Do you feel comfortable tooting your own horn?


In our era of consumerism everything seems to be a matter of sale, including employment. Job hunters are often expected to “sell, sell and sell themselves” with self-confidence considered as one of the key selling points. 

As Broadside points out on her blog, you’ve got to have “the brass-knuckled self-confidence” or “fake successfully and project consistently… to meet the right people, say the right things, answer with the requisite ballsiness… Anyone modest or self-deprecating is quickly and easily trampled by the brazen, who will become your boss.” You are expected to be “chest-beating and telling everyone how amaaaaaaaaaazing you are.”

why do you fail at Job Interviews


I thought about that while scanning environment for interesting opportunities. Would I feel comfortable tooting — or blaring — my own horn?

Well, if I was desperate for a job to feed my children and that was the only way of getting a job, then yes, I would. I would act, I would toot, I would blare all the horns. Luckily, I’m not that desperate. I do have a choice and I choose intellectual humility.


What is ‘intellectual humility’ you may ask? The following definition provided by the  Thrive Center for Human Development appeals to me the most: “Intellectual humility has to do with understanding that you don’t know everything, that there is more to learn, that you don’t use your knowledge or expertise as a way to get advantage over others and that, in discussions with others, you are respectful, listening closely to what the other has to say in order to learn something.”


From ancient times intellectual humility has been seen as foundational to knowledge itself. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows and acknowledges the vast areas of unknown. “To know, is to know that you know nothing”, in the words of Socrates (470-399BC)


Voltaire (1694 – 1778) – the most widely-read of the Enlightenment spokesmen – followed that tradition of intellectual humility: “The more we think, the more we realize that we know nothing.”


Einstein followed this ancient tradition with his famous formula of knowledge: “More the Knowledge Lesser the Ego, Lesser the Knowledge More the Ego”.


 Psychology provides an interesting insight into intellectual humility and its opposite – intellectual arrogance. According to psychological research, human beings are notoriously disposed to over-estimate their intellectual strengths and under-estimate their weaknesses; indeed, the evidence is clear that there is a strong tendency even to under-estimate our liability to such biases!

Some clinicians have argued that intellectual arrogance is necessary for maintaining mental health as the intellectually humble, who see themselves and their condition with unmitigated clarity, are more susceptible to forms of depression, for example.  Does that psychological ‘wiring’ however means that intellectual humility has no place in the workforce?


Intellectual humility is not only associated with deeper understanding and knowledge. According to the  Thrive Center for Human Development, evidence indicates correlations between intellectual humility and important morally salient traits such as a willingness to forgive others, a lack of aggression, and helpfulness. Moreover, psychologists have discovered traits and behaviors associated with intellectual humility that facilitate learning, personal growth, and social interaction.


Do you feel comfortable tooting your own horn?
Would you hire a tooting horn?


19 thoughts on “Do you feel comfortable tooting your own horn?

  1. willowmarie says:

    I think it has a place, an important one. I think it’s the ground of creative collaboration. Really good post! Thx.

  2. Reblogged this on Teacher as Transformer and commented:
    This is something I have struggled with. I am not very good at saying I am good at this or that. Others tell my story better than I do in that sense. I never thought of it as humility, although I suspect it is part of it. A bigger part is that I was raised by a parent who insisted we not talk that way about our self. In many ways, I see it as a virtue.

  3. kcg1974 says:

    I struggle with this. My nature is to be humble, it is how I was raised. Eventually, in this dog-eat-dog world one must have to at least let the world ‘know’ what you do in life…. There is a difference between narcissism and sharing passion.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Very good point – there is a difference between narcissism and sharing passion. It is important to know our own strengths and weaknesses, interests and passions and be able to articulate them well to prospective employers. Such self-awareness and self-respect differs a lot from arrogant ‘horn tooting’ 🙂

  4. eljay1980 says:

    Reblogged this on ..:: El-Jay ::.. and commented:
    I often find “selling myself” very difficult and almost intimidating… guess that’s a lack of confidence and self belief. How do you cope in these situations?

  5. I’ll do it but in a way that encourages others to have their own success.

  6. nikeyo says:

    Quick answer: Yes, I do.

    Clarifier: I live by Socrate’s “knowledge” quote, as a Philosopher. I believe their is, and can be, a divide between intellectual humility and selling your own personal awesomeness.

    The later is a sort of self-love and appreciation. It’s less selling oneself and lying through the ass, and more confidence. Knowing you are at LEAST intelligent and capable enough to rock this job, or whatever you set your mind to… really.

    I have also, never been not hired from a job for admitting ignorance to any of their questions. It shows humility and an ability and open-ness to grow. Bullshit can usually be sensed by the most simple of discerning types, and it’s not hard to detect at all.

    Well-written post though, and very thought creating. Thank you for sharing, as well as sharing the varying perspectives and quotes on intellectual humility. I enjoyed it.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Loved your comment, nikeyo. That’s what blogging is about for me – provoking thoughts and getting interesting insights from other people. Glad that you enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your insights 🙂

  7. satzie says:

    Had laughs when the word “amazing” was stretched.

    It is good to see that Intellectual humility can help us learn more and make others to express well. It is also good to see that you have chosen it for that reason. And I feel you are uncomfortable tooting your own horn in unnecessary situations. There are also certain situations which aren’t necessary but are important.

    I understand the meaning and the rightness – the definition from thrive center states. However, I feel words could be altered from “learning” to “understanding”.

    I mostly, listen in order to understand rather than to learn. When we intend to learn and gain more knowledge, it appears to me like we are using the other person for our own benefits. However we could find extra-ordinary learnings through understanding others, but those are outputs of the intentions to understand. By which I mean whether the other person gives knowledge or not, we should tend to listen mainly to understand, whenever its possible. Even if the speaker is meant to teach us, let the focus be to understand. “People comes first and then the roles they play”

    “Intellectual humility” appears to be good, whether it’s a choice or natural, but it also appears to be one sided.

    I think the definition from “thrive center” could be more complete with few more words that “pave way for others to talk, understand sincerely and then be spoken as well”. Learn & Share.

    Einstein’s quote is wonderful which I think has brought the major of my likings for the post. Thats something brilliant. However it could only be partially true. The more one learns, there is also a possibility for the ego to grow more and more.

    Humility is considering oneself a little low than one actually is. Ego is considering oneself a little higher than one actually is. It appears to me that humility & Ego are both the same, opposite poles. I remember Osho remarking another type of Ego, the thinking which says that we don’t know anything.

    I wouldn’t say “Intellectual humility” is right or wrong from organizations point of view because it depends upon the organization beliefs and needs. There are organizations which DEMANDS and searches desperately for “Intellectual humility”. However finding such organizations might not be easy, as they themselves might be very humbly seeking without much alarms and attractions.

    I sometimes do not feel comfortable tooting my own horn. I also understand that Intellectual humility also carries many remarkable virtues. I also understand that “Intellectual humility” is affected in certain places. I will also bear in mind, to respect such people around me.

    Good post Otrazhenie. Thought provoking. 🙂

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Love your points, satzie. Enjoyed reading them a lot. Like the way your are critically evaluating everything. Particularly enjoyed your points regarding learning and understanding. Yes, you are right – ‘learning’ does sound a bit ‘self-serving’. ‘Understanding’ is a much better word in that context. 🙂

      • satzie says:

        Thank you Otrazhenie 🙂

        I’m very glad that you enjoy my points and that’s why I mostly don’t hesitate to share my views, here.

        I intended to focus on the subject in general. And I forgot to bear in mind, that it would touch personally as well.

        I see that few points from my comment were personally “critically evaluating everything”. I’m very “sorry” about that, whether you enjoyed it or not.

      • Otrazhenie says:

        ‘Critically evaluating everything’ in my view is a very important life skill. I genuinely enjoy when my posts provoke thoughts and my readers share their insights and question the ideas and concepts presented in my posts. As George Carlin once said, “Don’t just teach your children to read… teach them to questions what they read, teach them to question everything”. I think that quote relates very well to everyone, not just the children.
        That includes questioning ourselves as well. I do like challenging my own beliefs and enjoy when my beliefs are being challenged by others. 🙂

        I see nothing in your comments that could possibly cause any ‘offence’. Love the way you are thinking about everything you read. 🙂

      • satzie says:

        I see the goodness with ‘critical evaluation’.
        I’m very glad you are seeing the points with some good views.

        Re-reading my comment, i felt i could have avoided certain point, added more points for better picture at certain places, rephrased certain sentences and also been much aware of what i thought.

        An apologize might not be necessary, but i felt it was important to make. When you see the comment again after a few days with different views, an apology might find its place.

        I’m very glad that you do not see anything offensive and i also know you love my way of thinking. 🙂

      • Otrazhenie says:

        I hate re-reading my own writings and comments. Every time I write something, when I look at it again, it does not seem to express my thoughts and feelings well enough. Thoughts and feelings seem to be so much richer than words. 🙂

      • satzie says:

        True Otrazhenie 🙂

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