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By Dr Nancy Hillier By Dr Nancy Hillier
12 June 2016 Posted by 

EDUCATION: Balance between confidence and humility

By Dr Nancy Hillier
CEO & Principal of Pittwater House School

CONFIDENCE is one of those traits that is essential in developing successful people and building successful and confident adults starts in childhood.

In fact, a pilot study at the University of Melbourne found some correlation between confidence levels as early as primary school. 

Confidence is important as the more self-confidence you are, the more you value yourself and the less self-doubt you have. Essentially, the more self-confidence you have, the more you believe in yourself and this serves as a motivational function by allowing confident people to explore their potential.

However the point I wish to stress is that while confidence is important it should never be played-out at the sacrifice of humility. All too often I see confidence prevail at the expense of humility and the end result isn’t positive.

How unfortunate is the image from the sporting arena of a player who scores that goal and then runs around the ground pointing at themselves and calling attention to their achievement… rather than the humble person in society who is much more likely to be able to see the world through the eyes of others.

I take great pleasure in seeing students lead their peers in various situations throughout their school life.

Sitting alongside this self-confidence and striving for success is the way we treat others. It was CS Lewis, the author of the Narnia books who said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”.

It may be the top athlete who cares little for the medals and trophies but continues to press forward in their desire for success or the outstanding musician who is single-minded in their focus on rehearsals and practice and eschews the acclaim at the end of a solo performance.

Both the athlete and the musician are all too aware of their strengths and weaknesses and keenly take on board new ways to achieve their best whilst acknowledging the talents and needs of those around them.

How much nicer is it to be around the humble person who is simply nice to be with rather than a boastful, arrogant member of society who is so much more likely to demand constant attention and praise?

Humility is a particularly important attribute to possess for students wishing to develop and grow. It is important because remaining humble allows the individual to be open to improvement.

No one individual has all the answers, but through suggestions and input from others, the answers can often be more readily found. 

Furthermore, displaying humility helps reduce conflict and aggression, provides openness for new experiences, increases empathy and compassion toward others and often, as a result, improves relationships.

While the benefits of humility are profound, so too are the benefits of confidence.  And certainly,

I don’t wish to come across as if I’m preaching humility at the consequence of confidence.  Confidence truly is a critical trait that is essential in success.  As parents and educators, if we can couple confidence with humility, it is a winning combination for young people.

At Pittwater House School we find it is a fine balance of building confidence – with humility.

On the one hand we want students to appreciate and celebrate a job well done whilst also being aware that others don’t reach these milestones with the same ease.

Helping our students have that level of self-awareness and humbleness will assist them in developing a happier and more fulfilling future.


How to practice humility

Mother Teresa in her writing ‘The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living’ shared these few ways that we can practise humility:

• To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
• To mind one’s own business.
• Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
• To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
• To pass over the mistakes of others.
• To accept insults and injuries.
• To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
• To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
• Never to stand on one’s dignity.
• To choose always the hardest.



Michael Walls
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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