You can definitely be too modest. I think I would have gone further faster at work if I had not had the habit of steering people away from praising me. There were many times when I did not take credit for things, or when I had chances to promote myself but did not because of modesty–I refused to brag. As a direct result, it took a lucky break for me to get noticed and promoted. At some point it clicked in my head that even if I’m not comfortable with it, I have to accept praise and really play up my strengths or I will not get my dues. At work at least.
I don’t understand my impulse to deny positive attention. It makes me uncomfortable so I either negate it in my own mind but pretend to be flattered outwardly, or I outright deny the compliment. I have even reacted with anger and accusations in the face of compliments! I was actually thinking about this yesterday because I work with a girl who gets a giant ego boost out of the slightest praise or attention. She only seems to notice when people are pleased with her but is oblivious when someone is annoyed. If someone casually compliments her outfit or flirts with her, she makes a point to tell other people about the incident as if she wants to be complimented a second time. I’m the opposite. If someone praises me, flirts with me, compliments me, you name it, if it’s positive I will find a reason to deflect it.
It’s not that I don’t think I’m great. I honestly don’t know what it is. I guess a lot of it is that I don’t want to be like my co-worker and be a braggy creep. But deep down there is the fact that sometimes positive attention has a price, and that I am quite frankly a bitter and suspicious person. Maybe I had too many backhanded compliments as a child? All I know is that it was a bad habit at work and that promoting myself, making sure to take credit for my own successes and absorbing the fact that my bosses really do appreciate and value me has been a hell of a smarter tactic than just hiding my light under a bushel (as my dad always said.)