On being ‘impressive’
I’ll never forget one of my senior seminar projects in college. We were supposed to write an excellent resume to assist with our upcoming job hunt. I wrote my resume, highlighting my work experience (pretty good for a college student) and my travel and volunteer experience (also really good for someone of my age). But when I got my rough draft back, my professor had written all over my resume, telling me to use more adjectives to tell potential employers how awesome I was! I had ignored that part of the assignment, simply because I had a very hard time describing myself as ‘exceptional’ or ‘excellent’. I just couldn’t do it! And out of all my undergraduate assignments, including complicated internship presentations, intimidating role plays, and fifteen page papers, I remember that blasted resume assignment as being one of the most difficult!
Life in the professional world can be a delicate balance. The world is competitive and if you want to find employment in many fields you have to know the right person, say the right things, and promote yourself in the right way. If you downplay your success in a job interview or resume, you more than likely won’t get the job. Believe me, I know. I really do. I’ve struggled with this balance for years, since that fated resume assignment, and have definitely not gotten interviews and jobs because of it. There is a ton of pressure to be the best and present your best self, all the time.
Why have I struggled? Because, on the flip side, as a Christian, you learn and read about humility and service as the true character of Jesus. Verses like “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth” (Prov 27:2), “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Prov 3:34) and many others are taught to us from an early age. If you want to be like Jesus, you need to be humble. Many of us are told repeatedly that in the standards of Jesus, we will never measure up and we fail daily. That’s true, but I think many of us take that truth along with scripture about humility, and use it to beat ourselves up. We tread dangerous waters by putting ourselves down and not truly seeing our gifts and talents. I have read articles that women are much more prone to this than men. And I don’t think this is just for Christians either. I write from that perspective because my worldview stems from my Christian faith, but I know that many of us struggle with confidence, regardless of religious affiliation. Many of us downplay our giftedness and can even display false humility by only seeing our own weaknesses, and not our strengths.
I’ve been doing this for years, and I’ve come to the point in my life where I realize that I need to stop. I have gifts, talents and passions that are unique to me. I have a long list of accomplishments and personal and professional references that will happily vouch for those accomplishments. I have worked hard and have done some really incredible things in my twenty eight years of life. I have nothing to be ashamed of and need to be much more honest with myself and others. Here are five things I’m learning that I feel like many of us could benefit from:
1. God gifted you. This is pretty self explanatory but it bears repeating. You have unique talents and gifts, and your experiences are special and valuable. Speak that over yourself and embrace it.
2. Honesty IS the best policy: Don’t lie about your skills and accomplishments. That means that you shouldn’t elevate them, but you also shouldn’t downplay them or make them seem like they are ‘no big deal’. That’s not being honest either!
3. You really should be visible: I love this truth. My pastor, Louie, shared this in a training of all the door holders (volunteers) at church a few weeks ago. We think we’re supposed to be humble and invisible, but in his words: “It’s hard to be invisible when you are being the light of the world”. When I see a fellow Christian succeed in the mainstream, it’s encouraging and empowering for me. I see fellow believers who have written books, are speaking internationally to diverse audiences, and who are well respected in their fields. As a young professional who is also a person of faith, that encourages me immensely.
4. Being proud of your gifts and being prideful are two different things. Be confident and secure in what you are good at. Know what those gifts are, and be ready to share them if asked. That’s not being prideful. The sin of pride is putting yourself on a pedestal and placing your gifts above God. It’s knocking others down with the purpose of building yourself up. We don’t need to get the two confused.
5. Someone has to do it, and that person may be YOU! God wants to use you, but you have to be willing to let him. If you are constantly putting yourself down you may miss the blessing that God has laid out for you.
You really are awesome. Embrace that awesomeness, but don’t walk over others to get what you want. Be humble and let others praise you, but be honest in your accomplishments. If you did something cool, don’t be afraid to talk about it. But make sure you take the time to listen before you speak. Everyone has amazing talents to bring to the table, many of us just have to learn how to embrace those talents with a balance of confidence and humility. That means that we shouldn’t put ourselves down, but we also shouldn’t go around putting others down and solely talking about how awesome we are either! I think sometimes I need to work on both of those extremes, the balance of humility and honest confidence can be difficult to manage.
So embrace all the things that make you impressive my friends. You are a treasure and a gift, don’t ever forget that!