Mind & Body

Boasting (a bit) is good for mental health, so why do we loathe it?


Shona Hendley explains why we shouldn’t save our best boasting for job interviews. The mental health benefits are real, so why do Australians shun a bit of a brag? 

When you say the words ‘job interview’, most people react in a similar way – there is a cringe, a screwing up of the face, a grimace, followed by some sort of disparaging comment about hating job interviews, or at least about them making a person feel uncomfortable.

While I definitely agree with this sentiment, it wasn’t until recently that I realised why I did. As I reflected on my own job interviews over the years, I came to understand that along with the pressure of trying to secure a job, it is the very distinct job interview microcosm, that makes it so cringe worthy or uncomfortable. Specifically, the talking about yourself so positively, AKA boasting about why you are the best for the job.

Because outside of a job interview most of us aren’t prone to outlining our best skills, assets, experiences and offerings for others to hear, instead we often do the absolute opposite and keep them to ourselves.

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In our minds, even the thought of sharing a recent success or achievement can create internalised visions of people’s eyes rolling, or half-baked smiles as they either think you are completely full of yourself or pretend to be happy for you while thinking it.

Or, alternatively, if you are like me, that phrase Grandma always said when someone didn’t show A+ modesty comes to mind: “She’s getting too big for her boots!”

And with that, we internalise because no one wants to outgrow their boots.

Clinical Psychologist, Meredith Fuller says that Grandma’s view is one of the reasons why many of us are apprehensive to boast to others, or more accurately put, that this negative view of boasting can stem from our family values.

“Often people have learnt through their family of origin that boasting isn’t a positive thing to do. It may have been met with a derogatory comment which has taught that person to no longer share achievements.”

Fuller says that other reasons that many of us don’t boast can be attributed to “a fear of the reactions of others if they do say something about a success. Whether it is silence or a fear that people won’t like them because they are standing out from the crowd.

Also, low self-esteem can make it hard for some people to voice a positive reflection on themselves; While others may have an internal sense of self and not feel the need to boast publicly to others.”

But whatever our reason to have boasting apprehension, the fact is, despite making us sometimes feel a tad uncomfortable, it can actually be a good thing, from scoring our dream job for one. According to Fuller, another positive is that “boasting is actually completely healthy and it can do wonders for your own mental health.”

This is how:

#1. Positive self-talk can do wonders for your outlook on life

“Sharing our achievements with others is an example of positive self-talk. It allows us to talk about our value and our purpose which in turn creates a more optimistic outlook and higher value of self,” says Fuller.

#2. Celebrating the wins is important

We celebrate having a baby or getting married so why not celebrate getting that promotion or a positive review? Fuller says that: “What makes us enjoy our lives is setting goals and achieving them. What is also important is to celebrate this success by acknowledging it and sharing it with others, especially those people who love you.”

#3. Boasting can provide a balanced view of ourselves.

While many of us are great at seeing our own faults, not so many are great at doing the same for our strengths. Fuller says that boasting can “help us have a balanced view of ourselves by identifying both the shortcomings and the strengths.”

#4. Creates a positive and realistic self-image

“Talking about our achievements as a part of you as a person should be like talking about any other part. And in doing so this creates a positive and realistic self-image which is important to have especially if we are prone to focus on the negative aspects.”

#5. Improves self-esteem and self-worth

Finally, Fuller says that “if you have success you should enjoy it. The happiness that comes with success and sharing this with others fosters good self-esteem and self-worth and this cannot be understated for your mental health.”

What else is important, Fuller says is to understand that there is a difference between arrogance and sharing your accomplishments.

“Arrogance is often a part of an egocentric and narcissistic personality and is done for a person’s own gain, like being in the limelight or to provoke the person they are telling. Genuinely boasting about your achievements with people who care about you is different because they should be happy for you and want to hear about and celebrate your triumphs too.”

So, go ahead, boast away, it is good for you!

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram at @shonamarion.