“I shouldn’t brag, but . . .” Fill in the blank: “I just paid off my car/student loan/house.” Or maybe “My child made it into the gifted program/the select soccer team/Harvard.” Hardly a day goes by without this example of how women are conditioned to minimize their successes, to hide their skills, to quash their good news. This is so deeply ingrained in us. Who says? Why shouldn’t we take pride in our accomplishments?
Examination of this question is personal of late, as I think about the need to announce blog launched, books published, radio show to debut — at least if I want followers. Humility was drummed into me at an early age, growing up as a preacher’s kid. Even as I sit in solid mid-life (if you’re counting years, nearly two thirds into my life, statistically) it is hard for me, as for the women I listen to throughout my life, to even announce my achievements, let alone with pride. Women I know have written admirable books, started social movements, reigned as national experts in their fields, created art that inspires, raised remarkable young adults. And the norm is to hem and haw and softly mutter about what we’ve done, lacing the speech with apologies and detractions. The equivalent of “oh, this old thing?” when someone compliments your brand-new dress. Those admonishments in our heads to be nice and not brag never seem to quiet entirely.
And why is this? We want to be nice girls. Nice girls don’t brag. Good girls don’t toot their own horns. This modesty is not for modesty’s sake, however. Nice girls are programmed to be cautious and concerned about the feelings of others. Isn’t that what it’s about? We don’t brag (or even proclaim deserved pride) in our accomplishments because we don’t want others to feel badly. We don’t want others to feel that they come up short. So we downplay our triumphs and miss an opportunity to boost ourselves up.
I’m not saying we should model ourselves after those who constantly broadcast their own victories, however shallow or magnificent, and are seemingly incapable of any topic beyond their own gold stars. As I often remind clients when talking about this life-changing switch to self-affirmation, I’m not that powerful a therapist that I can turn a self-effacing person into a narcissist. Nor is that the goal. Just calling for a little balance, swing the pendulum ever so slightly towards positive feelings about self and away from minimization of life’s prizes. Good friends and loving families want to celebrate with us. They realize that we’re not proclaiming ourselves “better than.” We’re trying on some well-earned self-praise and want to share the joy, not shouting nyah, nyah.
Let’s trust that others will share our pride. Let’s affirm that we deserve to feel good about our hard work. Let’s remember that there’s plenty of happiness to go around and our wins don’t jinx our sister’s chances. Let’s inspire with our strengths, moving other women toward their own dreams, rather than viewing life as a competition. Let’s embrace each other’s bragging, rejoicing not just in the lauded event but in the boost to esteem that healthy bragging brings.
Oh, and by the way, please spread the word about my blog. If you like my message, pass it on to your friends. And look forward with me to the launch of my radio show, “The Sanity Hour,” beginning February 22 at 7 p.m. CT on HerInsight radio network. I’ll need guests, if you want to share my fifteen minutes of fame. Link coming soon!