“It’s not vanity to know your own good points. It would just be stupidity if you didn’t; It’s only vanity when you get puffed up about them” – L. M. Montgomery.
All too often, too many of us are told to hide our light under a bushel, to not let people know what we are good at, for fear of being seen to be boasting. At first glance, that seems like a reasonable idea – after all, rare is the person who likes people who boast about how fantastic they are about something. Many of us can recall with a sense of dread those encounters with the pub bore or the office bore or the party bore, who corners you at every opportunity and goes on and on about how fantastic they are. We don’t want to be that person, so we heed strongly the advise to hide our skills, to be modest, to not make a fuss even when we are good at something or even the expert at something.
Which avoids us risking being the vainglorious Bore, true enough.
But it brings with it a significant risk of its own, one which can ultimately cause us even more damage in the long run. That risk is that we can get to be so good at hiding away our talents, skills and expertise from others, we can end up hiding them away from ourselves too. And by doing that, we ensure that we artificially limit ourselves, limiting what we can achieve, and denying ourselves the opportunity to fulfill our true potential.
I remember back when I was studying and training to be a presenter and speaker. I’d done a fair amount of training, I could create and present talks, even receiving standing ovations in some cases. But no matter how well I’d done at those, my need to ensure that I wasn’t boasting about my abilities meant that I was telling myself that I was not a very good speaker, that I was a poor presenter, and that I was nowhere near as good as my peers, which really came to a head during an advanced training session I was attending along with my peers and equals. So determined was I to avoid inflating my own sense of importance that I had suppressed knowledge of my abilities even from my own conscious. So convinced was I, as a result, that I was not as good as my peers, that the inevitable happened – during one exercise I lost myself completely to my insecurities and froze during my presentation. My mind went completely blank, I was totally lost as to what I was supposed to be doing, and my frantic pleas to my mind to give me something, anything, were met with a simple “No, I got nothing, I told you we weren’t good enough!”. I froze for what felt like hours (but was in reality 5 – 10 seconds) before my mind took pity on me and gave me something.
I was discussing what had happened with some of my fellow students afterwards, explaining that I just did not think I was that good.
Their reactions stunned me, as they reminded me of all the successful presentations I have done, pointed out ow good I actually really am at speaking and presenting, and they wondered what on earth I was on about “not good enough”.
Which got me to thinking; well if they believe I am good enough, and the evidence all shows that I am more than good enough, why did I not believe it myself? I worked on it over night, applying some neat little NLP to help me sort myself out, and I resumed the advanced training course the next day with a new mindset, that of knowing what I can do, knowing my skills and strengths, knowing what I’m good at. And I have to say, my presentations since have been all the better for it because, not wishing to boast, but I am good at speaking and presenting, just like my peers and my fellow students on the advanced course.
You may well have found yourself in situations where you felt you couldn’t do something or didn’t know something, and yet people around you were sure that you could do it or did know it.
Or worse and more harmfully, you may have found yourself, say, up for promotion to a position for which you are actually well suited, but your modesty and reserved approach meant that you even convinced yourself that you weren’t good enough and so you missed out on the opportunity which should have been yours for the taking.
When we hide our skills and abilities even from ourselves, we are not serving anyone – we are actually denying people who may need it the benefit of our skills as well as limiting our own progress – which is perhaps one of the most selfish things we an do!
So why don’t you take a moment, right now, to pause and reflect upon what you can do. What things are you actually good at despite telling yourself you are not? And what might you be able to do in life if you stopped hiding your abilities from yourself? What has such hiding cost you already?
So go on, while it’s fresh in your mind, list 10 things which you are actually good at even though you might be telling yourself you aren’t. Then for each one write a couple of sentences about how you know you are good at it, and how knowing this is going to change things for you for the better in some way – it doesn’t have to be a massive change, it could be some small effect, but it all builds up.
And then next time you find yourself thinking “I can’t do this”, check your list to see if you really can’t, or if you are just sabotaging your ability to shine brightly.