Humility: how it has held me back from reaching my own potential


In my last blog I mentioned the value of humility and how important it always was to my Mum. In this article I want to go deeper into the topic and explore the ways in which my interpretation of humility has hindered my own growth. And to offer a new definition which will instead support me in moving forward (and which I hope might also support you too).

Humility: why I have been triggered to explore it

Humility is a value which I have always felt like I should aspire to, as it was something which my Mum often talked about and held dear to her. Anyone who has ever worked with me will know that whenever the word ‘should’ appears, it is an alarm bell to explore what lies underneath it (i.e. someone else’s view of what is important).

Humility has always seemed very positive and life-affirming on the surface. But, I have also sensed in the background that there has been an aspect of humility (or rather, my interpretation of it) which has been holding me back in some way.

I am currently working towards some potentially significant transformations in both my work and personal life.  When I initially entered this period of expansion, amidst the excitement, there was also a slight unease which I sensed was linked to humility in some way. This stemmed from two questions:

  • Why am I wanting to expand – shouldn’t I be grateful with where I am and what I have?
  • Should I even mention this expansion journey I am on to family and friends?  

And so, something triggered in me to explore the topic of humility.

How humility has held me back: keeping me small

Deep down inside, I think I have had a longstanding limiting belief about humility meaning that I shouldn’t want for more than what I already have.  And that it was somehow more noble to keep myself small. Whilst this hasn’t entirely stopped me from moving forwards and has perhaps kept me grounded in some ways, I suspect it has also worked against my quest for personal growth and evolution. 

Over the years, this belief has manifested in my work in a number of ways. Such as holding me back from taking a major leap forward in my business where I am able to impact more people.  And having a limited view on what I could/should earn.

Recently, I made a connection which would unlock things for me: whilst ever I keep myself small in this way, I am also not fully able to live out my purpose (and there is nothing noble about that).  And so instead, I decided I would be led more by my purpose and the desire to be of service to others as opposed to any other desires such as money or popularity.  This felt far more congruent with the idea of humility and skirted around my limiting belief which linked it to not wanting more.

How humility has held me back: not claiming my gifts

The way I previously interpreted humility also used to mean that I often played down my own skills and strengths.  It felt wrong somehow to even acknowledge that I might be good at something.  This attitude was clearly counter to growing a successful coaching practice.  Who wants to work with a coach who doesn’t even believe in themselves?!  

So often when discussing skills and strengths with my clients and asking them how they feel about truly ‘owning’ them, I hear the phrase “I don’t want to come across as arrogant” or “people will just think I’m showing off”.  Whilst this often comes from a desire for humility, again, it has only served to hold people back from reaching their true potential.  

Part of my belief system is the idea that our skills and strengths are gifts which are given to us by the Universe (or God or whatever higher force you might believe in) in order to carry out our purpose and our calling here on earth. And so, by claiming those gifts we are merely accepting what has been given to us, potentially with a view to sharing those gifts with the world. 

To help explain this, I want to share with you one of my favourite quotes by the author Marianne Williamson who wrote this in her 1992 book A Return To Love:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This resonates with me so deeply.  It reminds us to give ourselves the permission to claim the gifts we have been given and use them to serve the world.  But also it reminds us to honour where our gifts have come from.  


How humility has held me back: fear of becoming someone else

Another, more subtle, way in which humility has perhaps held me back is another limiting belief that, as a result of growing and expanding, I would become a different person.  I worried that I would somehow forget where I had come from or my own human shortcomings and imperfections.  When I delved further into this, I knew that it was just my fear-based Ego Self talking.  

On a spiritual level, we cannot change who we are at our deepest essence, whatever we do in the world and however much we have or don’t have.  Remembering this and staying connected to and guided by my Higher Self instead of my Ego Self has helped me navigate the resistance and press ahead with my plans.

If we truly trust in ourselves and our ability to embody humility as a value, it doesn’t matter how much outer success we have.  We rest in the knowledge that we will still be the same person underneath it all.

Humility: redefining what it means

In looking up the dictionary definition of the word humility, I came across this one: “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance”.  Seeing this helped me understand where there was a disconnect.  Within my belief system, we are all equally important.  Not more important than others but certainly not less.  This definition also points towards low self-worth which again does not sit well with me.  I see the debilitating impact of low self-worth almost every day and how it holds people back from making a meaningful change in their working life.

Other definitions make reference to things which do resonate with me such as: lack of false pride and freedom from arrogance.  These I can take onboard.  But there is no one definition which really encapsulates what I believe, and so I am creating my own.

My new definition of humility is this:

Humility is the quality of seeing myself as equally important to all others whilst claiming my own gifts but honouring their true Source. Humility gives me the grace to acknowledge my own shortcomings and to stay open to learning from others and from life itself. 

With this definition, humility and growth are no longer mutually exclusive.  It is no longer an ‘either/or’. Instead, humility can empower us and enrich our lives by keeping us grounded and connected to the Source of everything and allowing us to truly step into our own power.  It can remind us that we don’t have it all sussed (very helpful when you’re a coach) and so we stay open to growing and evolving. 

My Humility Manifesto

1. To be led by my purpose and the desire for growth rather than money or popularity.

2. To claim my own gifts and abundance whilst practising daily gratitude and acknowledging the true Source of those things.

3. To stay grounded by remembering and accepting my own shortcomings and staying open to learning from others.

Now that I have redefined it, Just like my Mum, I still do and always will hold the value of humility dear to me. I have the manifesto above my desk to guide me each day. And I do hope that this deeper look into humility has resonated with you and will enable you to move positively forward in your work and your life.

Spiritual Career Coaching

Hello, I'm Rebecca

Career Coach for people on a spiritual path

I support mid-career professionals who are  ready to make a career change, launch into a more purpose-led career or business or simply enjoy a more fulfilling or balanced working life.  

believe that we all have a purpose here on earth and that life is too short to be stressed, unfulfilled and playing small. 


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