The Art of Positive Bragging and Why We All Need to Embrace It.
“I’m playing too small.”
“I want to push myself and go big.”
“I started feeling invincible but for some reason, I’ve been slowing down and playing smaller”
I’ve heard all these comments in the very first call with various clients I now coach. They are powerful leaders, entrepreneurs, real estate investors… and in response, I ask them to tell me about themselves. They tell me about their life and their previous career and inevitably, they downplay their accomplishments - and I know why.
Being a high performer can be extremely lonely. You gain others’ admiration very quickly but you often refrain from sharing your pride because it might be seen as boastful. You limit yourself so as not to offend or eclipse others. Ultimately, this means you are not living into what you’re capable of living into. This might lead to self-sabotage, downplaying your achievements, playing small or even withdrawal.
Think of the kid at school that’s being made fun of because they always get good grades. Instead of feeling proud of their creativity, their problem solving skills or their analytical thinking, they need to repress their pride, essentially to protect their peers who are not achieving at the same level and of course, to protect themselves from mocking comments.
Through my experience working with high performers, I have learned to recognize hidden pride and I now simply ask my clients to “brag”. No holding back! I encourage them to tell me exactly how proud they are of their accomplishments and I repeat those to them out loud. Sometimes, I even retell them their own story in the 3rd person so they can see just how unique and powerful they are and how much impact they can have on the world.
Research and interviews I’ve conducted have shown that whether bragging is considered bragging depends on the context and environment so I have decided to encourage positive bragging.
What is Positive Bragging?
“If you done it, it ain't bragging.” ― Dizzy Dean.
Research suggests that “humans […] willingly self-disclose because doing so represents an event with intrinsic value, in the same way as with primary rewards such as food and sex”. That’s right, it feels good to disclose information about ourselves!
Positive bragging is the act of disclosing information in a prideful yet sensitive way. While positive bragging is evidence-based (you can’t brag about it if you can’t prove you’ve done it), it’s definitely an art and not a science. It takes a strong dose of self-awareness, a clear understanding of your audience and a necessary shot of empathy.
Why would I want to be a bragger?
Because you are AMAZING. That’s why!
Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It! says that the best way to thrive in the Age of the Entrepreneur is “to start thinking like an entrepreneur and to start bragging about your most valuable product: you!”
It might help land the job you want, it reveals who you really are, it boosts your confidence, inspires others and let’s face it, if you don’t do it, who will?
And to go back to where we started, if you can’t own your achievements and talk about them, you simply cannot play big.
3 Simple Strategies to Master Positive Bragging
There are plenty of ways to be an artful positive bragger. I’ve chosen to highlight the three most effective.
1) Start behind closed doors
There’s a ton of research out there showing that bragging makes other people feel uncomfortable, for many different reasons: from the fact that they love you and want to protect you from public opinion to the fact that you remind them of what they are not achieving.
How to brag
Find a community of other high performers that not only will allow you to brag but will actually celebrate you. When I joined Dreamers // Doers, I was delighted to see that we have a place to brag - no reason needed: Spread joy and pride!
2) Offer value to others
As an educator, I’m a big fan of reflection exercises. When you accomplish something big that you are particularly proud of, it’s often because you have overcome a challenge or pushed yourself to step out of what you know.
How to brag
Can you look back at your accomplishments and extract the lessons you learned along the way? How can you offer those lessons to support, inspire and encourage those around you? Own your achievements, and give back.
3) Tell your story
We know that there is much power in storytelling. We start learning through them from the youngest age. When I asked people for input on the word “bragging” on LinkedIn and Facebook and in person, the responses all pointed to stories as a powerful way to share an accomplishment.
How to brag
Look back at how you got to this moment of pride. From the very very very beginning and craft your story, showing the process, emotions you went through as you were creating this outstanding outcome and share it with the world. Make people laugh, cry and celebrate you!
Now, as a coach, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t leave you with some questions to ask yourself! I borrowed a few from Professor Susan Whitbourne and added my own.
For the braggers:
What are you trying to accomplish? (Remember it’s totally ok to do it because you WANT to! Just make sure it’s with those who appreciate that or you’ll just come off as arrogant!)
What do you truly want to share? The fact or the lessons?
How might it be of benefit to others?
For those who are bothered by bragging:
Why are you affected by others’ bragging?
Does it make you feel inadequate, insecure or resentful?
What can you learn about yourself from those reactions?
I also wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t leave you with a challenge! Some of you will love this one and some of you will cringe and I hope you take me up on it.
Write a brag in the comments. No story, no lesson, no qualifier. Write down one thing you’ve done that you are ridiculously proud of.
SAVE THE DATE! If you'd like to learn actionable strategies for owning and expressing your story more powerfully, join our December 8th 2019 workshop in NYC - "The Art of Positive Bragging: How to Embody & Express Your Powerful Story" in NYC.
You can also hop onto one of my Hot Seat Coaching calls from anywhere in the world.
Tamir, Diana I., and Jason P. Mitchell. “Disclosing Information about the Self Is Intrinsically Rewarding.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 22 May 2012, https://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8038#sec-2.
Speer, Susan A. “The Interactional Organization of Self-Praise: Epistemics, Preference Organization, and Implications for Identity Research - Susan A. Speer, 2012.” SAGE Journals, Social Psychology Quarterly, 2012, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0190272511432939.
O’Mara, Erin M., et al. “Is Self-Promotion Evaluated More Positively If It Is Accurate? Reexamining the Role of Accuracy and Modesty on the Perception of Self-Promotion.” Self and Identity, vol. 18, no. 4, 2018, pp. 405–424., doi:10.1080/15298868.2018.1465846.