Written by Monte Schmidt, Counselor at Living Wholehearted

Whether leading ourselves, our loved ones, a small group or an organization, most people intuitively desire to have these two powerful words describe them as a leader: humility and confidence. But how is this done? Can it be done? At first glance, these two powerful words appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. They seem to cancel each other out, or work against each other like a teeter-totter in motion, either being up or down but never on top at the same time.

A closer examination reveals a different kind of reality – a paradox. A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that, when investigated or explained, may prove to be well founded or true. A life filled with both humility and confidence can fit this description when well understood and lived out in correct application.

Living “Root to Fruit”

Most of us are taught early in life that confidence is a must have. Many powerful examples reinforce this on a seemingly never-ending basis. This reinforcement causes us to believe that we must do things that will make us feel confident, and then portray this confidence to others. This reality that drives also keeps us focused on the “externals” or the “fruit” of our lives. I use this analogy because we all know that fruit represents the product – in other words, the externals — things that can be seen on the outside as indications of growth, maturity, effort, or results. Isn’t it true that we all want good fruit?

The undeniable reality is that fruit (or externals) comes from somewhere – it requires a root system. Here is where humility comes in: When humility becomes embedded in our root system, which is an internal driver, we then have the ability to allow true confidence to flow out as it should – as good and healthy fruit. Then, and only then, can we live in the great paradox of having these seemingly opposite traits work together in a beautiful expression. So this begs the question – how can humility become a driving influence of our own internal root system?

Inside/Out Living

Becoming a more humble, and in turn a more confident person is a process that will demand both grace and perseverance. Like all meaningful things in life, this process takes time and practice. The recommendations below on how to move forward in humility, which leads to confidence, is hardly exhaustive. Rather, it’s a good launch point for those of us who desire to live more from the inside out as we move into a “root to fruit” way of being.

Stay Grounded – The Latin word “humilis” is translated into English as “humble,” but it also means “grounded” or “from the earth.” This means that to be humble is literally to be ‘grounded” in something bigger than ourselves. The key here is to be grounded in something “in us” as opposed to around us. For many, this is where faith in something or someone bigger than ourselves comes in. For instance, my house is grounded by its foundation; my car battery is grounded by the metal of the entire car frame. I, too, need to be grounded in something that is bigger than me, something that can bring a strength and perspective big enough to provide the freedom to not hold onto things too tightly. To be humble in this way is to be “soulful,” and involves centering around a place that recognizes something bigger than ourselves.

Practice Gratitude – Humble people are thankful for what they have. They see wonder and beauty laid out before them and understand that they are small compared to the enormity of the world. They know their worth and are thankful for their blessings. They ask, “How can I contribute to the world so it’s a better place for everyone?” Humility is focused on others more than self. Humble people want to give back and strive to contribute to the greater good.

Open up to Feedback – In order to work humility into our “root systems,” we must have an accurate view of ourselves. This involves inviting others to speak into our lives, giving open, honest opinions. If reading this last statement is difficult and brings up anxiety, then know that this step will be important for you. Be sure to select the most wise and safe people you know when seeking this feedback. At the same time, remember that there are no “perfect” people out there. Getting humility into your “root system” means intentionally growing your ability to be coached.

Be Curious – Growing in humility means letting go of certainty and moving toward being a person of curiosity, wonder, and creativity. This allows us to move into our potential that has always been there, but has perhaps remained untapped. Humble people move into possibility by moving into a “fail faster, learn quicker” mentality. This posture allows us to have confidence in our abilities without comparing ourselves to others or putting ourselves down when things don’t go well. Becoming humble does NOT mean that we make ourselves small or avoid embracing our true potential and purpose; rather, we become open and more curious to who we are, how we can engage more fully and move into new possibilities. As C.S. Lewis wisely stated, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less.”

Humility is an internal strength; it is a way of being that helps us and the people we interact with move forward. But it is an inner strength which is grounded in something or someone bigger than us which allows us to move from “roots to fruit.”

Confidence, used in the right way, allows us to move forward, being more open to learning, engaging, and living out our true potential in a wholehearted way. As we become empowered by the “roots” of growing humility, we are then able to empower others with the “fruit” of healthy confidence.

When we live this “root to fruit” paradox, we are able to know our worth and not step on people through the journey of life just to get what we want. This humble confidence, lived in balance, allows us to live lives where we recognize, as both the individual and as a leader, that we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but rather, to see how much of a difference we can make in the lives of others!