Credit: 123rf

The last two years have been tough on a lot of us. Between the Covid pandemic, lockdowns, being apart from family/friends and now the rising cost of living as the world recovers, most of us just want to get on with life and appreciate what we have. Some of us aren’t in such privileged positions though, and have lost loved ones or experienced financial strain. Therefore, it can be difficult when someone comes along and tells you how well they’re doing in their life.

The age of social media has also made it somewhat commonplace for people to post about all their achievements – whether they are actually impressive or not. And it’s hard to have to scroll through numerous posts and not feel like everyone out there is doing far better than us in all aspects of their lives.

So what happens when we’re on the other side of this situation? We might have hit huge milestones in our careers, finally reached a financial goal or bought our dream home. How do we talk about all these things without annoying everyone else with our bragging? The trick is in knowing how to brag better.

Credit: 123rf

The difference between bragging vs sharing an experience

The first step in doing this is to know the difference between bragging and sharing. Grace Loh, psychotherapist, counsellor and coach at Counselling Perspective, tells us what it is: “Bragging is self-glorification about one’s self with exaggeration and excessive pride where the recipient is made to feel insecure in either an overt or covert way. Whereas sharing one’s real experience and accomplishments with appropriate pride, self-respect, self-esteem, and personal worth, is healthy and important for self-advocacy.”

Grace adds that bragging stems from the braggart’s insecurity, as they attempt to project their insecurities onto others. Ironically, they boast compulsively about their status, expertise or exploits to make the recipient feel ‘less-than’ in comparison, to alleviate their own deep-seated sense of inferiority. When you’re sharing, though, the intention is not to demonstrate one-upmanship but instead motivated by goodwill or desire to help others, with the aim to impart one’s own unique human experience. 

Are you a braggart?

Credit: 123rf

Some people are more prone to bragging because of their personalities. “Grandiose narcissists, with characteristic neurotic and antagonistic features, are notoriously known to be braggarts and tend to have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme need for admiration,” Grace explains. “Despite their reputation for bragging in extreme and exaggerated terms, their self-flattery and ultra-confident proclamations often mask fragile egos. They are not necessarily in love with themselves but rather with an idealised self-image that they project to avoid their actual, wounded selves that are wrought with insecurity.”

However, Grace points out that people who brag aren’t necessarily always narcissists. Researchers have observed that bragging, through over-claiming, may demonstrate more of a person’s need for self-enhancement, purely out of their desire to look smart and show that one has familiarity over a broad range of topics of which they actually have no real knowledge. Such a person is not a narcissist and not necessarily after personal gain or motivated by any other reason than simply enjoying seeming like a know-it-all.

“Bragging in this digital age is evidently prevalent on social media, abounding with brazen ballyhooing of self-achievements, as social media is an easy validation-seeking vessel to exhale into, a convenient conduit for the pursuit of dopamine hits,” says Grace. “Neuroscientists at Harvard University have demonstrated through brain imaging and behavioural experiments that heightened activity was elicited from the meso-limbic dopamine system linked with the sense of reward and satisfaction from food, money or sex, just by posting about one’s self online.”

Credit: 123rf

Grace lists some examples of what we shouldn’t do so that we won’t be perceived as braggarts:

· Acting superior to others or like a know-it-all
· Constant one-upmanship over others or putting others down to look good in comparison
· Talking about your accomplishments and material acquisitions ad nauseam, when no one has asked or when it is out of context
· Likening one’s self to highly-distinguished persons
· Endless namedropping to look influential
· Humblebragging, bragging disguised as a self-derogatory statement e.g., “I’ve been so disorganised and late to book my air ticket, so the only available option is to fly first class”
· Complaining about one’s own high standards but using it to talk down to or about others
· Only talking about yourself without giving others a chance to ask questions or speak about their own experiences
· Calling people out, directly or indirectly, for something they might be lacking, and bragging about what you have that they do not

Why you should brag about your career 

Credit: 123rf

There are some situations though, where we should brag. The best example is in our career. Grace notes research has shown that men are far more at ease with self-promotion than women, which contributes to a broad disparity in promotions and pay. Self-promotion is a critical tool in being hired and for career advancement, whether in performance reviews, seeking promotions, getting bigger raises and bonuses, or even networking. Therefore, women in the workplace should invest the time in demonstrating our value, otherwise, we may run the risk of being overlooked for a promotion or raise.

“Communicating your worth and championing your contributions is not bragging, and it does not have to be presented like one is having an ego trip,” Grace advises. “Take stock of how your contributions have led to success and evaluate these evidence-based strengths and the impact of your potential. Understand the result that your employer or client wants to attain and, drawing from your capabilities and the experience of past wins, you can effectively self-advocate and communicate how you can achieve the goals your employer or client is seeking.”

You might be in a job interview or a similar situation where you are asked to list your positive traits. You should definitely go forth and brag as Grace notes research has shown that forgoing answering in such a situation can create distrust and misgivings. If you don’t answer or act bashful, it could instigate wariness about how trustworthy you are and can even make people like you less. 

“Similarly, on a professional social network such as LinkedIn, self-promotion is prolific,” she adds. “Professionals such as doctors and lawyers are expected to display their degrees and credentials. In such situations where the sharing of self-positives is common and customary, overt self-promotion of career success and accomplishments are acceptable and can be persuasive tools to clinch the job interview or attract more clients.”

How to brag better 

Before you take notes on what you should be bragging about, Grace says it’s key to understand yourself, your strengths and internal resources, your successes and accomplishments, and your personal journey of how you have come to the point where you are now. Have healthy pride about who you are, what you have achieved and your own unique journey.

Here are some tips on how to brag better:

  • Create a bag of tricks of sorts, a collection of interesting information about you that is appropriate to mention and can be articulated in a succinct, pithy manner, including your accomplishments, nuggets about who you are personally and professionally, and your pursuits and interests.
  • You can create variations of your personal pitch ranging from the thirty-second elevator pitch to a three-minute monologue. These stories can be conveyed conversationally and cut up or expanded in a variety of ways.
  • Include interesting anecdotes, facts, statistics, quotes, soundbites and trends pertaining to industry or current affairs that bring things up to date. The idea is that you want to leave behind compelling quips and positive information about yourself whenever you meet people.
  • Update these frequently so that you are mentally familiar and comfortable with speaking about yourself in a positive manner

“Self-promotion essentially is a form of storytelling – telling your story – and you have to decide how you want to direct the narrative,” says Grace. “Even when plainly invited to highlight your accomplishments, research has shown that speaking about it in a measured manner and presenting a balanced picture of one’s self can increase one’s credibility and likability. 

“Acknowledging one’s foibles and failures on top of successes reduces the impression of arrogance. Talking about how you learned from mistakes to get to where you are now makes the sharing useful and helps to differentiate between authentic and hubristic pride,” she adds.