Walking the fine line between confidence and humility


Confidence is great. We need to believe in ourselves, believe that we are worth something, and believe that we are capable of great things.

Humility is also great. It is important that we be humble, understand our weaknesses, and be empathetic to others.

Managing them both is one of the toughest parts of personal growth. How do we learn to walk that fine line between confidence and humility?

From my memory during childhood, it seems people seem to grow up heavily skewed towards one of these. A simple example of this is with social dynamics in grade school and high school. There are the “cool” kids, who skew towards confidence, and mask their weaknesses. And there are the “not-so-cool” kids who skew towards being humble because they don’t seem to fit in well, and get picked on all of the time.

The tendency for people to skew one of the directions leads to two paths in walking the line between confidence and humility.

Path A: Those who skew towards confidence most likely need to be mentally and emotionally smashed a few times in their lives to learn to be humble. The hard part for these people becomes learning to pick themselves up after getting smashed.

Path B: Those who skew towards humility seems go through a slow progression of learning that they actually have value in the world, and should respect themselves by having confidence. This is difficult, and can easily be set back my tough situations.

Now, it isn’t so simple because we have different sides to us. For example, I started out super confident in my physical abilities with sports, but socially I used to be very awkward.

However, it seems that one of the our sides tends to dominate our perception of ourselves. For me, the social awkwardness dominated. I personally identify with being someone that started out humble, and learned to have confidence. I walked Path B.

Perhaps I have a “grass is always greener” mentality, but I’ve always felt that Path A would be easier. At the very least, you have had confidence before and know what it is like. Learning to have confidence is difficult, and when you first start to have confidence, it seems very fragile. It takes work and time to figure it out. At least it did for me.

How did you learn to walk this line? Do the two paths make sense? And if you took Path A, how was it?

(Photo credit: Flickr user quinn.anya)

P.S. This is post number #29 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

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5 thoughts on “Walking the fine line between confidence and humility

  1. I was among the one who took path A. I used to be super confident esp until my early 20s, I thought I had the whole world within my reach. Then I felt like I made wrong career choice which always frustrated me. My life didn’t take off the way I expected it to or rather life started to get real. Then I learned to be humble. I tread softly now but sometimes I miss my uber confident self. While being humble is great, sometimes I do feel like I’m underestimating my own capabilities. Also I’ve realized many people seem to take humility for weakness. Now that I’ve quit my fancy job and am in the process of starting a small business I wonder what will I need the most humility or confidence? What are your thoughts on my situation?

    • I’m also in the process of trying to start something, and I’ve found that I need both confidence and humility. I need the confidence in my abilities to believe I can get something off of the ground. But, I need the humility to understand my weaknesses, looking for mentoring/help, try to figure out what I don’t know that I don’t know, etc.

      I would imagine you would probably need a combination of both also?

  2. This is a false dichotomy. Instead you should be talking about honesty and dishonesty. The opposite of confidence is doubt, while the opposite of humility is arrogance. It seems like what you are writing here is not about BEING confident/humble but only APPEARING confident/humble. After all, someone truly confident would have no need to prove their capability to others and could be quite content both being and appearing genuinely humble. If one understands humility to be self-deprecation they are immature, since false humility is ultimately dishonest and betrays internal doubt that one can be accepted by honestly displaying their capability. One cannot be truly humble without a measure of confidence already.

    One should seek to be genuine and honest inwardly and outwardly – understanding and truthfully showing confidence in their capability and genuinely being humbled by their incapability.

    • Hey Alden! Thanks for dropping by 🙂

      After writing this last night, I started to think the same thing. I think you are absolutely right. Confidence and humility aren’t opposite and aren’t mutually exclusive. Still, for many, they are often connected in some way that can be tricky to figure out.

      You may be right that at the end of it, the real issue is genuine honesty, both inwardly and outwardly. I would only add that the outwardly part includes something about a genuine honesty and respect for others also.

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