As an instinctively shy person, modesty comes as a given.
Lights are hidden bushels and it becomes more and more difficult to see one’s good points.
In fact, the spiral of modesty and forgetting (not one of Kundera’s better offerings) can produce a self-blindness. We are all, to some extent, victims of our lack of self-awareness – to positive attributes as well as to our bad habits and less than useful behaviours.

We need others to shine a light and provide the mirror to see our strengths a new.


Mirror frame
Rogers, William Gibbs, born 1792 – died 1872
Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

Two conversations recently turned the torch on me.
One, accidental, and framed by shame inoculation as the (oft-mentioned) Steve Chapman has named it.
One, more deliberate and pragmatic.

The first was a surprise. Discussing a project on which I had got stuck, a colleague dropped in a genuinely heartfelt compliment. So surprised was I to receive it that I had to ask them, rather sheepishly, to repeat what they had said because I had missed it.
It was quite embarrassing – a) to ask and to receive.

The second was a needed question as part of an inquiry.
Prepping for a pitch to potential clients, I had been asked to join the team quite late in the process. With little time to take on board the 50page project proposal, research the clients and generally develop my script, I need to cut to the chase with my consulting colleagues.
“What is it uniquely James-ian that I can bring which will be of use at this meeting. [shame inoculation alert] Whilst I can spin a good corporate line for our company, I am not going to be completely au fait with the project and I do not want to look or sound stupid in the meeting.
This purposeful question produced surprisingly positive and direct feedback. It was also deeply appreciative – I knew and felt that I had something to offer, and importantly, it was something unique that only I could bring.

Asking for feedback is a risk, particularly for the terminally shy.

Asking for feedback with a clear purpose demands that your interlocutor thinks more deeply about their response.

You might be surprised at what they see.