This past week had a bunch of things going on that got me thinking about the nature of “humility”. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated April 4th, Passover started April 6th and Easter was April 7th. All of them center on the stories of people of extraordinary achievement, each of whom understood their role in those achievements and each of whom had a truly humble heart.
As a career coach, I frequently work with people who doubt themselves. One of my clients will break into tears if I complement him. Especially dangerous is the earned complement. To risk stating the obvious, getting a job when you break into tears every time someone complements you is difficult. Sooner or later, someone will ask you what you intend to contribute to the company and you need to have a genuine, credible answer.
Which leads me back to the nature of humility. King, Moses and Christ are true heroes. People who went beyond every expectation we might have. People who led us, inspired us, challenged us and left the world a much better place than they found it. Mahatma Gandhi fits this pattern as well. Each of them understood at their very core the value they brought. Each of them was also profoundly humble. My point is that it’s “OK” to understand that you bring value, provided you actually bring value.
I grew up thinking, I guess I was taught, that claiming my strengths was inappropriate; people would see me as a “braggart”. I was privileged to be a witness (if only from a distance) to Martin Luther King Jr as he led all of us into a greater understanding of our shared humanity. There is absolutely no question he understood what he brought to the table. Yet somehow, he was not a “braggart”. When reading the Bible, Jesus clearly and specifically states that he is “perfect” and that he is the “Son of God”, yet for him that statement was not a “sin”. Moses grew up as the grandson of the Pharaoh!
My point is that claiming and building on the things we do well is a genuine requirement for true humility. Humility is about accepting ourselves for both good and ill. Real success in job search is about building on the good, while remembering that we will always and genuinely need the good others bring as well.