If you grew up like many of my friends did, you grew up with a fear of sounding like Steve Urkle, getting a brain injury from not wearing a bike helmet and being viewed as a bragger if you touted your own accomplishments. Of course you’d smile in public, but any type of praise was dutifully pushed aside with phrases like “Oh thanks, I’m not as good as _________ (insert name of teammate) but I try”, ” I just got lucky”, “My team did most of the work” and/or ” Yeah I did okay”. It was on the car ride home that you would whoop it up and relive exactly how awesome you had played. Your parents would happily play along for a few moments before warning you that you’re getting close to sounding like a bragger and then you would quiet down and mentally replay your greatness in your head.
I grew up differently. I grew up in a family where it was not only accepted but encouraged to marvel at how great I played, to take full ownership of my success and to let those good feelings marinate all the way home by re-telling exactly how I kicked complete ass. If I ever began to downplay an achievement- to credit luck instead of my effort, my mom would be quick to remind me that my achievements had more to do with the hours of practice, preparation and determination I put in rather than anything else.
As an adult, I am surrounded by people who are so afraid of being viewed as a bragger that they will do anything to avoid touting their accomplishments. These people aren’t just winning a game of Uno, they are running companies, raising engaged children, completing marathons, writing books, caring for sick parents, getting out of debt, getting married, quitting toxic jobs, dealing with mental illness, travelling, starting companies, leaving unhealthy relationships, raising awareness for charities, dealing with health issues and the list goes on and on. In short, the people I know are damn warriors and yet the majority of them, the majority of YOU- downplay your bravery, success and talent. And frankly, I’m so tired of it.
Sidestepping your greatness doesn’t do anyone any favours. The world doesn’t benefit from your modesty. No one wins when you bend rather than stand tall. In fact? Downplaying what you accomplished feeds the monster that makes others feel that they too- should be downplaying their own success. It’s time to stop.
Is it easy? No. When a parent tells me I’m a good teacher and I reply “Thank you. I feel like I’m a good teacher too!”, there is a moment of fear where I worry of what they think of me. But it’s what I think of myself and what I project that matters most and I’ve learned that people (parents included), appreciate the honesty and respect me for being brave enough to share how I really feel. And knowing that I’m being honest with myself and with others brings me a kind of peace that I wish everyone to have and that everyone deserves.
Are you scared people are going to think of you as a bragger? If you are, when is the last time a friend genuinely celebrated an accomplishment and you felt he/she was bragging? I doubt you thought that about them. I bet, you were excited and happy for them. So why not expect your friends to treat you the same? Good people will see your happiness and honesty as what it truly is- you celebrating your talents with joy, and THAT is too be admired. Anyone else can hit it to the left.
Now let’s get real. I’m not taking out a newspaper ad when I complete a level on Candy Crush. Nor am I sending out a mass email when I put my duvet into the cover without murdering myself. But when I finish something that’s a life goal or professional achievement, I wear that accomplishment like a damn gold medal. If I teach a great lesson on fractions? I own it. When someone tells me I seem like a kind person, I accept that compliment with pride. When I’m told I’m a fun person, I agree- because I am. Remember, if you want others to see your greatness, you gotta be willing to see it in yourself too.
Let this be the sign you are looking for. Pretend the word “braggart” doesn’t exist. Accept praise as willingly as you are to give it out. Be brave enough to accept your greatness and acknowledge it when its presented in conversation. Own your talents, gifts and accomplishments. Stand tall when your instinct is to shrink. Don’t credit “luck” when it was you who made it happen. Make a list of five things you do that make you amazing and promise yourself that you won’t cower when someone compliments you on them. Allow yourself to truly be proud of yourself. You deserve it, I promise.