When Someone Brags, Shows-off, Boasts. Argh. Enough Already.

We all have friends who brag from time to time, mainly to make themselves feel superior but also, occasionally, to make us feel inferior. Whether they manage to raise their own self-esteem is beside the point; their bragging is so irritating, we just would like it to stop. For one thing, if you’re not a bragging type, you might wonder why on earth they are doing it, because it feels so unnatural to you. It’s not an attractive quality and surely they realise they come across as less than admirable, when they show-off. It’s safe to say that probably everyone disapproves of a braggart, so why on earth do people do it?


Gaining one-upmanship, at its most extreme, can be a character trait of a narcissist (a person who has excessive interest in themself and thinks the world revolves around them). In a world where we value humility, it’s pretty hard to appreciate the narcissist – the one who frequently flexes on social media for example (there is a fine line between tasteful posts and those in-your-face, over the top ones), or always outdoes you when you tell them what you’ve been up to.

The next time someone get on your nerves with their narcissistic self-promotion, remind yourself that they need a bit of sympathy, as explained by the California State University Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Ramani Durvasula: “Narcissistic individuals are actually really hamstrung by insecurity and shame, and their entire life is an attempt to regulate their image; Narcissism has never been about self-love – it is almost entirely about self-loathing."

Seeking Self-enhancement and Validation

It’s normal and even necessary, to seek external validation from those around us. But self-enhancement should not become the dominant goal. In other words, we shouldn’t do things purely to get others to think more of us. Pascal Wallisch, a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University, describes how “..if someone is boasting and blustering, it doesn’t mean they actually feel good about themselves. Something is lacking in their life.”

Lack of Motivation

Perhaps sometimes even you feel the urge to brag and you’re not really sure why. You know it’s not the done thing, but on the other hand, you find you can’t stop yourself. Consider if the admiration and praise you receive is what drives you. You could be lacking in intrinsic motivation read our blog on motivation – something you could try addressing with different tools like rewards for instance.


Boasting without being direct about it, is even worse. The ‘humblebrag’ is the one who describes how hard it is to train 5 nights a week, being in the 1st Team and all (a complaint masking a boast), or how difficult it is to juggle the wide array of successful activities they are busy with, or gosh, how will they possibly choose between all the offers from top universities they have bagged? The ‘humblebrag’ not only irritates with their boasting, but also with their falseness. It’s a double whammy.

Sharing is not bragging

Note that there is a difference between bragging and sharing news. It’s perfectly normal and decent to tell you friends about your achievements, to keep them in the loop. They would hate to hear your important news through the grape-vine. Imagine how you might feel if you were to learn one of your close friends just got a leading part in a Broadway Musical or they won the sports scholarship of dreams, but they didn’t tell you directly.

The next time a friend starts blowing their own trumpet, remember this is their issue, not yours. A boaster may be seen as arrogant, self-obsessed or competitive, but deep down, they are probably just feeling insecure.

Recommended links:

Humblebragging Makes People Dislike You, According to Science | Time

Savvy Self-Promotion (hbr.org)

Boasting and bragging | OUPblog

Why some narcissists actually hate themselves - BBC Worklife