silence, or give up entirely. And that’s just sad.
If you think, yeah, but shoving your trumpet competition success down everyone’s throat is just annoying, then you’re probably right. The key to talking about success lies entirely in circumstances. Because if you’re amazing at playing the trumpet, talking about it during a conversation about music is entirely justified. Or if you meet your trumpet-playing idol. Or in a job interview.
Ah, job interviews. And job applications. And university applications.
You know what? They all require you to shove your modesty in your pocket. Of course, you can write in your application that you didn’t really achieve anything, but that’s unlikely to get you even a telephone interview. If you’re conditioned to be modest and keep quiet about your achievements, navigating the world of HR, where everything is about “selling yourself” the right way, will give you a headache. At best, you will go into your final interview and struggle to talk about your best achievement, or talk about things that went wrong in a project. At worst, you won’t even get to the interview.And it will have nothing to do with your actual abilities. Bummer, right?
“Jobs shouldn’t be given based on your ability to sell yourself! It should be objective!” you might want to tell me, all annoyed. And I agree, but so what? The reality is different, and the reality does not like your unnecessary ‘modesty’.
Oh, one more thing. Something that annoys me to an extent that’s difficult to describe – fake-modest people. “I love your outfit!” you say. “Oh, it’s just a few old rags thrown together”. Don’t know about you, but it makes me want to scream. Because I can see that every single piece of clothing you have on matches perfectly, down to the bloody belt. So unless you’re some fashion genius, you must have put thought into it. Which is fine! Just accept the compliment! Admit you made an effort, and that it came together well. I’m jealous of your ability! But your ‘modesty’ isn’t cute, it’s simply annoying. Makes me not want to compliment anyone ever again.
As I said, I’m not modest. I don’t want to be. I don’t walk around telling everyone about every single little thing I achieved since I started walking, but I will tell my friends if I’m proud of something I’ve done. And if someone says “Oh, you’re quite smart, aren’t you?” I will smile and say “Yes, thank you”. I like to think that honesty is the best policy. I won’t say that I’m fluent in French because that’s simply a lie. But I will confirm that, yes, my English is very good for a non-native. You know why? Because it’s true.
Don’t sell yourself short. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Simply say stuff as it is. You will see how much better it can make you feel. And you won’t annoy people around you. Definitely a bonus!