Before bed last night, I was reading my new friend Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton’s wonderful New York Times bestselling memoir Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed.  What really resonated with me is a chapter called “The Golden Coin,” about how confidence and humility are two sides of one coin.

Glennon writes:

“We usually think of confidence and humility as character traits. She’s so confident. He’s so humble. But these character traits are easy to fake. Insecure people hide it by boasting. Prideful people hide behind false humility. It seems the more insecure a person is, the more likely she is to behave confidently. And vice versa. Tricky.

Then there are people like me who just get the two constantly mixed up. Like when I write an essay about humility and then spend the rest of the day wondering whether it might actually be the best humility essay ever written by anyone in the history of the world. The character trait I am most proud of is my humility. I am so humble, it’s not even funny. Seriously, just don’t try to out-humble me. I will wreck your teeny little humility with my HUGE HUMILITY.

Even though I feel like a lost cause in regard to this confidence/humility issue, I do think it’s an important thing to explore. Because if we are humble without confidence, we miss the opportunity to become what we want to be when we grow up. And if we are confident without humility, we miss out on becoming who we want to be when we grow up.”

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

Adorably humble Glennon resolves the conflict by concluding that confidence and humility are two sides of the same coin, stemming from two beliefs she holds dear.

“I am confident because I believe I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.”

Bingo.

As I drifted off to sleep last night, I was musing about this fine balance. Am I confident? Yes. Mostly I have faith that I will always land butter side up. Except when I’m not confident, like at 3 a.m. when I wake up in the midst of a dark night of the soul and all I want to do is call my Mommy. When this happens, I feel totally insecure and freaked out and afraid of failure and rejection and disappointing people. And I’m afraid everyone will find me out and discover that I’m not really so confident and it’s all a ruse.  Like when I recently filmed my upcoming public television special, the confidence was a sort of armor, something I had to do before going into battle in the television studio, because deep down, I was a terrified little girl afraid to fail. And I didn’t know how to survive the experience any other way.

So am I humble? Not enough.  When you’re dressing yourself in confidence all the time so you can feel safe even when you’re waaaay out of your comfort zone, your humility can easily get bullied off the playground by your confidence. I have a hard time telling the difference between humility and my Gremlins sometimes. Is it humility or Gremlins that say “Who do you think you are for believing you can do that crazy-ass thing?” Is it humility or Gremlins that whisper, “You don’t get to claim credit for that book you wrote. God does.” Who is speaking when the voice in my head says “I feel too small to try this big thing?”

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to tell the difference, so I tend to silence that humility voice, just in case it’s a Gremlin in disguise. But that gets ugly. Confidence without humility just turns into swagger, and nobody wants to hang around someone with a big, swollen head.

Confidence Dampening

My husband and I talk about this issue a lot regarding our daughter. She is the most genuinely confident being I’ve ever met. I mean this girl thinks she’s the bomb. And she is. Like all of us are.

But sometimes this little 7-year-old will just go off – about how she has the world’s best singing voice and how she paints better than anyone and how she knows all of her times tables – way ahead of schedule – and how everybody at school loves her. All true statements. But Matt and I find ourselves asking whether we should be engaging in a bit of esteem-dampening.

How do you encourage confidence in your child while still teaching humility? I’d rather raise an overconfident child than an insecure one (the world will knock her down a notch soon enough.) But I’m sure there’s a way to parent both sides of this coin. I just haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet…

We Are All Divine Sparks

When I first started blogging, a branding expert was interviewing me about my message and she said, “Well, really, your tagline could be ‘You’re special, but you’re not special.’” But then she told me I couldn’t say that – not really. But she was right. We’re all special because we all have within us little pieces of divinity that I call your Inner Pilot Light. And we’re all not special because we’re all One, part of a collective consciousness that makes each of us no better or worse than anyone else, so any sense of specialness is merely an illusion.

To be able to hold this paradox signals real spiritual growth.  Too many people feel invisible and powerless in a big scary world. We need to be confident in order to feel secure in the knowledge that we belong and we matter so we can speak our truth, sing the song within us, express our life purpose, and make the world a better place in our own unique way.

But we also need to be humble because every gift, every song within us, every loving relationship, every opportunity to be of service – it’s all grace in action. We don’t own it. We don’t even earn it. It is bestowed upon us because we are children of the Divine, and the Divine loves to witness itself fully manifest in human form. So humility is paramount. Credit always belongs to the One who makes all confidence-worthy gifts and accomplishments possible. And every single one of us has equal potential to express the Divine gifts within.

The Gift Of Grace

As I awoke this morning in Olympic National Park on a family vacation with my husband, daughter, and mother, I meditated on the idea of grace, and it was very humbling. I thought of all the blessings bestowed upon me that I’ve done nothing to earn. I haven’t always been a great wife, but my husband loves me in spite of my failings. I haven’t always been a great mother, but my daughter forgives me for being imperfect.  I definitely haven’t always been a great daughter, and yet my mother loves me still.

And although I have turned my back on God many times in my life, I am ever-aware of the gift of God’s grace. What exactly is grace? Websters defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” But I like the way Glennon describes it better.

She writes, “I like to compare God’s love to the sunrise. That sun shows up every morning, no matter how bad you’ve been the night before. It shines without judgment. It never withholds. It warms the sinners, the saints, the druggies, the cheerleaders – the saved and the heathens alike. You can hide from the sun, but it won’t take that personally. It’ll never, ever punish you for hiding. You can stay in the dark for years or decades, and when you finally step outside, it’ll be there. It was there the whole time, shining and shining. It’ll still be there, steady and bright as ever, just waiting for you to notice, to come out, to be warmed.”

That is how I think about grace. You don’t earn it. You can’t lose it. It’s there whenever you’re ready to receive it. And as long as grace is there – whether from God or anyone else who genuinely loves you, it’s pretty impossible not to be humbled.

What About YOU?

Are you confident? Are you humble? Which side of the coin do you land on most often – and why? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Humbly,

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19 Comments

  1. Meg Sylvia

    Just beautiful. I could frame the quote you referenced from Glennon on how God relates to the sun. It certainly is confidence boosting to believe that we have a source of unconditional love!

    Reply
  2. playcrane

    Ah, synchroncity. Been thinking about humility recently. Sounds like humility is also about gratitude.

    Reply
  3. Intuitive Leadership Coach

    I don’t think confidence & humility need to be contradictory.
    I do aspire to feel more of the time the kind of confidence that really is oozing out of well-being, grounded-ness & ease (and not a flashy in your face confidence).
    Soft confidence with a dash of down to earth humility 🙂

    Reply
  4. staceyrae11

    Ah big breath! This is indeed an interesting topic.
    Thank you Ms Lissa for gracing us with it, that is what I would like to start with…
    For me, after reading your blog, I realized it’s a topic of one that is so appropriate to be reminded of. And from here I will meditate on these gentle reminders.
    My journey is big, it holds many paths; some of those paths are about truth, to find truth and humility and trust/confidence within myself and be all I can, experience all levels of truth, humility, trust and confidence- I seek comfort in my knowing of truth, in finding trust and confidence within myself, and in the unknown.
    I am a beautiful Goddess.
    <3 <3

    Reply
  5. agfischer

    I have been reading a devotional book, “Jesus Calling.” After reading your post, I realized that the devotional book is trying to tell me the same thing; it’s all about grace, God’s grace. I need to learn to rely more on God’s grace instead of myself and I’d be much better off. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    Reply
  6. Tim Larison

    As one who struggles sometimes with thinking too much of myself, and other times not enough of myself, I liked this quote of yours Lissa: “We’re all special because we all have within us little pieces of divinity that I call your Inner Pilot Light. And we’re all not special because we’re all One, part of a collective consciousness that makes each of us no better or worse than anyone else, so any sense of specialness is merely an illusion.”

    That’s a good balanced way to look at self esteem. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  7. Lindsay

    Hmmm…good stuff to chew on.

    Your thoughts remind me of the words of two wise women in my life.

    First, my mom who says, “If you’re really good at something you don’t have to tell people.” In other words, you have a light, know it, own it and just let it shine – do your thing. Others may not notice, but if they do, it’s because you’ve impacted their life, no need to install a banner over your head, “Hey, light shining over here!”

    The second wise woman is my 3 yr old daughter. When someone told her she rocked, she responded, “Everybody rocks sometimes.” And we do!

    Thanks for another thought provoking blog post Lissa!

    Reply
  8. Virginia

    To me, as a Christian, Jesus Christ is the exemplar. He was both supremely confident and supremely humble. I aspire to be like him. In my opinion, one cannot do healing work without both humility and confidence.

    Reply
  9. Kathy Szaj

    Hi, Lissa,

    Thank you for initiating such a rich–and timely–topic.

    As a children’s book writer and long-time educator, I am keenly interested in how to help guide kids to become confident AND considerate. I’ve seen the extremes of the confident-humble polarity, noting the appearance of more “entitled” kids as time passes. (Overcompensation by well-meaning parents who want their kids not to suffer from low self-esteem as they may have…?)

    I love words and their root meanings. Digging into the roots, I find that being “confident” (confidence: “with full trust”) and “humble” (related to “humus”: “of the ground, the earth”) are not really opposites. At root, confidence is not
    bravado and bragging, but knowing, thankfully, that we are grounded in something larger than our “small,” egoic (and fearful) selves. And when are this kind of confident, we are also naturally kind, considerate, and caring…of ourselves AND others.

    How do we help kids (and adults!) to grow in and express themselves from this “grounded confidence”? A worthy question. How about through story? Happily, Dona Rudderow Sturn has taken on this self-esteem challenge through an upcoming series of new interactive i-Books for kids (ages 5-9), which will be launched in the fall. (More info: https://www.janenotplain.com) Dona
    believes that by discovering their “inner awesome”—their gifts, emotions, strength of character—kids also experience their true “circle of power.”

    Confident + humble=powerful? Awesome.

    Reply
    • Joanne

      Thanks Kathy for that definition of confidence – “with full trust” – it no longer becomes part of the ego especially if it’s taken a step further to “with full trust in ourselves” – then you’re right ‘confidence’ and ‘humility’ go together.

      Reply
  10. Camilla

    I like this that addresses the spiritual paradox you’re discussing: “I am enough and have everything I need. And I am nothing, and offer my efforts and actions in service of the greater good.”

    Reply
  11. Camilla

    It’s also about the dance of Will and Surrender with God/the Divine/the Beloved/Universal Energy/the Force/Field of Potentiality, whatever you want to call it. When I fully understood this, it was such a relief as it’s a realization that it’s not about me.

    Reply
  12. Camilla

    And my last thought for the day, all of the above may simply be a question of ego – I love what Eckhart Tolle says – “Behind the confident ego’s feeling of and continuing need for superiority is the unconscious fear of inferiority. Conversely, the shy, inadequate ego that feels inferior has a strong hidden desire for superiority. Many people fluctuate between feelings of inferiority and superiority, depending on situations or the people they come into contact with. All you need to know and observe in yourself is this:
    Whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.”

    Reply
  13. Tracy Donnelly

    Dear Lissa

    Great post as always.
    As I read through this post today I ponder you doubting your specialness. I say, just like all of us out here listening to our Divine message to create a better something- we are all special. I can imagine Her or what ever someone might refer to as their higher power, talking to each of us saying– “look how I made this special about you, or look at this little pocket of uniqueness over here– I created you in my image(s) so you have what you need to be of service. You are my divine spark– feel your worth”. And in the moment that we do feel it–we are all humbled, as we reach for the connection we receive when we offer our gifts- as made by Her. And in this train of thought I believe you wrote that book, as only you can write. Your experiences as you well know, made you perfect to offer Her message, and you did it because you listened. That takes guts, courage and a little bit of craziness!! Just the act of writing was being humble as you reached for the unknown and the answers to your questions seemed to unfold in unexpected ways right? Think about all the times, not humble that life was a series of a comedy of errors.
    Thank goodness we are not all perfect, because that contrast down here of being perfect would stop us from connecting with our divine spark- or inner pilot light as we would not have anything to reach for, and would see everything from the 50,000 foot level and not feel as compelled to want to change the here and now. And as I write this I am humbled just thinking about humility, and how each time I am willing to listen, I offer the world something special. Even as you walk through self doubt- we all do- you are connected, plugged in. You were created special for Her mission to change the medical model, don’t doubt that you are a gift, from Her- I think everyone on this post would agree- right Just the fact you wonder humility– means you will always move toward the light and away from egos trappings. In friendship and with respect.

    Reply
    • Lissa_Rankin

      Bless you for this Tracy. What you wrote really resonates with me on a personal level. I so appreciate the support.

      Humbly
      Lissa

      Reply
  14. Sarah Haykel

    Oh My God, OMG!!! Speak the TRUTH Lissa! YES I! So clear, so amazing so true, thank you Goddess 🙂

    Love, Light and Sparkles of Purity always, Sarah

    Reply
  15. Karen Renee

    I love it when someone like you comes along and illuminates a thought that’s been gradually shaping in the depths. All of a sudden it emerges, whole, and it feels like the first time even though it’s been growing for so long.

    I’m like a straw within the Divine ocean, which can and will flow through any opening it finds, anywhere. The only way I can prevent this is to fill myself with something other than the ocean, and even then that value will seep through the crevices.

    I need both humility and confidence to accept the ocean’s flow, unimpeded. Humility welcomes challenges that shake loose the junk clogging the system, and confidence keeps the channel open by recognizing the flow of grace.

    Reply
    • Lissa_Rankin

      Wow- you are such a poet!

      Reply
  16. Derek McMunkfish

    Real Beauty is seen not felt n Shows more when unknowingly shining bright ,blind and unaware but a far contrast from the dull monotone selfish tone of the background.Jake nt luke .As dnt deserve

    Reply

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