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Letting Modesty Prevail

Fashion is a slippery master. It pervades almost every aspect of our lives, not just music and clothes, but attitudes, values and personality traits. These days the tenet that ‘you can achieve anything if you want it enough’ is all pervasive. Similarly I see a trend towards ‘loving yourself’ gathering momentum. Less in favour are the not-so-thrusty attributes of modesty and humility.

I can see why. It’s a hugely competitive world that we live in, and a person needs a certain amount of self-belief and drive in order to survive and thrive. However, we are missing out if our emotional intelligence lacks the more gracious end of the spectrum.

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I recall my own upbringing containing parables (christian and secular) designed to encourage us to put others before ourselves, to realise that pride very often comes before a fall and to recognise and acknowledge the worth of all our fellow humans. Namaste as the yogis would have it. 

We are social beings, and in order to succeed in our social interactions, there are times when we must refrain from championing our own cause. This is not a sign of weakness, on the contrary, and it’s also of great benefit to us, and to our growth. We gain support when we feel surrounded by people who have aptitudes in areas where we are not so strong, we feel secure realising that we don’t have to carry the can all the time, be the best at everything and constantly win. That’s exhausting!

This can be a difficult lesson for children to learn, especially today when they are under so much pressure to continually achieve, and to come up to and surpass fairly arbitrary standards set by the education system and beyond. 

It’s important that we reassure our youngsters that it’s not necessary to perpetually blow their own trumpet in order to be of worth. To be celebratory but modest in success is a true sign of greatness and maturity. To show humility is not a deficiency and doesn’t reveal a faint heart, it can often indicate a desire for clarity and simplicity, removed from the emotional maelstrom of perceived success - and much can be accomplished in that place, no matter how unfashionable it might be.