I’ll admit, this question raced through my head as I was getting ready to get my interview recorded (for a series on living an authentic life). Together with a few other questions, such as:
- “What exactly am I doing here?”
- “What do I have to offer in this illustrious company?”
What happened is that I had just checked out a few of the other experts who were also participating in this event (you know, just for the sake of getting some information on what I had been getting myself into).
That’s when I noticed that the list of participants included don José Ruiz, bestselling author of “The Fifth Agreement.”
Enter impostor syndrome
Cue my inner critic: “Who are you to feature alongside him?”
Thankfully, my inner confidence had the perfect response to that question:
“Who am I not to?”
I partially owed that reaction to a particularly beautiful quote that I had first discovered well over a decade ago.
You see, spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson once put it like this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
Is that quote perfect or what? My inner confidence certainly thought so and it wouldn’t stop here.
The trap of false modesty
What I realized in that moment is this:
False modesty can be its own form of arrogance.
The truth is that I knew I had something to offer to people. And that wasn’t dependent at all on how many books I had sold or not sold (turns out Ph.D. theses aren’t exactly bestsellers, alas…).
Pretending that I don’t have something to offer (when I actually do) because I have sold a couple million less books than the person next to me is arrogance. It’s stubbornness. It’s a lie masquerading as wisdom.
And, as Marianne Williamson put it:
“Your playing small does not serve the world.
So I won’t pretend that I don’t have something to offer when I actually do.
I suggest you do the same, for all our sake. ?
P.S.: Please note that I’m specifically referring to false modesty. There are lots of situations where we really don’t have anything useful to contribute (in my case, a lot of them involve cooking, for instance…).
Realizing the actual limits of one’s helpfulness/competence is not false modesty, it’s accurate discernment.