UnHumble: Walking the Line Between Confidence + Arrogance



No, really, I’m proud of you.

You should be proud of you, too. That took a lot of work.

What am I congratulating you on? That thing that you didn’t want to talk about: the one that you were really excited about, that you were afraid to tell people, afraid to even tell your friends because you were worried that someone might think you were bragging or not being modest? That one. Guess what? You don’t have to hide it.

Women have been ultimately taught by society to be modest, agreeable, and submissive. This isn’t something that men have done to us; think of the last time you participated in girl-on-girl crime a laMean Girls. That catty talk when you feel a little jealous of the proud and assertive woman that accomplished something amazing? Not helpful, and advocating for yourself is hard enough sometimes: a 2015 study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield of Vital Smarts shows that women’s perceived competency drops by 35% when they are judged as being ‘forceful.’

What about talking about our successes? While success is different for all of us, that Mean Girl mentality comes when we think that success is finite: if she gets that [job, raise, promotion, guy], then won’t. Why talk about our success when someone is just going to hate on us?

Being humble is holding us back, and the solution is working on being UNhumble. We need to start proudly owning our accomplishments, and not letting it stop there – actively uplifting other women when they have an amazing win, all in order to make this the new normal. How do you get excited without seeming arrogant? Here are four ways to start taking up more space:

Be Specific and Simple

When you’re ready to talk about what you did, be specific on what you’re proud of. Remove the fat and narrow it down to the core of what you are proud of.  This will help with assertive language, which is often viewed as confidence. By using ‘I’ statements, you’re stating facts. Try ‘I am proud of the social media work I did on this project’ versus ‘Well we did a lot of work together and I fixed things overnight, just a few things, but it was really a team effort.’ If this is hard to say out loud to others, write it down, and eliminate extra language.

Remove Qualifiers

Just the facts, ma’am. Get rid of the qualifiers – those words that attribute quality. You didn’t ‘just’ do your job, it WAS a big deal, and it’s not some nerdy hobby of yours. Speaking with qualifiers keeps you playing – and feeling – small, especially when you’re getting compliments. Get away from limiting beliefs, and start realizing that your feelings of pride are acceptable. Edit these out if you’re working this out on paper first.

“Yes, and”Without the Comparison

Your accomplishment has nothing to do with someone else’s accomplishment – as their accomplishment had nothing to do with yours. They are standing alone and should be viewed and treated as equal. The improv rule of “Yes, and”is a nice way to think about yours and another woman’s accomplishment, in case the ugly monster of comparison sneaks in. “Yes,” you did this amazing thing, “and”she did this other amazing thing is far more helpful than “Yes,” you did this amazing thing, “but”she did this other amazing thing. The “but”elevates one above another.

My writers: “Yes, and”that woman in your head, ok?

Shine Theory for the Win

Shine Theory is a pretty amazing idea penned by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, hosts of the podcast “Call Your Girlfriend.” The idea is not to fear powerful, assertive and confident women; rather you should befriend them. Friedman asserts that confidence is infectious, and I have to agree – we get the energy we put out. Moreover, by surrounding yourself with bright lights, you are brighter – and shining your light on these other women. Shine Theory inspires us to be the best version of ourselves, and help our girlfriends, too. The best version of you is often the you-iest version of you. Let that one shine with confidence. Writers: time to find a friend!

Being UnHumble and taking up space won’t happen immediately after reading this – give yourself some grace and nudge it along day by day. If this seems hard, simple question: what are you proud of?


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