By Published On: March, 2014Categories: Agility, Blog, Dock Jumping, Dog Training

clickerclassIs Humility at Odds with Success?

By Brenna Fender, Tampa Dog Trainer

When you walk off an agility course, out of an obedience or rally ring, or away from your dog training class, do you dwell on your shortcomings? Do you gloss over your successes and focus on your failures?

Do you think only about what went wrong and rarely about what went right?

I am guilty of behaving this way and, thanks to my interest in sports psychology, I’m wondering why. The bottom line is this: I was raised to believe that humility is proper, and that bragging should generally be avoided.

As children, we take pride in our accomplishments and believe we have enough skill and talent to take on any task. And that’s a good thing, because children learn and grow by trying out a wide variety of experiences.

But life takes its toll on us and we learn that we can’t do everything we think we can. Self-doubt depletes our confidence. As we continue to grow, our social skills develop. We learn that it’s best to be humble, to understate our skills, to avoid making others feel “less” because we, in some areas, are “more.” It’s polite, right?

Sport psychology gurus offer a different take. This don’t-brag-about-yourself, don’t-think-too-much-of-yourself, really-you’re-no-better-than-anyone-else behavior that many of us have grown into appears to be in direct conflict with having a winning mindset.

This is a problem.

Many successful athletes, actors, and others don’t worry about always sounding humble. They speak openly about their successes, talents, and skills. They do not often point out their shortcomings, and if they do, they don’t apologize for them. Does that kind of talk make you uncomfortable? Does it feel too much like bragging?

It may seem that these people have let success go to their heads, thinking they are better than others because of what they have achieved. But perhaps they have always believed in themselves. Maybe they have always felt that they could achieve what they set out to do. Perhaps that’s part of what has led to their success. What if they are good at certain things because they believe they will succeed, rather than being successful because they are good?

I believe that I have certain skills and talents. Could I be good at those things because I believe I am, rather than the other way around? It’s mind boggling to think about!

The dilemma is, can I allow myself to think I’m good at new things, like the sports I do with my dog? Can I speak highly of my own performance rather than be self-deprecating under the guise of modesty and humility?

Maybe I need to spend some time changing my own thoughts when I hear people make successful statements about themselves. Perhaps I need to brand it as confidence that leads to success rather than boasting that comes from it.


Brenna Fender is a dog sport journalist who writes for Clean Run Dog Agility Magazine, USDAA’s website and many other high profile dog publications.  Courteous Canine, Inc. offers agility, pushball and dock jumping instruction. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boutique boarding! Angelica Steinker the of Courteous Canine, Inc. is the author of Agility Success a book addressing the mental training aspects of agility training grab your copy at