Allow your gifts to shine through.

I knew a woman who had an amazing voice. Trained as an opera singer, she seemed destined for greatness. But she got pregnant, bowed out of singing, and then spent the rest of her life holding down menial jobs.

Those who worked with her had no clue of the brilliance that lived within her. Which is really sad.

The myth of “false modesty”

Years ago, I learned of the phrase, “false modesty.” Some call it “sandbagging” when it’s done deliberately, such as a U.S. Open tennis player saying to a stranger he’s about to play, “Oh, I occasionally knock the ball around…”

False modesty is when you know you’re talented but you downplay it because you don’t want people to think you’re bragging.

Most of us were raised to think bragging was definitely a bad thing. It was unseemly. Rude. Conceited. Self-absorbed.

I think this type of parental training, while done with good intentions, was actually harmful to us.

Because it caused us to shy away from owning our talents.

Instead of acknowledging what it was that made us unique, we hunkered down in the corners of life with bushels placed firmly over our gifts. Those gifts only were seen if someone accidentally witnessed them.

And then some of us seemed almost embarrassed by the discovery.

We learned that the only acceptable way to allow our talent to be known was if someone else acknowledged it in an acceptable place, at an acceptable time.

“I’m good at it…”

So let’s say Sarah is an amazing artist. As a little girl, she draws like no one’s business. It’s apparent she has a gift. She obviously enjoys it and her parents are proud.

But if a new friend of her parent’s is introduced to her and asks her what she wants to be when she grows up, and Sarah says, “An artist! Because I’m really good at it and can draw better than all my friends,” how do her parents react?

“Sarah! Don’t brag. That’s not polite! You just can say you’d like to be an artist and leave it at that, okay?”

This scenario – or something close to it – has played out over and over again for many children. Only recently have I started to witness some parents training their children to be proud of their talents and to talk about it honestly.

But for most of us who grew up with parents like Sarah’s, it’s not easy. It’s a challenge to find that place where you claim your talent and pursue its development without needing anyone else’s permission or approval.

It has taken me decades to embrace fully my gifts. My fear was that if I spoke about them honestly, I’d be seen as trying to draw attention to myself and as a result, be labeled as “needy”—also known as “fishing for compliments.”

We were told that such people were insecure and needed constant affirmation from others in order to feel important or worthy.

I now look back on all of this and think it’s pretty messed up.

I’m a big believer in self-love. But how do you love yourself if whenever you acknowledge something special about you, you’re told to put a lid on it?

This can make you think it’s bad to think and feel good things about yourself.

I’m not a psychologist but am a keen observer of people and how they act. I’ve noticed that those who are able to recognize their gifts and publicly talk about them without apology are usually people who are secure and love themselves.

Give yourself the gift of appreciation

If you’re resonating with what I’m talking about, then realize it will take time to acknowledge your gifts in a healthy way. You may need to incorporate intentional exercises like meditation, positive thinking, and affirmations.

One of my favorite authors is Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist’s Way and many other books on creativity and inspiration.

She wrote several books that featured inspirational daily thoughts. I have Blessings: Prayers and Declarations for a Heartful Life. Here is a very good meditation about creating (emphasis mine):

MY CREATIVITY FUNDS THE CREATIVITY OF ALL

My creativity is an act of my soul. I am rooted in the creativity of the entire universe.

My dreams and desires are funded by divine power, intended to bring divine good and harmony into the world.

As I lovingly act in the direction of my dreams, I help manifest the dreams and desires of those whom I meet along the way.

My dreams prosper and encourage the dreams of others. There is no competition, no devaluing of others to reach my goals. As I flower creatively, I give to others the gift of my example. As I become larger and more magnificent, I am a show of the power of Spirit to make all of us fuller and more abundant.

There is in me only goodness, only grace. My creative dreams are blessings for the world.

As I bless others through my art and artfulness, others are encouraged to flower in return. We are a garden growing into glory. I am a bloom whose glory brings beauty to all. My dreams are important to the unfolding of the world.

The wonder of your talent is that it not only has the power to bring you joy as you acknowledge it and let it fly, but your talent has the power to teach others how to allow their talent to fly, too.

This week, think about your particular gifts (and yes, you have more than one). Think about your life and when you first discovered these gifts. What did you do to grow them? Improve them?

Has it been awhile since you nourished your gifts?

If so, why not start today to awaken them? If you truly enjoy music and always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, why not investigate that this week? Or if you used to create oil paintings but haven’t in years, why not find your old paintbox set and see if anything is salvageable? Maybe try a different medium such as pastel chalks or watercolor paints.

And talent isn’t just artistic. You could be brilliant with coding, carpentry, cooking, or accounting. We all have a specific group of unique talents.

Just acknowledge them. Love them and in so doing, love yourself.

So the next time someone asks you what you do, you can honestly say, “I’m a whiz with numbers. I just love them!” And smile.

 

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