Something that has been bothering me for a while is humble-braggers. We’re all guilty of it. You know what I’m talking about – you update your facebook status with some contrived self-congratulatory pat on the back. Something like, “I’m so exhausted. Running your own company is hard work.”
Our society places a lot of emphasis on not caring what other people think. We are encouraged to be ourselves, not be phoney, and most importantly be humble. If these messages are ingrained in us from an early age, why do so few of us behave this way?
The reason most of us do these sorts of transparent boasting is (well, we think it will impress people), because we recognize how valuable other people’s opinions are. Impressing others is how we get friends and partners and jobs and promotions and money… It therefore seems logical and even necessary that we care, to some extent, what other people think of us.
Since being successful is another thing our society strongly values, many of us are willing to be a little creepy if we think we can get away with it. We are all in a rat race trying to make it in this world. If a little bit of “hey, look at me!” can get us ahead, most people have no problem doing it. But how much energy should we expend trying to impress others? And how sneaky should we be at disguising our efforts?
In order to answer these questions, you have to ask yourself – what is important to me? What is undoubtedly important to most people is being happy. Happiness is the end goal for nearly all of our actions. We are even willing to put up with a lot of pain just to acquire more happiness. If this is true, then it stands to reason that the right amount of effort one should put into trying to impress others is up until the point where their happiness is maximized.
If trying to impress others was on a scale of 0 – 10 (where 10 is the maximum effort you can expend trying to impress others), then you should continue to expend effort up until the point whereby expending any more effort would cause you unhappiness.
Wearing nice clothes for instance is one way to impress others. It makes employers confident that you can do the job. It makes other people feel at ease around you. It may even get you a date. However, driving a gold car will likely turn people off. They will draw unfavourable conclusions about your character, they will resent you for your brash display of opulence, and they will no longer be impressed by you, but rather will be turned off by your apparent pretension.
This is true in most cases – confidence is good, over-confidence is bad.
The best way of impressing others is by not trying to impress others. This does not mean coming up with sneaky ways to conceal your achievement in some fake form of humility. If you are self-made, successful, talented, or smart, then people will discover it on their own. Most people have no problem with your talents or achievements provided that you don’t rub it in their face and that you earned it.
There’s a joke that says, how do you know if someone’s vegan?… they tell you! This joke can be used for the marathon runner and the blood donor as well. People love to talk about their accomplishments because it in a way it validates them, it tells the tribe that you are a worthy member.
The best combatants to pretension are to be self-assured and self-aware. Have confidence in yourself so that you don’t feel the need to brag, and know how you come across to other people. In other words, run a marathon and then don’t talk about it. That will truly impress people!
Article by Edward Mullen
Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast