Once upon a time, I knew a woman who had elevated boasting to an art form. You would never know it, but ever so subtly she’d slip in details of her latest designer purchase, or her lunch out at a talked about hot spot or how ‘in’ she was with the people that mattered. She was careful not to over do it, and combined with what seemed to be a self deprecating sense of humour, most people acknowledged that she was lovely, and undoubtedly had an enviable lifestyle. I thought so as well. In fact, I considered myself lucky to call her a friend. The only hiccup was that every encounter with her left me feeling slightly diminished. Sub consciously I felt that I was lacking and that I needed to keep up.
It was not till a childhood friend pointed out my recently acquired obsession with expensive bags and shoes, that I realised that I was behaving totally out of character. Sure, I liked the good things in life too, but I had never been so preoccupied with hoarding labels before.
When that woman finally exited my life, and all ties were severed, I realised what a psychological number she had done on me. In trying to fit in and be accepted, I tried to be like her and buy like her. Ultimately, it was patently obvious to the both of us that the very foundation of our friendship was weak, built on the quicksands of want and need and social proximity. It also took time and distance for me to realise that she must have had multiple issues and insecurities of her own, to have the incessant need to flaunt her lavish modus vivendi, however skilfully and insidiously she went about it.
I am sure that most of us have been guilty of the occasional ‘humble brag’. Where we really want to call attention to something we are proud of, but rather than openly and loudly (and off- puttingly) boast about it, we call attention to it in a roundabout manner. Where people think, “Oh, how modest he/she is about his possessions/accomplishments”. I know I certainly have indulged in a ‘humble brag’ or two. Yet, each time, I’m left feeling a tad bit dirty, like I’ve done something not very nice or befitting.
Living in the UK, most people do not indulge in self aggrandisement. It’s just uncool. If you’ve got something to be proud of as an accomplishment, the general rule of thumb is, you shut up and let others talk about it on your behalf. If they so choose to do. If you are lucky enough to be blessed with La dolce vita, then showing off is unnecessary and in very poor taste.
In the US however, self publicity is seen as no bad thing. Entire industries are built upon it. Look at QVC. Look at the Kardashians. They are shameless in their self promotion. Loud and proud is the motto that brings the greenbacks in. The argument is: if I’ve got it, I will flaunt it and the world be damned.
So what is right? The former attitude or the latter?
I think there really is no clear cut answer to this. Feeling happy and proud and announcing something to the world and his wife in an enthusiastic manner is rarely misconstrued and normally well received. On the other hand, being a braggadocio and showing off loudly and constantly is obnoxious and distasteful.
Worse however, is cloaking it all in a garb of humility. People eventually cotton on to the humble bragger and the insincerity of their self deprecation.
Subtle or not, drop the act or be prepared to lose all respect in the long run.