I Don’t Mean To Brag…Or Do You? Why Women Don’t Brag Enough But Should
Last Thursday, NPR’s The Takeaway featured Associate Professor Jessi Smith of Montana State University to discuss a growing problem in gender identity: bragging. Both women and men brag, revealing our accolades one conversation at a time, but according to Professor Smith, women are less likely than men to praise themselves, and when they do it comes with anxiety.
In her recent study, Professor Smith created an experiment to help women rid themselves of said discomfort. Using three groups of women to apply for a financial scholarship, in two of the groups, the women had to write individual essays about their accomplishments and in the third group women had to write essays on their friends’ achievements. The first two groups were given the same instructions, though one group had a black box in the room when they wrote their essays. Professor Smith told the women the block box was a noise generator that would distract them, but in actuality, the black box wasn’t real. Its purpose was to show how women would blame it for making them feel uncomfortable. The truth was the discomfort they experienced was really due to them bragging about what they’ve attained. This group, along with group three, received the most money for their scholarships for showcasing immodest success in their essays about themselves or their friends.
As I listened to this segment on The American Conversation, my chest tightened. My mother can tell you I’ve always had trouble promoting myself since I was a child. It was never in my nature to tell anyone what my extracurricular hobbies were or share great news regarding my academics. Personally, I don’t think awards, promotions, or any type of success define a person. I also believe it’s best to move silently and allow people to make their own judgments. But as I have grown as a nonfiction writer and journalist, I have (uncomfortably) learned to “shine my light,” as corny as it may sound. Through Facebook and Instagram I advertise my interviews with dope celebrities, but as a buffer I quickly try to distract from them with a funny meme or life experience that will make my intelligence and work ethic appear safe.
I don’t want anyone to think of me as a threat because I often cheer others on and hope they will do the same for me. I know, I sound like I live in a land full of unicorns and rainbows with an unlimited supply of Nutella, but I grew up around siblings and cousins who are brilliant. The majority of my family members have more than one degree or career at prestigious institutions. It’s the norm to casually swap success stories at family gatherings. But I often feel when you share anything you worked for, it can quickly lend itself to comparisons and competition and that’s not my intention.
Ultimately, this experiment did teach me there are moments you must discard your fear of looking pompous to become your own publicist. Opportunities don’t wait for you to receive clearance from your imaginary haters.
Listen to The American Conversation segment below and weigh in. Are you comfortable bragging or do you keep your accomplishments to yourself.