I frequently meet friends of friends who recognise me from Project Self and tell me that they bloody love my posts. They frequently use the word bloody. In the past I know that I would have responded “Thanks, but the turquoise on my logo is kinda wrong and my posts are wayyyyy too long and I don’t know what I’m doing really, I’m just really lucky. What do you do?”
These days, I respond with (huge grin) “Thanks”.
It’s a VERY Kiwi thing to play down our skills and achievements so that we can fit in with the tall poppy syndrome that is rife in NZ and Aus (and likely elsewhere). We don’t want to piss anyone off, and we don’t want to make anyone feel bad about themselves.
From a very young age we learn that showing off, arrogance, and immodesty are just not cool.
So we get an A+ and don’t tell our mates.
When we have to tell them, we make sure to pair it with a discussion of how much of the exam we messed up, or some other bullshit to bring ourselves down so no one thinks we’re showing off.
I used to do it constantly.
God it must have been so annoying, I imagine people would have avoided complimenting me just to avoid the painfulness of me downplaying of myself.
By downplaying ourselves in others eyes not only do we lower their opinion of us, but also our own opinion of ourselves.
It’s definitely not cool.
When I worked on superyachts I worked with an awesome Captain called Mark. He was as straight up as they come, swore and drank rosé like a trooper, and was generally regarded as a total legend among the crew. Except among people that pissed him off. He did not take any crap, and was the most direct person I’ve ever met. I loved him!
Direct, blunt people are by far my favourite humans.
He would often comment on how lucky he was to have such an amazing and intelligent crew, me with my architecture degree, plus lawyers, engineers – all working as cleaners and waitresses aboard our billionaire’s yacht.
And I remember that when he complimented me, I would initially downplay my intelligence or achievements, as we do in Kiwiland.
When I did so, he would cut me off mid sentence – “No false modesty” he’d say, and that was that.
It was a huge realisation for me, having been so ingrained in the “modest” mentality. And I realised he was right. I knew I was intelligent, and I knew I did an awesome job; downplaying it was complete bollocks.
Have you ever told someone how lovely they look only to have them tell you that their dress is a bit old, or they’re a bit fatter than they’d like to be, or some other shitty downplaying of the compliment?
It’s bloody annoying isn’t it? Because then your compliment turns into having to panda to someone to try to boost their self worth as they cut it down right in front of you. It’s awkward for everyone involved.
Sometimes we really don’t believe that we look good (I’ve been there, let me tell you!), or that we’re intelligent, and sometimes we do, but most of us play it down either way.
So next time you receive a compliment – practice this: notice the feelings that come up in your body when it happens.
You’ll likely feel some discomfort or irritation, which you will normally automatically react to by talking some kind of crap.
In observing your reaction, you will have space between your usual automatic response – and in that space you can choose to react differently.
Try using just one word.
Notice how bloody uncomfortable it feels at first. With practice this will go away.
Until finally, you’re no longer talking yourself down. You’re graciously accepting compliments, and maybe even (gasp) enjoying them!
If you want to work on your confidence, this is a great place to start.
Confidence is not arrogance nor showing off. It’s just accepting someone’s opinion as it is – complementary or not.
Because false modesty is not an attractive quality.