The Humble Brag

One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet but…I was shortlisted in a writing competition recently. My poem ‘Metamorphosis’ was chosen as one of the final three pieces. I shared the news on Twitter and then felt a bit embarrassed and full of myself. Why?

The art of the humblebrag is a relatively new one but it’s growing in popularity. Social media is the perfect home because we can hide behind our screens, tell half-truths, use image filters and generally make things out to be better than they are. This online arena has forced the humble bragger to wrestle with the attempt to share good news but without tone of voice or body language, so it’s a particular skill. I’m not sure we’re getting it right.

Some good recent examples:
The fake complaint: So stressed: my company has outgrown my tiny office and I don’t know where to put all the orders coming in!
The fake humility: Is this really me standing on the podium with an award for best newcomer? #blessed

No doubt about it, these statements rankle and tend to produce an eye-rolling smirk. But why shouldn’t we be happy for others when things go well for them? It’s probably because it’s such an odd juxtaposition – bragging and humility don’t sit well together. Which is it: proud or bashful? Perhaps a simple statement rather than a confusing cloak of false modesty would produce the response sought after (the ‘like’ button or the ‘congrats’ emoticon or a comment of approval). In the end we all just want to be liked.

It’s no doubt rooted in shame, too. We are the only primates to blush, we learn from a young age that boasting is bad and pride is a sin, and women and minorities, in particular, don’t feel as if they have permission to ‘big themselves up’ in public.

So today without fear and with a due sense of pride I’ll show off my poem (it was shortlisted you know). And please share your good news with me, I promise I won’t roll my eyes.