The Drawbacks of Being Too Modest

05 February, 2020
Being too modest isn't recommended since it could end up making you invisible and preventing you from reaffirming yourself. Self-love and a sense of personal pride isn't arrogance but rather the just recognition you owe yourself.

Being too modest is as dangerous as any other aspect taken to the extreme. The key here is “too”. Because of this word, great virtues can turn into defects and great pleasures can transform into torment. Excess almost always ends up distorting the nature of things.

Modesty is a great virtue, linked with important human values such as simplicity, humility, and temperance. It’s opposite to vanity and conceit, two character traits that have gained a lot of ground in our current world. A modest person neither needs nor wants to go out boasting about something. But those who are too modest reach the point of minimizing their achievements and qualities.

Although excessive haughtiness creates antipathy and raises a barrier against others, excessive modesty doesn’t give space for healthy relationships with others or yourself. Those who play down the value of who they are and what they do can receive certain benefits but, in exchange, lose the possibilities of reaffirming themselves and receiving recognition for what they deserve.

“Modesty is to merit, what shade is to figures in a picture; it gives it strength and makes it stand out.”

-Jean de la Bruyère-

Being too modest

It’s true that being too modest makes some aspects of social relationships easier. Those who behave this way are perceived as inoffensive, and this helps them avoid jealousy, envy, and confrontations. In today’s world, many people are excessively competitive. In fact, social media have made us even more competitive. Someone who’s very modest manages to elude these tensions.

Those who feel sure of themselves don’t need to exhibit, brag, or receive recognition from others. Thus, they can be modest in a natural and spontaneous way. However, something different happens with those who seek to be too modest. Their goal isn’t simply not boasting, but also to hide, reduce, and even make themselves invisible.

You could say that excessive modesty isn’t a sign of humility but of inhibition. They’re afraid of the reactions of others, and one way of confronting them is by camouflaging themselves, preventing themselves from being seen. It’s as if they had no right to be equal or better than others in any way. In one way or another, this represents a feeling of shame toward themselves.

A woman who's ashamed of herself.

Pride isn’t arrogance

Pride and arrogance tend to be confused, but they really have to do with two very different meaning. Whereas pride is exalted self-love, arrogance is related to wounded self-love. Self-love is a result of self-acceptance and self-esteem. In turn, pride arises when, based on this reality, you reach an achievement that increases that feeling of being comfortable with yourself even more.

Arrogance, on the other hand, is basically an imposter. It seeks the recognition and exultation that comes from others. It establishes a distance that allows you to feel superior. Therefore, it improves the opinion you have of yourself. Arrogance blames achievements instead of sharing them. Its essence is bitterness, and nothing can fill it.

Thus, arrogance is an attempt to compensate for a lack of self-love. It’s usually artificial and aggressive. If others don’t recognize the value of an arrogant person, they feel deeply frustrated. They aren’t capable of judging themselves well and independently of what others think.

A woman frustrated with being too modest.

You need pride

Modesty and pride aren’t far from each other. These realities aren’t exclusive. On the contrary, they complement each other. A person can feel proud of who they are and their achievements while still being modest. It means not boasting or trying to get others to admire or recognize you, as well as not minimizing or making yourself invisible.

When you’re too modest or arrogant, you place disproportionate importance on other people’s views. In the first case, it’s because you’re afraid; feelings of shame and an inability to confront your own self prevail. In the second case, it’s because you’re interested in dominating others. Arrogance needs comparison, winning, and visibility.

Feeling proud of who you are and what you’ve achieved is positive and healthy. Everything that you must work for and achieve deserves your own recognition. Sharing it with others is also good, in the same way that you would share sadness or setbacks.

The opinions of others have unusual importance nowadays. However, the best thing to do is to not let yourself be taken over by this and change your own criteria on the standards by which you measure yourself.

  • Nakano, K. (1996). La felicidad de la pobreza noble: vivir con modestia, pensar con grandeza. Maeva.