HOW TO BE MODEST THOUGH TERRIFIC

Looking back upon your childhood, many of you can recall the attitude people in the '50's and '60's had regarding consequences; particularly, positive ones that involved some form of self-recognition. "Don't brag-- never blow your own horn!", was often heard. In fact, "Don't even show too much pride over real accomp- lishments", was a common belief of the times. Thirty years ago, reward and recognition usually came from one place...someplace else! Even that was sparse by today's standards.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> While people didn't give a second thought to recognizing and punishing inappropriate behavior, people often believed that such open and immediate recognition of accomplishments was a form of bribery that encouraged deception and decadence rather than virtuous habits and important values. This kind of thinking was evident in many contexts of society at the time. When Mickey Mantle used to hit a home run, he would round the bases; head bowed reverently, and then sit down...quietly. One almost got the feeling that he was unaware of what he had just accomplished; as if he had been sleepwalking at the plate. And that was exactly the image people admired!
 Remember that while you were almost expected to offer a humble comment for a bad grade, you were to say nothing about a good one? "Well, Dad, I had a cold for five weeks that blurred my vision so I couldn't see the math problems, but it's gone now." But, upon receiving an "A" grade: "Aw... I just got lucky acing Calculus and Analytical Geometry--no big deal."
 Then along came the positive thinking and human potential movements of the '70's, with their messages to be confident and assertive. Pat yourself on the back when you deserve it. Stand up for yourself! Today, when a slugger possessing an eight-figure contract for which he (and his lawyer and agent) "held out", hits a home run, he first stands and watches the ball from home and offering waiting teammates high-and low-fives; and after entering the dugout, reappears for an encore of more cheering and waving. You could almost run an errand and be back before the next batter came to the plate!
 At the beginning of the last academic high school grading period, a neighbor's son took a comprehensive social studies exam. When he returned home, upon being questioned as to his performance, he proudly announced that he "set the curve" again in social studies. The situation becomes one of reconciling all this healthy self-respect with those childhood prohibitions. In other words, how can we be both modest and terrific? Will a quick pat on the back feel good and seem relatively un- noticed? Some people try a tightrope-walking act; becoming public humbles and closet terrifics, hoping to satisfy childhood programming and avant garde self esteem.
 You don't have to walk that tightrope. You can have self esteem without becoming a hopeless egomaniac; and be modest without being insufferably hypocritical. Try a quick exercise. Write ten good things about yourself. These can be skills like excelling in tennis or qualities such as patience and persistence. Now make a list of bad things. Look at your list carefully. On the bad side, you will likely see some things you wish to correct. Perhaps you should work on controlling that temper or get some treatment for some phobia that is cramping your life. Practice accepting your good points as naturally as exhaling follows inhaling. Stand before a mirror reciting your list of good points. The next time someone compliments you for doing a good job, count to five silently. Then thank that individual while looking him in the eye and smiling (modestly!). Admit that you are gratified he noticed. Above all, do not write it off as "just lucky", or offend the person's judgment by offerring a cloned-comment from the '50's such as, "It was nothing...really!" Defend yourself less often for your failings, admitting them with humility; and soon you will not feel awkward about accepting positive feedback for your successes. You will be comfortably modest, though terrific!