Improve Self-Confidence by Practicing Humility

In my work as a Washington DC based life coach, I have noticed that humility is a terribly underrated virtue. Here’s something that may not surprise you:

I have never begun work with a life coaching client in DC whose main goal is improving humility.

Not exactly a news flash, is it.

No, many of my new clients cite “improving self confidence” as one of their main goals. This sounds about right in our success-obsessed culture.

Today I tried a Google search for “improving self confidence” and found 4 million plus results.


When I Googled “improving humility,” I found a scant 268 articles on the topic. “Practicing humility” was slightly more popular, with a little over 14,000 results. I find it fascinating to note trends in what we focus on when we think about areas in our lives that need improving.

I think when we truly examine ourselves, humility is always going to be a key trait. In her book “Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose”, my friend and fellow USMS L4 swimmer Caroline Adams Miller defines how to create “grit”, or perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit is now recognized as one of the key determinants for achievement and life satisfaction. In her book, Caroline writes:

“Authentic grit is marked by humility, which never promotes itself but rather attracts others. Authentic grit is strikingly devoid of narcissism and the need to be recognized for what one does. Quite the contrary — those with authentic grit know what matters, and don’t need anyone’s approval or praises, nor do they seek publicity to boost their confidence or self-esteem.”

As a life coach, I have found that humility and self-confidence go hand in hand. When my life coaching clients approach a task or goal with humility and the desire to learn, they naturally develop the self-confidence required to be successful.

Perhaps the desire for self-confidence actually has more to do with a desire to improve skill. For example,

“I want to be more self-confident in social situations.”

Might actually mean:

“I want to be more skilled in social situations.”

I personally have had many lessons in humility over the years, including a stint with a pottery wheel while living in Japan. I really applied myself, but I never could create the delicate teacups my pottery instructor tirelessly tried to teach me to make. Trying again and again with that clay and the moving wheel certainly was a humbling experience.

My work with one of my life coaching clients inspired this post. Read on to discover how some of the takeaways from her sessions might apply to your situation, too.

Life Coaching Client Peg’s Story: “This Has Been A Lesson in Humility”

Those were the words Peg* said to me partway through our coaching session as she had a personal breakthrough and learned something very important. She realized she was not able to change someone else and mold them into the person she wanted. Peg had been dealing with a difficult divorce for many months. She knew that creating her new life would require her to make many important, difficult choices. Through coaching, together we realized that in order for her to succeed, she would need to give up her need to control the situation.

After that initial observation, Peg dug into her life coaching sessions a little deeper. It soon became clear to both of us that seeking the approval of others was the main thing causing a disconnect from her own values and goals.

  • People-pleasing was blinding her from seeing new opportunities for herself.
  • It was also blocking her from fully embracing her new life and reality.

After defining what she really valued and wanted out of life, Peg had to leave behind her entanglements with others and remind herself of her strength and determination to get to her own deeply held goals and desires.

Letting Go of Old Habits Requires Humility

Letting go of the habit of trying to control others is never easy. Together in our coaching sessions, we examined some past choices and failures. We were able to pinpoint times she had sacrificed what she really wanted because she was trying to please or control others. Peg began to see that she did long for the approval of friends and family, but that worrying about how she came across to them adversely impacted her decisions. She began to face her fears of standing out alone for what she believed in, and began to ground herself more deeply in her own personal values.

With a spirit of humility, Peg was able to let go of seeking the approval of others.

  • Today she has a quiet, unspoken inner strength that doesn’t require praise.
  • She would never be mistaken for a shy or introverted person, but appears cool and confident as she works to achieve her goals, good-naturedly moving forward.
  • She feels secure within herself and understands that she doesn’t need to focus on how others see her.
  • She is more focused on improving her life for herself.

Life Coaching: Improving Humility and Confidence

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “fake it ‘till you make it.” For a short time, this can work. But invariably, negative feedback undermines fake confidence. To top it off, by assuming a level of confidence above your skill level that you have not yet earned, you cut off opportunities to learn. Instead of accepting feedback and adjusting your actions, you just ignore it. Humility fosters growth; false confidence restricts it.

I believe that humility and confidence can be developed in tandem. If you are skilled at something, you can be confident in your level of success, but at the same time humble enough to understand that there is still a great deal of room to learn and grow.

at-desk-brightFor example, as a life coach I’m confident that I can help each one of my clients who truly commits to the process of coaching to achieve his or her goals. But I also realize that my own room for growth is tremendous. Because of this, I continue to invest in my own professional development through classes, trainings, my online presence, technology tools and continuing education. Being aware of my own room for growth, I’m humbly allowing myself to have an even greater impact on this world. Here are three easy steps you too can take to cultivate more humility in your life:

  1. Recognize that you are human and imperfect – but still worthy
  2. Observe your thoughts and emotions without judgement and with compassion
  3. Foster and express gratitude. (A good start is keeping a gratitude journal. Read my post How To Keep a Gratitude Journal.)

To go deeper, contact me for Life Coaching. Our work together will give you the concrete strategies you need to work on humility, build self-confidence and keep you on track in achieving your goals. Many of my clients say I’ve helped them tap into their most deeply-held values. I have helped clients start new careers, businesses and projects based on the things they are most passionate about. Contact me to schedule your complimentary 30-minute session. We can begin to chart a course into a fresh start together.

If you are craving a life full of joy and fulfillment, consider working with me through Life Coaching. With the right tools, navigated conversations and the intention to create something great, you can discover ways to live your best life. Let’s get started now on identifying what you want … and find a way to get you there.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person.

*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of my life coaching clients