I recently learnt the word “humblebrag”, which has lately been included in the Oxford English dictionary. It is an interesting word for a rather complicated phenomenon of the 21st century. If the 20th century was about achievement despite a previously unseen amount of destruction, the 21st century is about coping with achievement itself. Humblebrag is an attempt at understanding the irony of achievement – fame, success, accomplishment, whichever form it may appear in, and the almost necessary follow-up of being in such a position – a state of disbelief, even denial, for all intents and purposes. Are all people who are humblebragging really humblebragging or are simply, humble? Is it even humility, or is it a different psychological state that causes self-deprecation? Is apologizing for and being incredulous of one’s success really a bad thing when, on the surface it seems rather good?
Though selfies are a sign of narcissism, narcissism itself has little to do with self-love. This equation is the subject for another post, but I would argue that if a person really had self-love, they would not need a hundred pictures of themselves to prove it. With self-love, you know how you look and you don’t judge. You don’t mind others taking a picture of you to preserve a moment in time, which is really what people did before social networking. Narcissism is far from self-love. It is an attempt to validate love for oneself from external approval. We could be narcissists even if we didn’t take pictures of ourselves. Narcissism is simply an act of continued effort towards a positive reception of ourselves. We’re all guilty of it to some extent. I am way more self-absorbed than is good for me. And I am so because I am not too happy with the way I am. However, I draw the line when I see that the changes available to me are too extreme and are unlikely to produce the desired result, happiness.
Was that a case of humblebrag? Did I inadvertently say that I am above our modern selfie-driven narcissism? I did have a valid excuse for it. What has often been proved to be the case, playing by the rules of social media doesn’t necessarily create happiness though we are too busy with it to notice. I notice, because I am not big on social media. That does not make me a better person, far from it. In fact, I feel very left out, out of step with time and culture because I don’t have the attitude (at least, currently) to swim through it like a pro. I feel stupid to not have known such an etymologically delicious word like humblebrag. And no, I wasn’t bragging just now. If there is one thing I will never brag about, and certainly not humbly, it is ignorance. There is just too much guilt and helplessness attached to it for me.
Humblebrag is only valid when you have something to be proud of. I, kind of, miss that confidence that was widely accepted in the last century. It wasn’t bragging, it was complete self-belief. I always assumed, that when I get successful, I’ll grow that unashamed self-confidence too. Imagine still having to talk about your insecurities and failings when you got where you wanted to go despite them. Why would I want to brag about that? There are some people who flaunt their humble backgrounds when they reach success, showing how true they are to their roots. I think adults are, generally, wise enough to spot the true rags-to-riches story from the pretentious one. If I ever get where I want to be, I know that it won’t be truthful to grow unashamed self-confidence and forget my roots. I wouldn’t flaunt them, but I won’t be able to get any perspective on my present situation without the past. That is what humblebraggers, and just humbly successful people are afraid of. Nearly every success story of the last century is a story of inability to cope with new found vanity. How do you remind yourself that you are human when circumstances place you above general humanity? And even that ‘above‘ has such a hierarchy of importance. You need to humbly brag just to stay sane.
When lacking confidence, a piece of advice that was often used to good effect in the last century was, “fake it till you make it.” In this century, humblebrag is the mantra to keep you sane. You need to fake that humility until you have it, which isn’t so bad after all.