False modesty, self-esteem + knowing yourself

August 16, 2014

453279309_640One of our friends is famous. Oh, you won’t know his name, but if you worked in the highly esoteric field in which he works, you would. He is known for his huge brain and accomplisments in a field in which I am clueless.  Then again, I can barely do long division and sometimes fail the simple arithmetic Captchas. Just sayin’.

Anyway, here’s the thing. Our friend is fun and funny and able to carry on conversations with those of us who don’t approach his level of smarts.

And he also has a healthy ego. High self-esteem.

By that I mean that he knows who he is and what he has accomplished and is super-secure in that.

There is no false modesty here. He owns his many achievements.

I find that refreshing, because I am a woman and spend most of my time with other women, many of whom simply can not acknowledge their own strengths and accomplishments.

Maybe they think it unseemly. Or unfeminine.

I think this inability to own our accomplishments is why so many women have issues with self-esteem.

We know all the things we don’t like about ourselves, but how much time have we spent patting ourselves on the back for our strengths?

If we can’t own our own achievements, how can we expect others to?

Suppose I asked you what your #1 accomplishment was. Many of  you would be able to tell me, I’m sure.  But some women couldn’t. They’re self-effacing.  They don’t view their strengths as part of who they are. They don’t wear their power.

So, let’s change that conversation a bit.

I know what i amWho are you?

I’m asking you to strut your stuff right here in the Comments section.

Let us all know who you are at your best–what are  your strengths or accomplishments?

What’s the thing you do best? That you pat yourself on the back about privately but may not share?

And if there’s more than one, all the better!

So tell us:

Who ARE you at your best?

58 comments on “False modesty, self-esteem + knowing yourself
  1. Nick Dean says:

    I like to pat myself on the back from time to time and have to catch myself before it gets out of control. It is important to make sure your not sniffing your own butt toots but at the same time have a healthy self-esteem. Great Post! Pat Pat

  2. I was raised to be humble. 🙂

    • Yes but now you are grown and can make your own choices!
      If you Google “humble” you’ll see that it’s not such a positive word. There’s nothing good about having a low opinion of onesself.

  3. donna says:

    Oh boy! You hit on something here.
    For generations women have been “taught” that to boast about ones accomplishments is brash, rude, and wayyyy too forward. I am reminded of an interview I saw of the amazing Merly Streep. She shared how for many years she curbed her attitude and appearance as she new the field of acting required a woman to behave a “certain: way and over confidence was not IT at all. When a male actor is forward and honest about what *he* has done or how he wants things done, then he is {for the most part} “confident and secure”, but when a female does this she is a “bitchka with a demanding attitude”.
    This was pretty much what she said {though we have ALL seen the headlines of male actors such as Charlie Sheen, Shia LeBouf, etc. 🙂 }.
    Don’t even get me started on the Christian church front. Talk about NOT wanting women to “own it”!
    So…what am I “good at”?
    Parenting. No, I do NOT have perfect kids….help me get up as I fell on the floor laughing at that one. BUT, the hubby and I have always had our kids best interests at the forefront of our parenting choices and I honestly believe that is what contributes the most to being a “good parent”.
    Overcoming, I have overcome many…MANY obstacles in my life. I believe this is because of God;’ grace and mercy, but I also know that I needed to be a compliant child of His in order for this to happen. It takes years of positive, intentional decisions to change the trajectory of ones life. And I did that :).
    Creating. I am a good creator of *things*. I think OUT of the box and this has been to the betterment of my home and the lives of the people around me.

    NOW that I have said all this….you would CRINGE if you knew how my mind is telling me to be sure I list all the negative things I can think of about those listed above in order to not appear to be bragging or proud!
    Oy…old habits sure die hard!

    THANKS for a great post.

  4. Barbara says:

    I’m calm. I’ve been told over and over I have a calming effect on people.
    I listen.
    I’m a really good public speaker and when I taught – I was a great teacher. I loved it. I loved getting kids (high school kids) and adults when I spoke – to think. I wish I had an outlet for that now.
    I love to write – but still have a hard time saying, “I’m a good writer.”
    I’m a good interior designer – though not officially schooled to be one.
    I make a mean vodka tonic.
    I’m courageous. This is something my mother tells me over and over as she has seen me live my truth. A guru, years ago, told me the same thing. I see it as wanting to be congruent – but others interpret it as courage. I like that..
    Okay – now that my arm hurts from patting myself on the back – I’ll stop.
    That felt good though, Carol – I’m going to step out into my day an inch or so taller.

  5. I’m British and a woman, hell I was raised not to make a fuss or draw attention to myself; even when I was being dragged off in an ambulance because my appendix had burst last year I was still telling everyone not to make such a fuss and I’d be alright after a cup of tea and a nap! What are you doing to me gal?! In the spirit of the post though I do secretly pat myself on back and even in the face of appearing unseemly I will share: I am very proud that I have stopped smoking, now just about to start week 4 of being a smoke free zone, AND that’s despite the fact my partner has carried on puffing away. I think that deserves a gold star and much trumpeting. Also, I think I’m good at writing, I love it and dream of writing a book one day. Well I’ve already written two, but I mean a fiction one. Great post, love the way you get your point across, we need to blow our own trumpets.

  6. Jacqueline says:

    First, I love this. Love love.

    I am excellent at the work I do.
    I cut right to the heart of the matter and can help people see – usually through tears, but they see.
    I’m funny. And intense.
    I help people, projects, organizations, communities, and businesses see what is possible to do their best work and be their best selves.
    I can make a meal in 20 minutes that is healthy and fresh.
    I parallel park like a pro – in a car without any bells and whistles.
    I am a compassionate, dynamic speaker who shares intimate knowledge to let others in on how to do the work they do better.
    I’m wicked smart and not afraid to show that.
    I am outstandingly creative and develop actual projects that I put into place – I’m a do’er not a dreamer.
    I believe in community and in possibility and dwell in the half full glass.

    Oh, this was fun! I’m cutting and pasting this so I remember this when I am kicking myself for missing a plane, getting the conversation wrong, or just plain down in the dumps. Thank you Carol!

  7. So true. Men are taught to let the world know about their accomplishments and to be confident. Women are told to downplay theirs and not to show off. Celebrating all our skills and abilities is so empowering!

  8. I’m very confident with all I have achieved. It started when I was a kid and my dad would say,” You can achieve ANYTHING you want if you work hard for it” So I did!!!

  9. I come from a family of highly talented people (yes one is famous and people know his name) and in all of that I felt dwarfed. It took me years to recognize my talents. So here you go… I can tell a story well and I have an eye for beauty. Both things feed my soul and I’m OK if no one else recognizes it. Since I am alone I try to spend a little time each day applauded any success I achieve. I LOVE affirmations!

  10. Liv says:

    You’re so right – we’re taught to be humble and modest…

    So I have one thing to say:

    I’m a writer!! Not only that, but people enjoy reading what I write!

    Thanks for the opportunity to say it! I hope I can teach my daughter (and my sons) to be as bold as your friend!

  11. Donna says:

    I never give up, never take no for an answer. I am a fiercely loyal friend.
    I love my children and try everyday to remind them they are amazing.
    I am completely loyal to my husband. Literally and figuratively.
    I will never stop hoping I can overcome challenges.
    I have a green thumb it has been a constant hobby since I was 16. I remember my first plant.
    I am a good writer, there I said it!!! Bless my heart!
    I believe…..and that is a good thing
    Thank you for this moment to affirm. We are all amazing, we just need to remind ourselves of it, often

  12. Joan Stommen says:

    I’ve encouraged others to toot their own horn when I worked as a principal and as a writing instructor……but sometimes find it hard to blpw my own. I WAS a great educator and writing coach. I’m good with empathy and reading people’s feelings. I’m a fun Grama and I’m good at being ready and willing to try something new. The hardest thing to say publicly is….I’m a good writer! I’ve gained confidence and affirmation because of posts like this and friends like you, Carol! How awesome getting us all to look inward and getting it officially down here in black and white.

  13. Ines Roe says:

    I think it is so easy for us to get stuck in our comfort zone and hide. This way we don’t have to step out and “own our stuff.” I think when we step into our “growth zone” we should proudly step up to the mountain and proclaim our achievement. It takes courage for us to do this and it is something we should be proud of and acknowledge in ourselves.
    Thank you for this post and the reminder to stand up tall for ourselves.

  14. I think one of the best things I ever did was to birth and parent two wonderful adult sons. Very proud of that.
    I’m a good public speaker, at ease in front of a crowd and able to connect and communicate.
    I am, or used to be, a good baker–made all of our bread for years and as a caterer my speciality was wedding cakes!
    I”m sassy, a fabulous flirter and a good listener. Creative and playful, but intelligent. Love the above comment, “Wickedly smart”.
    And, as I’ve said before–in jest, but seriously, I am a Sex Goddess and BJ Queen. I think that about says it all!

  15. I love this post Carol. Because understanding that sharing your brilliance shines the light on everyone around you is so important. I own and share that I am a creative genius, an inspirational motivator, a fashionista designer, an ultimate creator, a manifesting generator, simply and complexly divine ( and so much more but I’ll stop here). Knowing this about me allows me to see it in AlL the awesome women I meet. <3

  16. Roz Warren says:


    The best thing I’ve done? Gave birth to my wonderful son and raised him to maturity, without once dropping him on his head (although once when he was a baby I put him down for a nap, then locked myself out of the house, on a winter day, in just my pajamas…. ) (We both survived.)

    But I’m also going to cut & paste the bio I just submitted to an editor who wanted to know about my work:
    Roz Warren writes for the New York Times, the Funny Times, the Huffington Post, the Jewish Forward and the Christian Science Monitor, among others, and has been featured on the “Today Show.” Twice! She’s also the editor of 20 humor books, including “Men Are From Detroit: Women Are From Paris” and “Women‘s Glib.” Roz loves to work with her fellow writers one-on-one as a writing coach. Read more of her work at http://www.rosalindwarren.com, connect with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/writerrozwarren and follow her on Twitter at @WriterRozWarren.

  17. I am working on this. I AM WORKING ON THIS. I really am.

    My proudest achievement? My son, of course!

    Once again, Carol, I am working on this….

  18. chuck house says:

    I’ve known some pretty famous people over the years–been lucky, you might say. I’ve come away struck often by their insecurity, their need to always show ‘their A game’ instead of just relaxing and being themselves, and more than infrequently, their insensitivity to others. I’ve also known a few who are as you describe–fully self-aware, confident that they can just do the things that really motivate them, and in so doing, often make a huge difference for the rest of us. The difference between a Larry Ellison and a Bill Hewlett, or between Steve Jobs and Carver Mead, or Michelle Pfeiffer and Joan Didion is not in their accomplishments but in their humanity.

    I still aspire to learn to be more like the latter three and less like the former three (as though I could imagine being in any of their leagues). My own proudest accomplishments–my marriage and my children. Not too far behind, my garden.

  19. This really is an exercise that is hard to put down for others to see. So here goes: I’m proud of having taught my children to pursue their dreams and they did. I never say that I’m busy, I just prove that fact by being creatively busy. I’ve filled a fantastic bucket (list) to the point that I will have to poke a hole in it so I can get more in. Our photos are not stuffed in a drawer or scrapbook, they are being published on my blog with related stories for me and anyone else to enjoy. I’m an optimist and proud of it. I have good health and work hard on exercising my muscles and brain.

  20. WendysHat says:

    I thankfully learned at a young age to love who I am. and be confident and happy with that. I am fun, friendly, interesting, the person that everyone wants to know and be with. I’m pretty much just a normal girl who makes the every day things exciting! I have way too many interests to list here, like a really lot in the way of hobbies! Thanks. This is a fun one!

  21. Laura says:

    Oh I love this exercise and can’t wait to read all the comments. But enough about everyone else…what about me!? I have extremely well developed critical thinking skills and can tease out creative solutions to niggling problems I encounter in my job as a nurse. My clinical reasoning is made even better by my clinical intuition.

    Wow…that was kind of scary and wonderful to type.

  22. Kay says:

    I wrote a grant request that provided $30,000 to feed children a full meal at after school daycare sites in the poorest areas of our city.

  23. At my best, I’m one awesome broad. I am a darned good writer and storyteller. I have raised my daughter to self-sufficient adulthood. I am kind and thoughtful, even to strangers and folks who can’t do a thing for me. I may not be perfect (far from it – there’s a bit of a temper), but I’m working really hard at being a better person than I am.

    Thanks, Carol, for offering this opportunity. I do need to remind myself that I’m a pretty decent human being after all.

  24. I am a good mother, a terrific wife and a loving grandmother as well as one hell of a daughter. I am loyal to a fault, I am generous with my time and money. I never drive passed a stranded motorist. I get involved and care about the underdog. I am honest. I manage to take care of my mom while fighting my own diseases and demons and try to show her every single day how much I love you. I once changed a motor in a car by myself just hecause my 4 brothers said there was no way and I once beat the hell out of three guys who were attacking my friend. I raised an United States Marine and a school teacher who have become amazing adults and I always try to learn at least one new thing a day…sometimes whether I want to or not. Thank you Carol, that felt good!

  25. Kathy says:

    At my best I am the person that can always see the silver lining to a situation. I am the calm head at times of great stress and anxiety. I am an encourager. I am a protector and defender. I will always be a champion for my children. Their biggest fan.

  26. Diane says:

    I write. I love people. And I’m cheerful. There. That’s me! 🙂

  27. Lana says:

    This is hard for me for so many reasons. But you are 100% right so I will not be a party pooper :)!
    I’m a very good mother and wife. I’m smart, empathetic and kind, and always try to see the good in people.
    Whew…why was that so hard?

  28. Carol – this is my favorite thing of yours that I have read so far! I love how you have changed the conversation here! So much so, that I will give it a try:
    – Although there are certainly moments I would like to redo, I know that, overall, I have been a very good mother to my children.
    – I take responsibility seriously, I am compassionate and caring, and I truly always mean no harm.
    – I didn’t write for years, because I doubted I had any talent, but I am beginning to suspect I may be a little better at it than I thought.
    The last was the hardest to say – in front of people who may have read my blog!
    Thanks for encouraging us to break through our modesty for a moment. I loved reading what everyone else has written. None of it came across as bragging – just honest self-assessment.
    Awesome post, Carol!

  29. bodynsoil says:

    Oddly enough, I have a health self esteem, otherwise I might not have survived being the whipping post of school yard bullies. I’m blessed with a good physical body, one that is healthy, lean, tall, and agile. I’m smart and well organized with a decent memory for being perimenopausal. I have a lot of talents, the one thing I lack is enough self confident to explore singing or working for myself, but I’m working on that as we speak..

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