I checked up on the word ‘Modesty’ when I encountered this situation a month ago.

According to Wikiquote:

‘Modesty is often used as synonym of humility and an antonym of boastfulness; a modest person does not draw attention to their own real or supposed accomplishments and desirable attributes. Terms related to “modesty” in this sense include “shyness”, and “simplicity.’

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see this definition? I knew what modesty meant, but I realized that I have misunderstood on how it should be applied in our daily lives.

I was caught off guard during a business retreat in France when asked about why my target audience should choose me over everyone else in the same industry. What have I done or accomplished that sets me apart from everyone else?

It was a 30min exercise session where I was to pitch in front of ‘potential clients’ and during the Q&A session, these questions were asked. I froze, standing there in front of them not knowing how to answer the question. After the session, I had feedbacks from my ‘potential clients’ about what I could have said when being asked these questions. It occurred to me later that there’s a big difference in terms of the confidence level of oneself between a) writing your accomplishments down in a CV and go in for an interview to elaborate it and b) being asked to speak about your accomplishments impromptu.

If you have a modest personality it’s very unlikely that you will confidently speak about your achievements impromptu. You might feel like you’re boasting to others about yourself. That’s why it is easier in an interview because you are usually prepared for an interview and you’ve already done the first step by declaring your achievements in writing. When speaking, I would conclude that you are more comfortable to elaborate than to declare. The worst scenario in the corporate world is waiting for your boss to recognize your achievements. This is especially true about women because we normally fear being called aggressive, boastful, pushy, etc.. if we have to speak or declare our achievements, just like we fear asking for a raise. This is a complete chapter of its own, which we have seen in many publications.

To come back to modesty, at the end, it all comes down to recognizing that modesty + confidence together is a strength.

For example, when speaking about your accomplishments, it need not be seen as boasting about oneself. Instead, it could be seen as an example or learning piece of information to others. Imagine if you did not speak out and inform others about how and what you have done to achieve one of the goals of the company or save costs for your company or how you manage to bring yourself to the next level in your personal life, it would have been a miss opportunity for others in your network or people that you’ve just met to learn something from you or about you.

Think of role models like Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. They are modest and very confident. Their messages still live to this day and very much in the hearts of many people in the world.

And finally, always keep this quote in mind:

“He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.“