Oh boy. Humility. It’s one of those commandments that reminds us that we must be humble because we cannot serve the Lord if our hearts are full of pride. Dictionaries juxtapose the concept of humility with arrogance and pride. Should we be modest, meek, and unassuming? How can we be humble in a world where pride is celebrated, and arrogance is almost a requirement for being taken seriously in business, politics, or even sports? Ah, here’s the rub. It’s not that we shouldn’t take pride in our work. It’s more that we can really only be humble if we have something about which to be humble. The difference is whether we parade our successes for the world to see, or take quiet pride in a job well done. Women have an added layer of training against bragging. In fact, many generations of women were actively trained not to boast or brag, lest be seen as arrogant and therefore unattractive to an employer or potential mate.
New research from Susan Speer, a University of Manchester psychologist, suggests that we use the term “self-praise” instead of “brag,” though. Where the lines get drawn are really more about how we do that self-praise. Are we bragging about who we are, what we’ve done, or what others think is amazing about us? Do we attempt to get others to do the bragging for us? Do we take credit for the success of someone else, just because we helped them? I think what Doris was trying to say, in her abbreviated way, was to be careful. There’s a big difference between being proud of an accomplishment and wanting to share your success, and being a praise addict. In the era of social media, where we share our lives so readily, we open ourselves up to accusations of bragging, or “over-sharing” if not careful.
Self-praise away, but as in all things, use moderation. Consider that not everyone wants to see your vacation photos. Although, some of us appreciate the photos of you without makeup, or with barbeque sauce covering the front of your t-shirt. That’s real. That’s life. Share the joy and the missteps that make us human. As my good friend (and editor) says, “I’d love to see photos of people’s cellulite, the tacky hotel, the children crying – its real. I’m sick of the ideal of perfection that fuels a culture of oversharing of false ideas.”