The late bass player extraordinaire, Jaco Pastorius, used to introduce himself as “The world’s greatest bass player.” To anyone who took offense, he replied, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” I am fortunate to possess high self esteem. I know what I am good at and, just as important, I am aware of areas in which I have no abilities or knowledge. My clients have often remarked that I appear to be very sure of myself and certain that what I am telling them is correct. I always counter this observation with a question, “If you don’t think I know what I am doing, why did you hire me?” My philosophy is similar to Jaco’s: I know I am very smart; I know I am an excellent judge of human nature; I know I usually know what people are going to do or say before they do or say it (or sometimes, before they know what they are going to do or say!); and I know my advice is worth every penny I am paid. I have never been accused of being a wallflower; instead, my silence is calculated for maximum effect. If I tell someone I make the world’s best spaghetti, it’s because it’s true! (And, if the reader persists in disbelieving me, I can provide many references who will testify about my world’s best spaghetti!) The point of this post is to be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished; don’t hide from the truth about how good you are. And, as a side note, I will never, ever, be the world’s best bass player. His name was Jaco Pastorius!
Okay, for starters, Melissa does make great spaghetti, but that is not the point of this post. The point is how to get through life when one knows they are the best at, or at least really good at, something. It seems that, in many western cultures, being proud of one’s abilities, achievements, or possessions, can be seen as bragging, which is to say, a bad thing. Bragging is seen as “arrogant,” another bad thing. In writing this post, I looked at a few definitions of “bragging” and the common aspect of most of the definitions is “excessively,” as in “excessively proud and boastful talk about one’s achievements or possessions.” This implies that some humility should be involved, even if one is the best. But, then, the challenge is in trying to figure out how to tout one’s qualifications, etc. without seeming boastful. Politicians apparently don’t have to worry about this, but the rest of us, especially those entrepreneurs among us, need to find the balance in “blowing our own horn,” without being too loud. This has always been a challenge for Melissa and me in our marketing efforts, that is, blowing our own horns is uncomfortable. And part of that discomfort comes from cultural norms which are instilled in us from a young age. Yet, those who excel at something, and who are proud of it, probably deserve to have it understood that pride and ego are part of the success. Performers and athletes have to have the self confidence to excel at their craft or sport. The question is where well earned self confidence turns to being inappropriately/excessively boastful, such as doing a dance in the end zone. Or, as with Jaco, identifying himself as the best – a point which is hard to argue. (In certain cultures, such as Australia, being seen as “bragging” is very negative – one doesn’t want to be the “tall poppy” because the “tall poppy” will get cut down to size.) So, there is, as with many things, a balance. One needs to have some self confidence to “sell” oneself in a marketing sense or an interview/employment setting but, as with smiling, there is a need to self monitor and know where the line is so as not to cross it thereby creating a perception of “bragging.” Rarely are there objective, or even semi-objective, measures for being “best at” something; though there are, admittedly, a few. So, to the degree possible, attempting to quantify one’s achievements may be useful in not crossing the line to bragging (unless you are/were Jaco, then it doesn’t matter because it was true).