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Authentic Leadership

How might the Asian value of “Humility” be a double-edged sword?

By June 28, 2022August 21st, 2022No Comments3 min read

Are you someone who has grown up with parents who emphasize being humble, perhaps at times to the detriment of your self-esteem?

I am!

Do you recall times when someone might have given you a compliment or praised you as a kid, and your parent jumped in and said “No la.. actually he’s very naughty one..” Or when you felt proud of yourself for accomplishing something difficult, and your parent skipped the affirmation and went straight to showing you how you could have done it better instead?

Such encounters, if repeated unmindfully by adults, can cause a child to have low confidence and a low self-esteem. And guess what, it can carry on into our adulthoods without us even realising it. Doesn’t matter how accomplished or awesome we already are.

I had a recent episode that brought the healing I needed to light:

My better half, his dad, my dad and I went for Sunday lunch together. During the lunch, my boyfriend’s dad congratulated mine on his daughter (me!) becoming and MP. My dad responded,

“She’s still a kid, please teach her.”

My boyfriend’s dad was taken aback and retorted, “She’s not a kid! She’s teaching me now.”

Subconsciously, I was super annoyed for the rest of a lunch that was meant to be a nice occasion.

Annoyed because a “humble” response from my dad to a compliment by someone made me feel like there’s nothing I can ever do to convince my dad that his daughter is an adult who knows what she’s doing. (I know he’s proud of me, but that doesn’t mean the words don’t trigger old feelings).

In the end, I worked through the episode and identified the trigger. I decided to tell my dad how his comment made me feel. I realized he probably doesn’t know how to accept compliments or praise because he has had so few of those himself growing up. And that someone has probably also taught him to be humble, and that might have looked like “not taking credit”.

I share this story because true humility is not at the expense of downplaying or dismissing our strengths and what we are good at. It’s about recognising and honoring what is good within us and what we have accomplished, at the same time remaining open to honor and learn from others.

It is human to want to receive affirmation and recognition. I’ve learnt not to let the “humility narrative” make me feel like it’s a bad thing to desire appreciation, affirmation and recognition.

Humility is accepting praise where praise is due. There’s no need to get all big-headed or smug about it either. We can be pleased with ourselves for doing well, without thinking we are better than someone else (that’s arrogance).

Let us honor the human in us, and the child in us who may not have gotten sufficient amounts of affirmation growing up.

It is possible to be both Human and Humble. Honor your Human 😊


Author coachcarrie

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