Bragging rights: celebrating your own achievements

Woman with cone symbolising bragging

“I know words. I have the best words.” Donald J. Trump

Nobody likes a boaster, the kind of person who brags about their connections and drops names at every turn, without giving their claims any kind of substance.

It’s is when people use a tenuous connection to make themselves appear more important. It may be that they drop in a name, followed by a pause to allude to the weight of the relationship; or mention a place, such as an educational institution, exclusive restaurant or holiday destination.

The most ludicrous example I’ve witnessed was when I heard a senior University figure asking a first-year student if they’d ever eaten at a certain award-winning eatery. It was clear that this was his way of establishing his status and making small talk within his own circles. He was at a loss when it came to creating connection with a broader audience.

Why do we downplay what we’ve accomplished?

In a desire not to be seen to be bragging, we often go too far the other way and downplay our achievements. Being too humble isn’t helpful when you’re looking to secure business – clients need to understand the value that they will get from working with you. They’re not mind-readers!

In some cases, it’s because we’ve been brought up not to be boastful. Family members, especially parents, feel the need to take us down a peg or too. This is their way of protecting us, but can be damaging for our progression. It’s difficult to ignore feedback from the ones we love, but we are seeking validation from the wrong quarter if we do listen too closely.

My dad is 84. Even when I worked as a Director at a quango in what he knew to be a well-paid job, he simply didn’t ‘get’ what I did for a living. Nor did switched-on relatives. Some thought I worked for the Council, others that I worked in translation. So why would I expect them to understand what I do as a self-employed professional?!

However, I did exactly that! Dad often tells me (out of love and a wish to keep me ‘safe’) that I should get a nice comfortable job in the Council. He didn’t even listen when my big sister from the States. When she last came to visit, she told him that I was the last person he should be worried about, I’m on my path. You’d think he’d have given up by now…

Our old friend, Imposter Syndrome….

I’ve written many times about imposter syndrome. It’s where people ‘internalise their accomplishments and [have] a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Love, it’s not bragging if it’s true!

You should become comfortable with owning your achievements, if they’re relevant to the dialogue and especially if they form part of your skills portfolio. Endorsements, reviews and testimonials are powerful tools that should support your personal branding mix. Please don’t be afraid to ask for them. If you’ve done a good job, clients are usually more than happy to be asked.

Celebrate your achievements – without bragging

You can’t change what people say to you, but you can change the way you hear process their advice. Hear then out, then take a step back and decide whether accepting it would be useful to you.

When you start believing in yourself, you radiate confidence and this is when work starts to flows better.

A great way of putting together your pitch, LinkedIn/CV profile or website introduction is to ask at least one person who has worked with you to review it. A supportive friend who understands your work can help you to distil your offer.

Try it out. Here’s an example of how I work with organisations. You can use the text in bold to help you with your own structure.

I work with clients who want to develop an engaged and productive workforce by improving their employment practices, because I love to see people thrive. I’m best at creating connections and ‘translating’ complex information into meaningful briefings.

I’ve helped clients such as first direct and ITV, as well as smaller organisations, create employee engagement and diversity initiatives. I’ve spoken internationally on this subject, learning and sharing good employment practice from diverse organisations.

To find out more about my work, check out the rest of my website or connect with me on LinkedIn.



Anj’s Duvet Day – 7 June 2014

This morning, I announced to my Twitter followers that I was going to have a duvet day. I should have been in Hull, supporting friends in a sporting competition, but I woke feeling in need of a day of R&R. Anyone that knows me even a little bit won’t be surprised to know that rest is something I schedule in. That’s kind of ridiculous, I know! I’m always on the go, but I’ve learnt from experience that to be able to better help others (which is what I love doing most – it makes me feel amazing!), I need to first help myself. Even airlines reinforce the message:

 “Place the mask on yourself first and then help those who are unable to help themselves.”

On my last formal duvet day on 25 August 2013 (OK, OK, I did admit I’m not very good at this resting malarky!), I got to thinking…

Having simultaneously finished ‘Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me’ by Penny Power and ‘Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead’ by Brené Brown, I decided upon two things:

  1. To improve the way I connected on Twitter
  2. To give more of myself – my failures and emotions as well as my strengths – online

At the time, I had around 250 followers, now I have 1,600. But it’s not about quantity. I pride myself on the engagement I have with my followers and I’ve met a number of them in person. Others that I haven’t yet met have shared useful information with me via Tweets, email or text. Some of the loving Tweets I’ve received recently have shown me that people ‘get’ me and that I’ve shared enough of myself that they know what makes me tick. I can’t explain how great that feeling is.

That day, I also decided to listen to ‘What is your What‘ by Steve Olsher. Very British of me, but the product placement in the video clips and the accent distracted me, so I only got through two of the four exercises. I think it was enough – I decided then that my ‘What’ was about giving girls and women a voice – and look what happened as a result…


The final thing that I decided to do was to speak to my now business partner, Vivienne Duke, about turning the People Help People LinkedIn group into a business. I’m proud to say that there are now four of us in that business and we held our soft launch/first business seminar yesterday, with amazing delegate feedback.

So what did I decide today? Some of it is still being processed by my ever-busy brain, but there are a couple of things I’ve resolved to do very soon. With immediate priority, the first is to work on safeguarding my friend, Afusat Saliu and her two little girls, who were deported to Nigeria last week. We will continue to fight to get them back, but in the meantime, we must ensure their safety.

I want a film to be made about her story and have also been considering a book for some time. I haven’t yet decided whether it will be a biography, or a short collection of real women’s stories. My now deceased favourite aunty had a very colourful life and I always wanted to write about her, so maybe an anthology might be the way forward. I need a bit more time to decide on this.

I’m also planning to publish an eBook on yoga for everyday people. I’ve drafted some of it already and my wonderful business partner Jean keeps nudging me to get it out there. It’ll be about balancing your chakras (that’s energy centres to you, guv) through basic yoga positions – straightforward poses that you can do at home and nothing too bendy. I save that for class where a qualified teacher can check on me and make sure I’m not doing anything that will snap my spine in two.

Some photos, such as the one below, were taken for the book, but I’m not happy with them. I’ve had vertigo for six months and my alignment has been skew whiff. When I’m ready to put it together, it would be great if some kind soul who’s handy with a camera would take decent shots for me.


It conveniently rained throughout my duvet day and I think there’s nothing more soothing than listening to the rain whilst you’re snug under the covers. I meditated (I listen to binaural beats through headphones, I simply don’t have the patience to sit in lotus position chating ‘Om’ for 30 mins), read, slept and wrote in my journal until late afternoon. Then the sun came out! I took myself off for a walk in the woods.

There’s nothing more relaxing for me than listening to birdsong whilst walking between trees. I love the way the sun pushes its way through leaves; how woodpeckers knock on trees; how robins jump along in front of me; and how the birds jealously guard their rookeries. Complete serenity.

So, in short, this duvet day, I’ve determined to carry on with the things that lead me by the heart, to become more creative and to continue to hug more trees! Or, even more succinctly, in my idol, Leonie Dawson’s words, I’m gonna

Ride ze wild donkeys!Image

Love ya!

Anj x


It’s my third anniversary!


Three years ago today, I woke up feeling euphoric.  Then I promptly burst into tears. I can remember feeling so liberated, yet so scared at the prospect of paying my frankly humongous mortgage without the safety net of a monthly salary.  That was my welcome to the world of self-employment and boy, have I learnt a lot!

Mostly, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’ve learnt that I can make it alone; who my true friends are; what clients do and don’t value; how important cashflow is; how resilient and also how creative I can be; and that my personal values are so strong that I’m not tempted to compromise them for monetary gain.  There have been some tough lessons, but I’ve bounced up every time.

More recently, I learnt that although I can make it alone, I don’t want to.  I enjoy taking an idea and bouncing it off others to develop it into something unique.  I’ve learnt that taking more care of myself is important (a six month struggle with benign positional vertigo isn’t ideal when you’re your own breadwinner).

So what have I done with these personal insights? Well, I’m delighted to say that I’ve been creating a business called People Help People with three fantastic business partners that will allow us to follow our hearts (and hopefully make money to keep a roof over our heads too). We will be working to help organisations do more within their communities and to be able to report on what positive change they’ve made. We’ll be offering resilience and wellbeing services too and I’m so excited to be able to work with individuals and see how they blossom with the right help and encouragement.

Best of all, we’ve agreed to tithe profits into the People Help People Foundation, which will enable us to support the groups of people that we feel most drawn to help.  It seems a bit of a grand word to use, but I feel that I’ve found my ‘calling’ in promoting the life chances of girls and women.  I’ve been doing a lot of work in the Yorkshire region to raise awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  This activity has been purely personal.  I was repelled when I first heard of it appalling practice eighteen years ago.

Now, through our Foundation, we can do something about it on a wider scale.  I’ve been recognised for this work through a nomination in the Gender Role Model category of the National Diversity Awards.  Obviously, I didn’t set out on this journey with any thought of personal profile.  I’ve met too many women who have been subjected to FGM and have seen first-hand the lasting psychological effects that it has, on top of the earlier physical trauma.  This campaigning is emotionally exhausting, but my moral compass is set in that direction and I don’t plan to give up.  If the nomination helps to further raise awareness of FGM, then I’m happy with that (so please vote for me)!

At the moment, I’m so excited that I keep hopping around in my seat.  I hope it’s not too distracting, but if it is – sorry, get used to it!  Here’s looking forward to the next three years and beyond. Anj