What She Wants

Believe It Or Not, There's a Right Way to Brag. Here's How.

If the intention is to share genuine happiness over something good that has happened, a bit of trumpet tooting is okay, says the Truly Rich Lady.

When I was younger, I was terrible in highlighting my accomplishments. There was just something uncomfortable and crude about deliberately shining a spotlight on myself. I was so bad at it that I would often crumple like paper, letting others take credit for my work. It was a Sharp-Tongued Mentor that set me straight. In her imperious voice, she said, “Stupid Si-Si, never wait for your reward in heaven!” I wasn’t sure if she was talking about dying or self-praise, but I took it a sign to, yes, do a little horn blowing and trumpet tooting about myself. After all, what is boasting but the sharing of good news? What is bragging but an expression of joy about an achievement? So, dear readers, don’t be stupid! Here, my quick-and-dirty guidelines on self-praise.

Consider my personal rule about bragging.

If the intention is to share genuine happiness over something good that has happened, a bit of trumpet tooting is okay. If the goal is simply to one-up someone else, stop yourself.

With this in mind, here are a few occasions when bragging is acceptable

1. You just got engaged. Certainly this falls into the category of good news, especially when you have been patiently waiting for his proposal for close to a decade.

2. You gave birth. If God commanded the Star of Bethlehem to mark the arrival of his Holy Son, you can boast about your newborn.

3. Your grandson babbled his first word (“no!”) or got accepted into an Ivy. Grandparents get a pass when it comes to gushing about their grandchildren.


4. You won the Man Booker Prize, the Academy Awards, the Pulitzer, the Nobel Peace Prize, or an equivalent award of magnitude. The chances of nabbing these prizes of global recognition is very slim, so by all means brag.

5. You defeated a ruling imposed by your village regarding the banning of fruit-bearing trees on front lawns. This small victory for Mother Earth (and garden aesthetics) is also a cause for celebration.

6. You lost weight. Because the journey to successful weight loss is often fraught with pain, I say let your friends know. Of course, we are talking about weight loss in the range of 10 pounds and more. Anything less is really just moving your bowels.


And here are the times when you should just zip it.

1. Please refrain from bragging when it concerns a personal trait. Saying that you are the paragon of virtue or blessed with sparkling charisma is frankly annoying.

2. Never should a brag be about a new designer handbag/ watch/ necklace/ chair/ yacht/ house. Aside from the fact that it is distasteful to boast about wealth, letting others know about the shiny thing you have acquired is the same as telling them they don’t have it. (Unless they do, which then becomes awkward for you.)

3. Be also careful when the boast is the fruit of many hands. I have witnessed the evil machinations of leaders who gloat about victories even though their contribution was just terrorizing their teams. Shame! When the victory is shared, the most gracious thing to do is to celebrate the group. Never just yourself.

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What’s the best way to execute self-praise?

There’s still something weird about highlighting a positive event that even the most good-natured friend would secretly find it off-putting. So what’s the best (the least offensive) way do it? I will defer to my TV Addict BFF, whose life pegs are the Lords Baelish and Varys in Game of Thrones. She tells me that in matters of boasting, it is better to let another do the horn blowing for you.

1. In other words, don’t do it directly. If the news is that good, a friend would naturally bring it up in conversation. And then you can talk about it! (My TV Addict Friend sometimes recruits another person to casually mention the good news at the right time, too, but this is too sly. I don’t endorse this.)

2. It is also possible to say it in a roundabout way. As in: “My neighbor Jenna mentioned how delicious my creamsicle chia pudding was. Wasn’t that sweet of her?” Because the praise came from someone else, your friends will not feel annoyed at all. There even might be a person who will then mention that, “Yes, the pudding is a dream!” Better yet, right after the indirect boast, present them with a tray of the treat so they can verify its goodness.

3. You should be mindful of your audience, too. If your company includes a BFF who just broke off her engagement, it would be best  not to talk so joyously about yours. This is also the reason why it is tricky to boast through social media. Everyone will read it and, most certainly, someone from the dark corners of the Internet will get upset about your perfect life.


4. One final note: As in all matters, moderation is key. Your well-executed self-praise will become tiresome if you repeat it often and always. Do it once or twice or with different sets of people—and then let it fade away into glory.

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C.C. Coo
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