Self-deprecation Is Not Humility

C.S Lewis wrote, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”.

The culture of self-deprecation seems to have replaced the real meaning of being modest. The first time I realised I have a problem with talking about myself and my abilities, was in college. I was asked to describe what I believe I am good at, and I could not stop thinking that no matter how I say it, it is likely to sound conceited. So, I said that there is not much I am good at. The truth is, there is so much I am good at, but I was raised by a culture of self-deprecation. I was told not to tell people I am good at something, so I do not appear conceited. Or if I am given a compliment, I should not accept it wholeheartedly.

For instance, in Rwanda, we call you boastful if you showcase your talents daily. We do not respond positively to people who are confident in their abilities or in themselves. If someone compliments you, act oblivious or deny it, we believe that to be humility. We assume that the more we degrade ourselves, the more humble we are. Not accepting or acknowledging the good things we are capable of, is denying our self-worth, and most importantly, it is not humility. Socially, mainly women, we have been taught that humility is moral behaviour. So, what do we do in response? We criticise ourselves and degrade our capabilities. When we down-play our achievements or look down on ourselves, someone is likely to believe us. We are nurturing low self-esteem, and developing false modesty.

The thing is, we know how good we are at the things we are capable of, denying it means we are faking humility. Down-playing our achievements results in us undermining the work we put into attaining those successes. Our fear of showcasing our talents, thinking that it means we are full of ourselves, costs us various opportunities. We think the only time we can discuss our abilities is during job interviews or college essays. But how do we intend to suddenly acknowledge something we spend all day denying? As a woman, I already have a hard time with society trusting in my abilities to succeed in a given field. I have to work hard not only to achieve my goals but to also prove society wrong. I have to walk the extra mile so I do not stay in the background, not taking credit for my input. I believe I owe it to my hard work, to acknowledge my abilities without being perceived as a braggart.

Humility should not mean we believe we are capable of little or nothing. Self-deprecation should not be confused with true modesty. Self-deprecation often put me at risk of self-loathing. I doubted myself, and as a result, I did little for my community. It did not matter that I knew I am capable of doing a lot, so eventually I started to believe that I was truly not all that. I hope the more I recognise what I can do, the more constructive my actions will be. I am on a journey to realise and acknowledge what I have. I am learning to admit that I am exceptionally good at certain things. I am working on receiving compliments without a self-deprecating response, and I can see how necessary it is for my mental health.

I believe that “you also cannot use what you refuse to recognise is there in the first place”. I encourage you to give others compliments and when given one, respond without self-deprecating yourself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo
COMMENT (18)
Angela / 24 March 2021

Love the article! We owe it to the future generations of brilliant women to talk about our achievements without fear of being perceived as boastful or arrogant. I hope it drives the conversation in the right direction. Way to go!

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 24 March 2021

Thank you for always supporting <3

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Takudzwanashe Ndangana / 24 March 2021

I really enjoyed reading this article.

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 24 March 2021

Thank you teammate 🙂

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Joy Akoli / 24 March 2021

This is such a beautiful piece…it also is a reflection of the sad reality that has become of our society in Africa.

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 24 March 2021

Thank you for reading Joy. We do have a lot to unlearn!

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Kristin wise / 24 March 2021

Such a good reminder to celebrate and use our god given gifts! Really well written!

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 24 March 2021

Thank you for reading Kristin <3

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Rachel Mulavelil / 24 March 2021

This is so beautiful and so true. The gifts we are given make us who we are and denying them is denying ourself. Thank you for reminding me of what it means to acknowledge myself so I can better serve the community I live in. Love you loads Sam!!

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 24 March 2021

Thank you reading Rachel. You are truly supportive, love you <3

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Bianca+La+Biche / 24 March 2021

Wonderful read, Samantha thank your for shading light on an actual issue that costs us so much, our self esteem included! Your Voice speaks to me and surely speaks for many!! #No to self-deprecation #IamgoodatwhatIdo

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 26 March 2021

Thank you for reading Bianca 🙂

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Joshua+Mukinisha / 24 March 2021

I am guilty of this Thanks for calling me out Samantha!

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 26 March 2021

Haha we are all unlearning this together

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Alexandra / 24 March 2021

Wow, this was an extremely timely read for me. I’m currently in the process of unlearning my self deprecating behavior and learning how to give myself the space to be proud of my talents. Thank you for sharing.

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 26 March 2021

I am sure the people around you will benefit from your talents once you are confident in them. Thank you for reading <3

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totouwera / 25 March 2021

Well penned,.I specifically love the call to action i.e. individually and as a collective, what do we need to unlearn to thrive as our best selves? Sidenote: The author is insanely gifted.

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Kabasinga Samantha Kagabo / 26 March 2021

Thank you for taking time to read. And thank you for calling me gifted, it is truly motivating <3

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