Do you ever get that nagging feeling to lower yourself when someone tells you that you did a great job? That feeling that says, “Now, tell them you weren’t that great”? That feeling that makes you try to diminish the work that you created because you feel it is the proper thing to do. Will our success bother others? Will it create animosity? Will you lose friends if you don’t act like whatever you’ve done wasn’t wonderful? Or maybe you lull yourself into thinking that, even though you know you deserve something based on sheer talent alone, you won’t get it. You express this concern to the people who know your talent, hoping that it will make you look modest.
Whether you consciously make the decision to worry or belittle yourself, it’s something that everyone does, and it is frustrating as hell.
Because is that fake modesty really being modest at all? Wouldn’t we rather hear people saying, “Thank you so much! I worked really hard and I am so happy with the outcome!” instead of, “Really, it wasn’t anything too difficult. Anyone can do it!” Faking your modesty makes the people around you resentful of your talent. It makes people think that you are insulting their intelligence by suggesting that you believe you are anything less than the best.
While you’re complaining that you’re not good enough, they’re comparing themselves to you and probably feel like if they didn’t know that they were less talented before, they definitely do now. Or worse, if you are not as talented as you have convinced yourself that you are—let’s face it, we’ve all been there—you come off as, well, ignorant of the fact that the compliments coming your way are not genuine at all. It’s a vicious tug of war between praise and denial, and we all get ourselves caught somewhere in the middle of it.
The thing that defines truly being modest is a quiet understanding that you are good at what you do, but you don’t expect others to praise you excessively. You want recognition for your hard work, but you would never need anyone to go on and on about how brilliant you are without crediting someone else for helping you somewhere along the way, or without telling them that you worked very hard and how fortunate you are. Those people are to be admired. Those are the people who understand their talent, but are not confident to the point of cockiness. Their modesty is a character trait, not something that they do because they have to.
We’re all just going to reason our way through everything anyway. Fake modesty is something that we do as a society in order to follow the protocol of taking a compliment. So can’t we just own up to how bad-ass we are? Can’t we say thank you and let people know that it was hard getting to where we are, hard to make it, but we did and we are the better for it? That seems much better than the alternative: glancing at your feet while you receive your praise, saying, “No, it was really nothing.” A simple thank you is always better than that.