I heard an incredible speaker a few weeks ago. And while her story was inspiring, I’m not going to share it here. What really blew me away was when we broke into small groups, and heard the first question she asked us all to respond to: Name one quality that you like about yourself. Well, actually it was the answers given by the other women around me that caused my jaw to hit the floor: “Um….. I don’t know.” “Do I have to answer this one?” “What’s the next question?”

Seriously? There isn’t one thing that you like about yourself? Don’t get me wrong, humility is a wonderful thing. I’m not encouraging you to start printing buttons with I Am A Thoughtful Person emblazoned on them to wear as you traipse through the aisles at Target. But when you can’t come up with a single thing when asked specifically—something is very wrong.

There’s a big difference between humility and self-hatred, though many of us get them confused. Self-abasement and self-contempt aren’t the same thing as being humble. A paper by Ou et. al. on the topic of humility among CEOs, published in the January 2014 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly states:

To the contrary, humble people are fully aware of their talents and abilities. Knowing their limitations helps them put their strengths in perspective, allowing them to avoid arrogance or self-contempt. Selfacceptance allows them to willingly disclose themselves, admit their limitations or mistakes, and actively seek feedback. Thus, through reflective consciousness, humility is associated with open-mindedness and willingness to learn from others.

Spoiler alert: Humility is a great thing to be good at if you’re a CEO. But if you instead believe that you have nothing of value to offer, then you’re not likely to make it to that top position. It’s a very slippery slope.

I get where most of us are coming from. We’ve been raised in a culture that gets the two confused all the time. Especially when it comes to how they are exhibited by women.

Here’s an example of one sentence, said in humility:
You create such beautiful graphics, I’d love to have you work on this project with me.

And here’s that same sentence, twinged with self-loathing:
I’m so awful with graphics can you come work on this project and perform a miracle?

Do you see the difference? Asking for someone to share their expertise, talents and gifts doesn’t mean that you must throw yourself entirely under the bus.

There are a lot of verses in the Bible that talk about humility. God values humility in those who follow him, and He values our servant-heartedness. But the ultimate example of humility done right, Jesus, in no way refuses to acknowledge his talents. He blatantly refers to himself as the son of God. He doesn’t shirk from using his abilities to better the world. The thing is, while being his best self, He also washes feet. He cares for those around him and lifts them up. He doesn’t hog the spotlight, insist on being treated like a king, or consider it beneath him to get his hands dirty. Even though He is, actually, the king of kings and could, quite frankly, demand all of that without reproach.

God has given you many good gifts and talents to serve him with. He has also, in his infinite wisdom, left some incredibly wide gaps in your talent spectrum. Know where they are and acknowledge them. Allow and encourage others to shine, but don’t be afraid to be confident in who you are. Live with humble confidence.

What’s your perspective on living with humble confidence? Is this something you struggle with? Share your thoughts below. We would love to hear from you!

Megan Stevens

Megan Stevens is embracing her recent move to the South, enjoying the hospitality of Northern Alabama with her husband, 3 year old daughter and soon-to-arrive baby. Megan is passionate about community, celebration and life around the table.

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