I read a post last month with a cover image of a woman CEO with the title “Humility is overrated” emblazoned across the page. The woman was posing in a manner you would expect of her stature – unnerving steely eyes staring straight back at the viewer, confidence oozing out of every pore, her wide stance suggesting a force to be reckoned with. The article celebrated her achievements but then went on to describe the challenges of being a woman CEO, detailing the tragedy of the modern woman in all its forms before ultimately blaming our feminine tendency towards humility and modesty for the current woes of women in the workplace. Yadda yadda yadda…
Here’s the issue I have with this narrative… We tell ourselves that we must embrace who we are, accepting every essence of our being. If you don’t like who I am, then you can get stuffed. Haters gonna hate, right? BUT to make it in this world, to climb to the top of that proverbial ladder, don’t you dare be humble, or worse, modest. You must stamp out any and every trait that could potentially indicate weakness. My question is… Are we to be who we are or be who people expect us to be?
Modest, unassuming, humble. Women who display these traits can often be viewed as soft, powerless and feeble.
Proud, steadfast, and assertive. Women who display these traits can often be viewed as egotistical, forceful, unkind, and argumentative.
There is currently a movement that dictates that women can only be the former or the latter, suggesting that the two views are antithetical and in complete opposition to each other.
To that end, I say, au contraire, opposite views they may be, but they are very much two sides of the same coin, the yin and yang. Women of the world know this – you can be both all those things! But the key to success is BALANCE.
Assertiveness seems to be the buzzword for success. It is indeed the trait that implies empowerment, high self-confidence and self-esteem, earning respect from others, creating win-win situations through clear communication and building honest relationships.
But, too many people underestimate the power of humility. A good level of humility allows you to learn, magnifies your strengths, helps you connect with others, makes you relatable, empowers others to lead, encourages curiosity and creates endless possibilities. In fact, without humility, there would be no growth! You only need to look at all the great leaders of the world – a certain level of humility usually allows them to move forward in their dealings.
Knowing when to play the modest and humble card is just as important as knowing when to play the proud and assertive card. Having the right balance of humility and assertiveness gives us a true advantage in all our dealings and personal and professional lives.
Perhaps then, the tragedy of the modern woman in the workplace is not that humility is overrated, for we shouldn’t feel like we have to sacrifice that part of ourselves that makes us innately and wonderfully feminine. Perhaps the tragedy is that humility is underrated, and being assertive is not rated enough.
Whatever the case, the simple truth is this – ignore the noise around you, find the right balance of ALL your traits, follow your gut in knowing when to push hard and when to pull back, but most of all, know your worth.
Everything else will then fall into place.