Humblebraggers and My Humble Ramblings About Them

“I gotta stop eating those desserts from the first class menu or risk losing the modelling contract.”

“I feel sorry for those who were lining up to get my autograph only to find out I’ve left in the limo with Tom C half an hour ago.”

“I hate it when life gives me the worst kind of choices. I mean, how am I supposed to choose between full scholarships to three ivy leagues school? #lifesucks”

Ok, before you go off and say something like “dick”, “what a douche”, “don’t be so fucking perasan lar”, “nothing better to say just STFU lar!”, let me first give you the definition of the term humblebrag. (assuming my examples above are not illustrious enough)

to make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one’s admirable or impressive qualities or achievements

That’s the official definition from Merriam-Webster.

I first stumbled upon the term sometime ago, in an article shared by the great Adam Grant, which referenced to a study done by Harvard Business Professors Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton, and doctoral student Ovul Sezer.

A few interesting stats that came out from the research which I personally find very interesting are:

  • Between humblebragging, bragging and complaining, people actually prefer complainers, bragger and lastly, humblebraggers
  • Humblebraggers are not only liked less as compared to straight-out braggers, they are also viewed as less sincere and less attractive
  • In the eyes and mind of the humblebragger, their online self-promotions, though may be well-received, in reality are perceived negatively by those of the receiving end. Meaning, while they feel good about their brag, their readers actually have a decreased positive perception towards them.

That let me to think of the statements I have made over the years, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of humblebragging. A few examples I can think of are:

“Man, the building supervisor is so gonna yell at us again for overfilling the Hall of Awesomeness.”

“Ironic that the university that invited me to speak at their TEDx is also the college that I used to dropped out of.”

“I hate to be early to [someone famous in the startup scene]’s private dinner invite, coz I need to think of topics to chat with his wife!”

Ok, it’s not verbatim, but I remember them to be around there.

Frankly, when I look back at those statements, now with the new lenses of “Am I humblebragging?”, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame. I mean, WTF was I thinking to even made those masturbating-ish statements?

I identified a few reasons though.

  1. It made me feel I’m larger/bigger/awesomer than in real life.
  2. It made me feel ‘humbled’ about it.
  3. It made me feel liked.
  4. It made me feel sure of my capabilities (though that confidence boost sure didn’t last long, because shortly after that, I start doubting myself)
  5. It made me feel more competent that I really am.
  6. It made me feel I’m better than the next person I’m comparing myself to.
  7. It made me feel like I’m being witty, humorous, funny, or a combination of all that.

As I become more aware of this behaviour of mine over the past few months, and when I start noticing others humblebragging, I had that distasteful feeling. Like your tongue accidentally licked the hair of a politician’s wife. #ouch #yuck #pooit

Then resentment sinks in, with remarks like “tin kosong lar that guy (empty vessel)”, “f*cking showoff”, “wahlau masturbate not enough need to have orgy is it?”

Then, as I take a step back from the hate, yuckiness and jealousy, I realised that perhaps the humblebragger themselves are in denial, or deep down, they suffered the same issues I faced earlier during my KICKSTART and Fuckupnights hosting days. That helped in developing some empathy within, and also a conscious decision to stay off social media where I didn’t have to witness those brags take place.

So, in closing, I ask for two things from you (seeing you actually read this far).

#1. I ask for your forgiveness if I have humblebragged, or in fact bragged, that made you force a fake smile, but deep down, left you a crappy after taste. Man, that politician’s wife hair!

#2. I ask for your nudge if I ever humblebrag again. As a matter of fact, pick on it and if it’s valid*, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.

*Why I need to justify the validity? Fucker if not I’ll have to buy the whole world coffee. Just because I work at cafes all the time doesn’t mean I own them all, right?

This here is a mild humblebrag, so I shall buy myself that cup of coffee. 😊

Maverick Foo

Co-Founder of KICKSTART by night, Talent Development Consultant, organising workshops and conferences by day, and full-time single dad in between, Maverick is pretty much a renegade. An ex-monk who's always first to ask "why not?", Mav enjoys hacking the way things are done, and pretty much happy with the success rate of 50% (coz sometimes mom is right after all...). When it comes to business, give him a million bucks and he'll most probably get a new set of gadgets, drive home an Audi R8 and reload his Starbucks card. But give him little to nothing, and see how he starts switching on the little brain-matter between his ears. Challenge ACCEPTED!

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