What hypocrites we seem to be whenever we talk of ourselves! Our words sound so humble, while our hearts are so proud.
— Augustus Hare, Guesses at Truth, 1871*
Imagine yourself at some social gathering, or even during a lunch break at work. You’re in a small group, but one person is the centre of attention; nobody else can get a word in. Said person has launched into a monologue on his/her favourite topic — me, me, me, me, me! You notice the others in the group slowly slipping away; then, out of the blue, it is only the two of you — you’re stuck!
We’ve all been in this situation. The monologuist may have initiated the topic of ‘conversation’ from the outset, or they may be a one-upper: a person adept at taking any topic and making it about themselves. Either way, being trapped with this person can be a living nightmare.
It is, however, this very attitude that stops most people from talking about themselves with pride.
How hard is it to sell ourselves and our achievements?
I’ve just had four of my short stories published in two anthologies and a rather scathing article about one of our politician’s poorly articulated opinions published in our union magazine.
Upon receiving praise for these achievements, this is what I started saying:
“Thank you, but they are only … “
This is what I should have said:
“Thank you. I am so thrilled with what I wrote and so proud and excited they’ve been published.”
It took me quite some time to decide to announce my recent achievements in this post.
We are drilled from an early age not to be boastful. We should be proud of what we’ve done, but not talk about it too much lest we be judged as ‘full of ourselves’.
The thing is, there is a significant difference between being overtly boastful and being proud of what you’ve achieved and sharing this pride with others. We shouldn’t feel compelled to dumb everything down. If we don’t sell ourselves, then who will?
Australia’s tall poppy syndrome — our tendency to knock the chips off the shoulders of successful people and to barrack for the underdog — has a lot to answer for. Does it really stem from giving the hardworking ‘bloke’ a go, or does it stem from jealousy?
Is modesty, to the point of saying you didn’t really do anything, such a good thing? Nobody wants to hear another person bleat on and on and on about how wonderful they are; but neither should we want people to say their success had nothing to do with their effort and hard work or talent.
Credit should be given where credit is due. And we should celebrate and acknowledge our own success without feeling guilty, embarrassed or ashamed.
A very good friend is teaching me to do this. She encourages me to share my successes (and she does this for me in a very articulate way) and she also pushes me to share my work and ‘put it out there’. I owe her a great deal!
Bragging and being boastful is not a good thing.
Monopolising conversation is not a good thing.
But, being overly humble and self-deprecating is worse than the previous two; I pledge to myself not to do this anymore.
* I need to acknowledge Edmark M Law for inspiring me with this quote, posted on his amazing blog Learn Fun Facts.