When I was young, I was taught to strive for humility and to stay away from any inclinations of feeling proud. Being raised in an Asian culture meant that being humble was a virtue that is above everything else, and taking pride in one’s achievements is often frowned upon. Looking back, the subject of pride and humility was taught in an oversimplified manner without any context. This is because pride and humility, especially in the context of the workplace, can mean the difference between professional success or an average career.
Let me explain by starting with this: pride is not necessarily a bad trait, and humility could hamper your career progression. Being too proud and arrogant would turn off most people, but diminishing your own achievements could lead to negative attributes such as excessive self-criticism, feelings of shame, and low self-confidence.
Similarly, being overtly modest on your achievements could put you under the radar while others get promoted to better positions that you. Let’s examine how these two traits can impact you in the workplace.
How feeling proud can affect your career
There’s no need to elaborate further about how being too boastful can affect the way you are perceived or its impact on your social circle. No one likes a person who brags about everything and tries to be condescending like a know-it-all. Taking pride in your own achievement’s however, is a good ability to have.
Being able to take pride in your own work and progress is sort of like patting yourself on the back. It may sound silly to some or even arrogant to others who don’t know about the sweat and hard work that you’ve put into something. But the ability to recognise and celebrate your achievements is a vital step in your progress when working toward a goal.
In most Asian cultures, it’s common to see someone associate feelings of pride with shame, given that feeling proud is frowned upon. As a result, people tend to nip pride in the bud the moment they start feeling it. Even a simple compliment like “that shirt looks good on you” or “you look great in this picture” can be met with a dismissive response such as “oh, you’re just being nice” or “it’s just the camera angle”. The deflection of compliments is a mild symptom of feeling ashamed with feeling good about yourself.
On a more serious level, any suppression of prideful feelings can give way to negative traits that you’ll want to avoid. Feelings of self-loathing, shame, low self-confidence and being too harsh on yourself will start to develop. These false beliefs about your character and traits will enforce a negative perception of yourself and will take root over time, making it hard to undo. You will even start to believe that they are true.
As you can imagine, a person who has enforced false beliefs about themselves in a work setting might say something like, “oh, I couldn’t have done a better job than this or that person” when complimented on a job well done. While you don’t have to boast about it to every person you encounter, a simple thank you would suffice. The important thing here is that you recognise your achievements for what they are and take pride in them while internalising the achievement to boost your own confidence, which you will then use to take on bigger and more rewarding challenges. Celebrate them with colleagues, friends, or family members who recognise that achievement just as you did.
If you are a person who is unable to take pride in your own achievements, I can think of many ways this will impact your professional career. For one, you will not be a happy employee because you won’t be able to feel good about any work that you complete. Furthermore, the false beliefs that you have about yourself will either lead you to try and look for it at another job, and you probably will not strive to do more because you find no sense of accomplishment in the work that you do.
Is being too humble good for you?
Humility is almost always a quality that everybody likes in a person. Being too humble at work, however, does have its downsides. For one, the unwillingness to let your achievements be visible for fear of looking arrogant could cost you to just fly under the radar at work. No one will recognise or know of the good work you’ve done. No one, not even you, will know your value if you are constantly trying to stay in the background without being assertive about your work.
Not knowing your worth and value will ultimately lead to an impact on your earning ability. Imagine if you are negotiating an employment agreement while being excessively modest about your own self-worth. You might even make the mistake of thinking that the employer will appreciate your humility and give you a better deal. That’s not how it works in the real world, unfortunately.
That’s not all. Being too humble can also compel others to try and take advantage of your good, modest nature. The business environment of the 21st century is an aggressive game, and being too humble can make people think that you are weak, timid, or easy to influence.
Similar to suppressing feelings of pride, being too humble will also downplay any feelings of positive affirmation from your achievements. Positive affirmation in your achievements, as previously mentioned, is a much needed celebratory milestone in your progression toward any goals you have.
Feeling proud of your own achievements is not the same as being arrogant and boastful about what you have or what you’ve done. It’s important that you can acknowledge and recognise your own skills and abilities, for, without that recognition, you won’t be able to identify what you’re good or bad at. Too much humility has a similar effect that diminishes your self worth and ability to recognise the good qualities within you. There is a time and place to be humble as well as feel proud. If you can resonate with what I’ve written here, you might want to do some introspection and examine if you’re being too humble or not proud enough in your work.
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