It took me a long time to stop bragging -- about 50 years, in fact. As a child I always bragged about things that I thought would impress others: how good my grades were, things I had done, and the popular kids I hung out with. Having people think well of me was so important that I even lied just to impress others.
When I was 17, I was living in Miami Beach in an apartment with my mom. From time to time I dated girls who visited on vacation. One time, I remember driving past my aunt’s beautiful house and saying to my date: “That’s where I live.” I would have been embarrassed to show her an apartment building and say I lived in there. Living in the luxurious water-front house meant I was “someone special” and that’s how I wanted others to view me.
For most of my life, I didn’t see my bragging as a problem. I did it and most of the people were aware of it. It wasn’t until I developed The Lefkoe Method that I started to figure out what beliefs caused which problems, and I realized that bragging is actually a way to compensate for a low level of self-esteem.
As I’ve written in the past, very few people escape childhood without forming negative self-esteem beliefs. With few exceptions, parents aren’t aware how their behavior is instrumental in the beliefs their children are forming.
Parents, being adults, generally like quiet; children are not quiet and cannot even understand why anyone would value quiet. Parents for the most part want their house to be neat; young children don’t even understand the concept of “neat.” Parents want to sit down for dinner when it is ready and before it gets cold; children are almost always doing something that is far more important to them and don’t want to stop doing it when their parents call them.
Once we have a negative sense of ourselves, we need to find something that makes us feel good about ourselves to compensate. I call these survival strategy behaviors, because they feel to us as if we need them to survive. (See my post on survival strategies for more)
"Having people think well of me makes me worthy and important" is the most common survival strategy belief we’ve seen after working with over 13,000 clients in the past 25 years. That’s why bragging is so common.
As I started to help clients eliminate this belief, I discovered that I held it also. Eventually, I eliminated a lot of negative self-esteem beliefs and several survival strategy beliefs. After these beliefs were finally gone, I noticed that my bragging had stopped. I realized that I no longer need the approval of others to make me feel okay.
You might ask: Is every comment about one’s accomplishments “bragging”? Not necessarily. Here’s how to tell the difference between someone bragging and merely stating facts: Are the “facts” repeated frequently; does there seem to be a need on the person’s part that you really get the importance of what they are telling you; does the speaker have a lot of energy on “the facts”? If so, you probably are hearing bragging coming from people who need you to think well of them to feel good about themselves.
If the accomplishments are presented as information, something the speaker is proud of but not “invested in,” without looking for or needing a positive reaction from you, it probably isn’t bragging.
Bragging isn’t bad and it isn’t wrong. It’s merely the inevitable result of certain beliefs. It’s not the bragging you want to get rid of, it’s the beliefs that have you brag to get the approval of others to feel okay about yourself. And you can stop the bragging anytime you want by eliminating the negative self-esteem beliefs and the survival strategy beliefs that cause it.
Morty Lefkoe is the creator of The Lefkoe Method, a system for permanently eliminating limiting beliefs. For more information go to http://recreateyourlife.com.