Can a person be too humble for their own good?

I met a friend for dinner over the weekend. Being past colleagues and long-time friends, she and I reflected on professional and personal journeys, as she too now begins a new journey of her own.

We got round to talking about the latest project I have been working on. Part One of the project has been a major success. I confided in my friend that while looking through photos and videos that captured Project Part One, I noticed my physical demeanor and stance. Especially in conversation with others. Shoulders lower, slightly hunched to show a more agreeable disposition — a familiar vibe I’ve noticed throughout my years. Somewhat off-kilter with the confidence I need to generate as a major figure in the project I’m working on.

It has been filed at the back of my mind gnawing away for resolution as I move through my new phase of personal growth. I asked my friend if from knowing me for years, she too thought I might be unconsciously channeling a deeper sense of humbleness which might unwittingly be annihilating my ability to shine my light to its full capacity; preventing me from fully embracing my space as a respected voice in the media, communications and technology space.

She immediately answered yes. “Be the power you are Naz! You don’t have to be so nice that other people need to feel it. You are, and people will feel that in your interaction anyway.” The gnawing thought filed away at the back of my mind was soothed, having received confirmation that the intuitive instinct was correct in its timing and deliberation.

It’s always great to get feedback too from a wider community of professionals that you know and like and trust. I took to LinkedIn to do that and ran a poll a few days ago. The voting and interesting insights from Erick Murillo, Mike Saunders, James Keir and Charlene Udal helped me develop my internal conversation better on the question.

Insights from Erick, Mike, James, and Charlene

Erick’s feedback talked to the core of why I think many of us struggle with too much humility. Culture plays a major role in defining gender expectations of performance as a human being. Undoing and unworking conditioned and widely accepted cultural beliefs are key to digging deeper about one’s need to please, be accepted, be respected, especially as a woman. A conversation I am exploring within myself.

“It’s important to know when and how to wield it.” Mike’s closing remark in his comment aptly articulated letting humility shine for the right purpose. Holding one’s power for the sake of others is both good and bad in its objective. Good because people lead by respect and not by fear. Bad because you allow your own worth to be undermined politely. I am done with that!

I’ll check in with James on the podcast he listed to and update this article with the link. Would like to hear those insights!

Charlene’s simple opening explanation made my heart smile — “to be in complete agreement with who you’ve been created to be — nothing more, nothing less.” This, for me, talks to an acceptance of the divine power of gifts given to every person. And the use of these gifts to live one’s purpose in a loving, generous and disciplined way.

So what’s the lesson here? Can a person be too humble for their own good?

This past week’s insight and deep introspection say yes. You can be when you don’t fully embrace the right to the divine gifts with which you have been blessed. Acceptance of one’s own ability to inspire positive change is absolute. A chink in the armor of acceptance hunches one into a posture of unnecessary humility: bound to a less than achieved purpose of a more than able capability.

Nazareen Ebrahim is a media and communications specialist, international conference speaker and moderator for the technology and culture spaces, and an AI Ethics Officer in training. Get in touch on naz@nazconsulting.co.za to start a conversation.

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South African human being. I am a quirky and curious character ready for a laugh but dead serious most of the time. Kindness always.

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Nazareen Ebrahim

Nazareen Ebrahim

South African human being. I am a quirky and curious character ready for a laugh but dead serious most of the time. Kindness always.

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