Dear Royal Friends,
There was a time when humbleness and humility was a noble quality. Those who resorted to bragging and tooting their own horns were viewed as tacky and obnoxious. Does Queen Elizabeth get her “rocks” off by bragging about how many diamonds nestle in her diadem? The royal “we” think not.
Enter the humble brag, a term credited to the late writer Harris Wittels, writer on the TV series “Parcs and Rec.” The humble brag is a brag bomb that’s tightly wrapped in humility like a corn husk tamale. You don’t know the quality of the inside mush until it gets unwrapped.
The humble brag, perforce wrapped in humility, can take you by surprise and leave you wondering whether the person just offered up insider information on her soul, or slammed you with the goo of obnoxious self-promotion.
So, what’s the humble bragger’s deal? I believe she is the person who longs to brag, but is too clever to let it all hang out, and soft enough to care about us liking her. Thus, she throws the scent off the trail with a booby trap, commonly in the form of a preamble that smells like self-deprication. But never fear — her musket is loaded. Further down the road she will blow forth a big fat bombastic brag.
Here’s an example: “Can you believe how stupid I am? I can’t believe I blew the answer to that Jeopardy question. I just don’t know how they let me into Harvard and I graduated Phi Beta Kappa in three years while I worked full time as a reporter for the Boston Globe.” Here’s another fine example: “I thought I looked like crap when I stepped off the plane in Monaco. It’s crazy that I got mobbed by reporters who thought I was Princess Caroline. I don’t know why that always happens to me.”
If one deconstructs the humble brag, it’s pretty clear that the ammunition employed is the smokescreen of confusion. She said she was stupid, didn’t she? She said she looked like crap, right? Golly. I guess she’s can’t be bragging.
So why should we care whether we can identify if someone is overtly bragging v. covertly humble bragging? I mean, isn’t it true that all braggers are generally sprinkled with the sediment of insecurity, and thus, as princesses, we must have compassion and show tolerance toward them all, even as we turn up our noses in the stink of it? Yup. But sitting through a covert bragging jag without throwing up is really, really hard to do. So maybe if we can identify a person as a humble bragger, and not a true high-flying bragger, compassion might be a little easier to find.
Whereas the obnoxious overt bragger wants to be loved but doesn’t seem to give a crap whom he or she offends, the covert humble bragger is a different animal. These folks seriously want to brag, but they still give it the ole’ college try in trying to be decent about it. They pray you don’t find the bragging stone under the smooth green softening moss of their alleged self-deprecation. We should give them credit for that. Does that mean they still can be really likable? Yeah. I think so.
Humble bragging may be the new obnoxious brag, but in the hierarchy of obnoxiousness, it ain’t on the highest rung. And, perhaps one day, you may have something you are really really proud of, you feel yourself busting at the seams, and you’re pretty sure it’s not gas. You might find humble bragging is your best shot at letting it out — and still keeping your friends.
XOXOXOXO PRINCESS DIANE VON BRAINISFRIED
“LIVE YOUR ROYALLY HAPPY, RADICALLY FULFILLED, PRINCESS-WORTHY LIFE!™”