Modesty & Pride

This is a difficult issue for me.

In New Zealand, "working away quietly" is a great virtue; those people who do what they do, and more, without asking for recognition are held in high esteem, if/when their good work is discovered by others. On the other hand, lashing against tall poppies is brutal, except perhaps in the case of athletic success.

In Japan, we have a strange mixture of extreme false modesty and genuine admiration for someone who has worked hard to achieve success. But once you achieve, there are responsibilities, like becoming a role model and mentors for those who follow, which one must carry out.

In the US, when and where I lived there, success was genuinely congratulated and admired, and often rewarded financially, but again, there were certain codes of behavior expected of successful people. And my recollection is, not underselling oneself was one of them.

As a kid, I was conscientious and lazy at the same time. At school I did OK, putting in effort only when I felt like it, but sometimes striking gold nevertheless. At those times, my parents' response was one of these two: 1) "Why can't you do this more consistently," or 2) "Yes, you did well, but we know you could have done better."

Now I'm not saying I've achieved anything, and I sure haven't been financially rewarded, but this issue has been on my mind. I have a very hard time being complimented, especially in person. My friend Kate Robinson said to me four years ago; "Smile and say 'Thank you.' And don't apologize." I've been sticking to Kate's rule ever since, but I'm not sure if it's working. Sometimes I break into a lengthy blabber until I see the embarrassment/boredom in the eyes of the complimenter. And then, there's the issue of what's the correct behavior in New Zealand, in Nelson.

Pavarotti passed away, but this weekend, I can't help staring at the expressions on Paul Potts, the winner of Britain's Got Talent, all over YouTube.

Here's his audition clip, which I like better than him in the Semi or Finals. Watch him after Simon says "OK," but before he starts singing. That's life. I applaud you.


  1. meg, i have missed reading your blog and now I have my reading material all set up for at least the next few evenings. thank you. THANK you for posting that video and comment about Paul Potts. I had heard of him but it didn't really register what an amazing story is his, until I saw this video. That is so cool! what a neat person. he seems so humble about his talents. so just living in his gift unlike many celebrities and talented people who let it go to their heads. Oh, I hope he stays hmble and friendly and real as he seems to be in this video -- even after he is uber famous.

    hope you are welll, my dear. good luck at the Re:fine event in Wellington. I hope to read more about that somewhere on your blog.

    now off i go to read meg's musings and more about this buy paul potts.

    ❤ to you and ben

  2. Hi, Maureen.

    Yes, Paul's humility and realism, and quiet confidence and nerves; it's all so dramatic, and how fitting for a would-be opera singer!!

    Nighty night; sweet blossomy and wooly dreams.


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