Whenever I accomplish anything or something exciting happens to me, I find that I downplay it to my family and friends. I feel embarrassed when they ask me about any successes that I’ve had because I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging—even about normal things like a small promotion or buying a new car. Is it something that I should change? And if so, how?
Dear Humble Brag,
Thank you for writing in. You ask an important question that is tied to a psychological need we all have to appropriately feel good about ourselves and confident in our talents, abilities, and contributions to the world.
You are right in implying that most people do not want to be considered a bragger or be thought of as overly boastful or arrogant. The very fact that you are sensitive to how others perceive you leads me to believe that you are not likely at risk of being these such things. Furthermore, your discomfort is a familiar feeling that many folks have, so rest assured you are not alone.
In response to your question, if your hesitancy to share your success is something to change, I sense that you are aware that this behavioral trait limits your happiness and fulfillment in your relationships with family and friends. Therefore, let’s explore how you can grow more confident about celebrating yourself.
Meaningful and sustainable change in many cases is built on a foundation of self-love and self-acceptance. Existing in a state of constant self-judgment and blame robs one of the vital life energy that is needed to put one foot in front of the other and take the first step toward transformation. Therefore, the foundational work is to hold a compassionate and loving space for oneself and say “yes” to life’s challenges. This is counter-intuitive to our more instinctual tendency to avoid the hard stuff. The moving toward what is real is a mindfulness practice.
The mindfulness practice that I would like for you to try involves four steps. The first two steps are contemplative and include meditation, and the last two are about putting the discoveries of that meditation into action.
1. Quiet down in meditation. (If the concept of meditation is new for you or sounds too esoteric, sit down in a quiet space where you will not be distracted and focus on your breathing.) When you feel settled, bring into awareness a recent experience that you feel comfortable working with in which you had a success or accomplishment, such as those examples you gave in your question like getting a small promotion. When you have this experience in your awareness, let it be there and move to the next step.
2. Connect to how you feel about your accomplishment. Spend a wholesome amount of time really savoring how amazing this experience is. This is a counter move to what I am guessing you usually do, which is gloss over your positive feelings and/or minimize them or dismiss them outright. Pay careful attention to how you are experiencing these positive emotions, feel this beautiful sense of fulfillment, and take note of and let yourself have the full array of pleasant thoughts and feelings. Becoming familiar with and allowing yourself to celebrate you and your accomplishments are vital steps to being able to share those very things with your loved ones. Once you have practiced this step several times over and feel confident, move to step three.
3. Use your findings from step two to share your accomplishment with a trusted family member or friend. You may find it helpful at first to rehearse this on your own or have a script to follow. I recommend including something like, “I am so excited to tell you about this amazing thing that I did…” Develop your own authentic language about your achievement. Remember that this step is a practice and it does not have to go perfectly. It is OK to fumble or stumble over your words. We must recognize that whenever we are trying to take a growth step, it takes commitment and practice, which means repetition and a non-judgmental attitude. After you have told your loved one about your experience, you are ready for step four.
4. In the presence of your loved one, truly enjoy and relish the positive feelings of what you achieved. Celebrate yourself even if your partner does not respond as you expect. Feeling good about yourself and your positive accomplishments is a healthy and vital part of your development.
Repeat the above practice as many times as feels right for you to solidify this new way of being in the world. It is essential to celebrate yourself and your achievements to keep up your excitement and zest for life.