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Why Do People Brag?

Bragging isn't bad, and it isn't wrong. It's merely the inevitable result of certain beliefs. It's not the bragging that you want to get rid of; it's the beliefs that have you brag to get the approval of others to feel okay about yourself.
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It took me a long time to stop bragging. About 50 years, in fact.

As a child I always bragged about things that I thought would impress others: how good my grades were, things I had done, popular kids I hung out with. Having people think well of me was so important that I even lied just to impress others.

When I was 17 I was living in Miami Beach in an apartment with my mom. From time to time I dated girls who visited Miami Beach on vacation. One time I remember driving past my aunt's beautiful house and saying to the girl, "That's where I live." I would have been embarrassed to show her an apartment building and say I lived in there. Living in the luxurious waterfront house meant that I was someone special, and that's how I wanted others to view me.

For most of my life I didn't see my bragging as a problem. I did it, and most of the people I knew did it also. It was just something that people did.

It wasn't until I developed the Lefkoe Method about 25 years ago and started to figure out what beliefs caused which problems that I realized that bragging is actually a way to compensate for a low level of self-esteem.

Let me explain.

As I've written in the past, very few people escape childhood without forming a bunch of negative self-esteem beliefs. With few exceptions, parents aren't aware how their behavior is instrumental in the beliefs that their children are forming. And as I said a few weeks ago in a post about parenting, parents, being adults, generally like quiet; children are not quiet and cannot even understand why anyone would value quiet. Parents, for the most, part want their house to be neat; young children don't even understand the concept of neat. Parents want to sit down for dinner when it is ready and before it gets cold; children are almost always doing something that is far more important to them and don't want to stop doing it when their parents call them.

In other words, parents usually want their children to do things that they are developmentally incapable of doing. They want their young children to act like little adults, which they cannot possibly do.

The question is not whether children frequently disobey their parents. Children are developmentally incapable of living up to most parents' expectations. The only question is how parents react when their children are not doing what they want them to do.

And because few parents go to parenting school and most bring their own beliefs from their childhoods with them, their reactions range from annoyance and frustration to anger and abuse, with every possibility in between. So we form negative beliefs about ourselves.

Once we have a negative sense of ourselves, we need to find something that makes us feel good about ourselves, something that makes us feel able to survive and worthy of surviving. I call these survival-strategy behaviors, because they feel to us as if we need them to survive.

They are formed early in life when we accidentally do something and get a positive response from parents or some other person who is important to us. That positive response makes us feel good about ourselves. After a few repetitions, we conclude, "What makes me good enough and important is... being successful, or doing things for people, or my accomplishments, or having people think well of me."

"What makes me good enough and important is having people think well of me" is the most common survival-strategy belief we've seen after working with over 13,000 clients in the past 25 years. And that's why bragging is so common.

As I started to help clients eliminate this belief, I discovered that I held it also. Eventually I eliminated a lot of negative self-esteem beliefs and several survival-strategy beliefs, including the belief that "what makes me good enough and important is having people think well of me."

After these beliefs were finally gone, I noticed one day that my bragging had stopped. I knew that I was okay the way I was and that I no longer need the approval of others to make me feel okay. I preferred that you like me, but your not liking me no longer meant anything about me. So I didn't have to do or say things to get your approval anymore.

A lifetime of bragging had stopped without me even noticing at first.

You might want to ask, "Is every comment about one's accomplishments bragging?" Not necessarily. Here's how to tell the difference between someone bragging and merely stating facts:

  • Are the facts repeated frequently?

  • Does the person seem to have a need for you to really get the importance of what they are telling you?
  • Does the speaker have a lot of energy on the facts?
  • If so, you probably are hearing bragging coming from people who need you to think well of them to feel good about themselves.

    If the accomplishments are presented as information, something the speaker is proud of but not invested in, without looking for or needing a positive reaction from you, it probably isn't bragging.

    Bragging isn't bad, and it isn't wrong. It's merely the inevitable result of certain beliefs. It's not the bragging that you want to get rid of; it's the beliefs that have you brag to get the approval of others to feel okay about yourself. And you can stop the bragging anytime you want by eliminating the negative self-esteem beliefs and the survival strategy beliefs that cause it.

    If you haven't yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to recreateyourlife.com, where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

    Copyright ©2010 Morty Lefkoe