December 21, 2020

A Critical Resource for Your Success? Someone You Can Brag To!

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It’s the end of the weirdest year in my life, and it’s quite tempting to move on to 2021 and the calls for vision boards and goal-setting that accompany any new year.

But wait! Before we move on, I’d like to savor the waning days of 2020. Sure, we’ll get a look at “best of” lists so we can read even more books and binge-watch even more series on streaming networks. That’s all fine, and I’m a big fan of staying in and imbibing on art this year.

While you’re at it, I’d also suggest you turn your attention away from the magnetic pull of even more of other people’s highlights to take a look at yours. It’s been a tough year. What is on the “best of YOU” list for  2020? What external wins did you have? What internal opportunities for growth and expansion did you create for yourself? Maybe your list includes starting a new job without meeting a single colleague in person. Perhaps your list includes working it out so everyone in your household could be on Zoom at the same time. Whatever it is, it’s time to do an accounting. And I recommend details, specific areas of appreciation for you and your peak moments.

After you wrap up this exercise for yourself, I want you to share your list with at least one person. I want you to do this without apology, without discounting the scale of what you wrote by comparing it to others, without adding in any shame about how one shouldn’t really be proud when things have been so much worse for others this year. All of that is true, but the comparisons won’t be helpful.

Here’s the most important thing: I want you to share your list with someone who is the perfect person to brag to. Look out across your life. My guess is there are a few people who savor your successes as much or more than you do. Those are your people. They are sitting somewhere right now looking at their watches and tapping their toes longing to hear your top 10 list so they can celebrate for you and with you.

I think one of the most important resources for personal and professional growth is a pool of people to whom you can freely “brag.” That word has a negative connotation, but I don’t mean it that way. People talk about mentors and coaches, but they rarely talk about bragging allies. That cohort has been overlooked, and that stops here.

To make the circle of bragging work in our friendships and our communities, we need to not only trust a few close ones with the vulnerable exercise of talking about our wins, but we also need to find moments where we can be the kind of people others feel free to brag to. Bragging, even to a few select and willing people, feels exposed. “Is my thing good enough?” “Will they resent me later?” “Am I going to seem too big for my britches?”

To be what I’ll call a worthy “bragee,” you need enough self-confidence to hear your dear ones’ wins without using them to make yourself feel worse. You need to hear their highlights without comparing yourself unfavorably and making your list of lowlights instead of actually listening.

When people are at liberty to share their successes, we motivate ourselves, and we inspire each other. We get to reinvent the tenor of “bragging” as something victorious instead of something vaguely unseemly. Imagine a personal and business culture in which we were “allowed” to be proud?

I wonder how much we have unconsciously and inadvertently emboldened our imposter voices by not giving air to our proud voices.

Why, oh why did we learn about hubris so early in our educational lives? Why do we think we cannot be both proud of ourselves and also open and humble in the world? What a trap!

Opening the door to a community culture of bragging or pride doesn’t obviate the option to share difficult things with those who are close to you. We know the value of that.

And this year, more than ever, let’s do a little bragging. If you don’t have someone to brag to, you’ve got me. I LOVE HEARING LIFE HIGHLIGHTS, and I promise to do a verbal version of a jig when I hear yours. So tell me, what’s on the Best of You in 2020?

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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