Beyond the Humblebrag: How to Own Your Success Without Feeling Braggy

Originally published by Lindsey Pollak 15 November

“I have no place to put my new award! I’m running out of wall space in my office!”

“So don’t love my new haircut, but three people told me it makes me look younger. Are they lying?!”

We’ve all rolled our eyes at similar “humblebrags,” whether they’re comments made in meetings or posted on social media.

And yet, there is a genuine reason that professionals must promote themselves and their personal brands. It’s highly strategic to own your successes and to convey your value confidently — whether it’s in an email introduction, interview, keynote speech, cover letter, client pitch or performance review.

But many attendees of my speeches about personal branding ask me how to self-promote without sounding too braggy. (Or, as Peggy Klaus asks in one of my favorite book subtitles, how do you “toot your own horn without blowing it?”) If you feel like you’re bragging when you share your accomplishments, consider these off-putting phrases and learn how to correct them.

Instead of saying “I’m a creative, intelligent leader,” provide examples of your work.

When you’re touting your best traits, it’s best to use the “show, don’t tell” theory. In other words, instead of saying what a great communicator or strategic planner you are, show people how you used your creativity or organizational skills by telling a story that bolsters the claim.

Try using the proven formula of “problem, action, result.” For example, if you want to communicate that you can motivate a team, first describe the lack of morale you inherited in your department. Then share how you implemented team-building events and better communication to help create buy-in, and therefore retention improved under your watch.

Instead of saying “I accomplished this, and it was amazing,” include other people in your stories.

Speaking of stories, you’ll find that there’s more than one character in most stories. That’s why you should acknowledge those who helped you with your achievement (without unduly giving away too much of the credit). Talk about how you led a team and were really proud of the work they did: “We had to fix this problem ASAP so I worked with my team to find a solution that would allow us to stay within budget.”

By sharing the love, you prove that you’re confident enough to compliment others and authentic enough to realize that no one goes it alone.

Instead of saying “This sounds braggy, but…”, just share your good news.

You don’t have to apologize; just be genuine and share the great thing that happened. You could say “I’m proud to let you know I got a promotion,” or “I’m humbled and honored that my team nominated me for this award.” You could even say, “This is something I’ve really wanted and I am so happy I have done it.” People will respect you when you share good news with authenticity.

Don’t say “I did this. And that. And, come to think of it, this, too!”

Ultimately the level of your perceived bragginess will depend on your track record and how you typically position things. First cultivate the habit of paying it forward. If you’re never commenting or congratulating others on their news or “liking” and sharing their posts, they may be less eager to be supportive of you, especially if your “good news” seems to happen all.the.time.

Also, consider context. It’s one thing to post a picture with your medal when everyone knows you’ve been working hard to get healthy and tackle a marathon, and another when you’re already a fitness queen and you crow about losing a pound.

When you choose your moments and share news that is truly meaningful, other people will be happy for you. (P.S. If you’re a parent, these go for your kid posts, too. Just sayin’…)

How about you? I’d love to hear your strategies for sharing good news without being braggy. Please share in the comments!

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