I hate the concept of “humblebrag.” I can see how it might be irritating to see someone saying something positive about themselves but then covering it up as “no big deal” or as if it’s actually a negative or whatever, so in theory, I can see the purpose of this term. But in practice, I usually see it used as a way to shut down women and other people who haven’t historically had access to the idea of bragging in a positive context, or calling attention to themselves in any way that’s not considered shameful or out of place. So.
Further, there’s a cultural component to this. The idea that it’s generally a good thing to call attention to your accomplishments and express pride for them is a pretty Western idea. (Not to imply that all Westerners agree with it, obviously, just that it’s associated with individualistic cultures.) My upbringing discouraged me from expressing pride for myself, and not just because of gender. In my family we don’t feel “proud” of ourselves. We do what needs to be done, we achieve, we accept compliments graciously, but we certainly don’t express pride.
I had this illustrated to me at a pretty young age. I had a parent-teacher conference in elementary school and my teacher required me to tell my parents one thing I wanted to work on and one thing I was proud of myself for. I stumbled over the awkward English phrases, sensing that my parents found the exercise ridiculous.
And they did. For years after, at dinner parties and family gatherings, they mocked “these Americans” who asked me to do such a silly thing. “I am proud of myself for!” they mimicked, laughing. If wasn’t just unusual to them; it was so ridiculous they couldn’t relate the incident with straight faces. Of all the Russians they told that anecdote to, every one laughed.
Later on they would occasionally say “We are very proud of you” on certain occasions, like when I graduated from college or otherwise achieved something important. Although we speak almost entirely in Russian, that was a sentence they only ever said in English, almost tongue-in-cheek, always with the unspoken implication that this is what “these Americans” would say at such a moment, and, after all, we live in America now. They never said it in Russian. I don’t even know how to say it in Russian, because I’ve never heard it or read it in a book. I certainly don’t know how to say “I’m proud of myself,” either.
And I want to be clear: as much as my parents mocked the idea of stating your own self-pride, they never withheld actual love or pride for me. It was just expressed differently. And I was expected to show self-pride through confidence, assertiveness, and self-motivation, not with phrases like “I am proud of myself for.”
What y’all call “humblebragging” is what to us is just…talking about yourself. There is no other way. “Humility” is a word many Westerners use with a negative connotation, but for other people, it’s an essential trait. When I see the snarking about “humblebragging,” I see another reminder that you think that your values are the only valid ones. I resent the constant implication that I have to act exactly like you even though my heart rests in a home where your language is only used either to discuss computer problems or as a joke.
“I am proud of myself for.” It took years to even be able to understand the meaning of this phrase, and I’m glad I did. But yes, it’s hard to throw away my upbringing. I certainly won’t do it just to avoid the ridicule of some Facebook asshole.