The unlikely pairing of two words

Confidence and humility, two opposite words that I used to believe had zero overlap. I would always hear these words in the context of two different conversations. When I felt lousy about my talents, people would tell me to have more confidence. When I was too proud of my accomplishments, someone would tell me to eat a slice of humble pie.

Where is the balance? At what point should you confidently say, “Yes, I am great at ____” and at what point should you say, “I need help.” I most definitely cannot answer that for you, but over the past summer and the beginning of this semester, I began to fill in my own blanks.

Over the summer, I worked at a hospital as a marketing intern, and I was clueless. I knew nothing of what to expect going into the summer. I hardly even knew half of the operations of a hospital … like the difference between Critical Access Hospitals and Express Care facilities.

Yet, even through my doubts, I worked on the Facebook page and engaged people with the hospital. It felt like most of the followers of the page knew more about Labette Health than I did. The first week was painful because my nerves got the best of me. It felt like everyone I passed down the hallway saw this façade I put on. Surely, they saw that I was not meant to be there.

At the beginning, I never conversed with anyone who walked down the halls, I just sped up and avoided eye contact. How was I showing Christ’s love to my coworkers and the patients who filled the halls? Plain and simple, I wasn’t. I was completely failing, and when I got home by the end of the week, I was disappointed and felt hopeless—like this summer would be pointless.

What was I supposed to do? I was only going to be there for the summer, so I don’t really need to make friends right? I can make it through three months and come back to JBU. That’s what I did the first two weeks, but I came home burdened and lonely.

One day, after a hard day of being shy and cautious, I went on my evening run and I came to the realization that I needed to put my pride aside and ask the questions that made me feel stupid. Questions like, “Why are some doctors only here once a month? What departments are really thriving? Who runs the OBGYN wing?” I needed to engage with people in order to learn. Because I was so closed off, people did not know I had all these questions and doubts. They could not help me without me admitting I needed the help.

This is where I got the idea of a humble confidence. There are some tasks I will be given or questions I will be asked that I have no idea about. This is where my humility kicks in. Ask clarifying questions, find someone else who knows the answer, or smile and be honest. People do not expect me to know everything. I cannot expect to know about a field I have never worked in before.

Secondly, I need to know that my education and support system has taught me a lot. Confidence is not the equivalent of being cocky. I should have some pride in my competence, and I have learned about so many aspects that I am prepared for whatever task comes my way. I kept my back straight, my head up, and a smile on my face when I tackled a new task.

I wish I could say that by the end of my internship I mastered this skill of combining confidence and humility. But somedays I still walked in nervous to do a task, or didn’t ask enough questions. Overall, I realized that I could not have one of these traits without the other. Too much of one of them and I might become lazy or cocky, but when I combine these two ingredients, I can accomplish tasks and love those around me a little better. No matter what you are facing this week, I hope you bring both humility and confidence with you. Know that your training and education has taught you well but you still have so much more to learn about whatever job you are working on.