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.