Modesty helps us to relate to society, ensuring that our successes do not diminish those of others. If taken to the extreme, however, it risks acting in the opposite way, preventing us from relating adequately with the people around us. Excessive modesty in fact generates a feeling of falsehood in others.
When we meet a too modest person, we don’t know how to behave. We fail to understand if his excessive modesty is real or not, and the feeling we risk is that of rejection. In addition to the feelings it triggers in others, this attitude risks complicating the future of the person concerned.
What is modesty?
Modesty is an attitude that tends to moderate external actions. Being modest means staying within certain limits, in accordance with social or personal conventions. It also represents a quality, as it demonstrates humility, lack of vanity or conceit. The concept of modesty, however, varies from culture to culture and is sometimes linked to concepts such as fashion, morality or religion.
Modest people tend to give less importance to their personality or their successes, with the aim of being respectful towards others and not hurting their feelings. Modesty is a way to control the expectations of those around us.
It helps us understand what others expect of us and what they consider normal. But what if we start putting them on a pedestal, putting them above our priorities?
Excessive modesty and consequences
There are several theories on the origin of excessive modesty. This is described as a defense mechanism for those who want others to have low expectations of them. The high expectations of family members and loved ones generate a tension that can turn into excessive modesty. A tool with which we ask others to expect less.
As we have already said, modesty is a mechanism that allows us to understand what others expect of us. Yet excessive modesty considerably distorts the view others have of us, even going so far as to convey insecurity, low acceptance and self-esteem.
For example, during a job interview it can be harmful to both exaggerate your successes and belittle them. Phrases like “I know I’m not qualified for this job, but…” or “I don’t think I can, but…” will make us take the direct way out.
Basically, modesty is a search for empathy with our interlocutor. It tries to generate tenderness, complicity and acceptance. Taking it to the extreme results in a sense of rejection, as if we are begging for acceptance from others in an exaggerated way.
What is behind excessive modesty?
A main ingredient of excessive modesty is insecurity. Overly modest people have low self-esteem and are constantly seeking the approval of others. Even if very intelligent, the too modest person obsessively looks for a mistake made at work, criticizes himself heavily and belittles his own successes, almost to the point of precluding himself from an improvement.
The latter is the main problem of too modest people: self-sabotage. This behavior generates such insecurity that, whoever puts it into practice, is unable to take risks and therefore to obtain improvements in any aspect. In fact, we are not only talking about working life, but also about personal relationships.
Is it possible to stop being too modest?
Like any other personality disorder, excessive modesty is difficult to eliminate. After all, people who are too modest are not always aware of their problem. And, once they become aware, they still can’t stop thinking about the opinion of others about their person.
Although it is not easy, it is possible to manage this disorder. To do this, we need to stop giving weight to the opinions of others, at least in most of our daily lives. And if you do not agree, you have to encourage confrontation without accepting what others think just because you want to avoid conflict.
You have to learn to love yourself. Respecting and accepting ourselves is the first step for others to accept us as we are.