The word “humblebrag” has been around long enough that even I have heard of it. (Is that a humblebrag?) A collection of examples has been collected in a book that I have not yet read entitled, “Humblebrag.” The word is common enough that it is even in the Oxford Dictionary, at least in the online edition. For some reason, I only recently learned the term and, egomaniac that I am, I thought that I had come up with the concept years ago. I certainly had not.
The word describes the craft of hiding a brag about oneself inside a seemingly self-deprecating statement. For instance, if and when I name-drop a famous person and simultaneously mention how nice they were to li’l ol’ me, which is something that I certainly have done, that is a pretty standard humblebrag. A humblebragger gets two social rewards for the price of one: a congratulations for the achievement that they are proud of—and perhaps ought to be proud of!—and a verbal pat on the shoulder in recognition of their semi-sincere humbleness. “I met Oprah Winfrey once,” is a minor brag that is almost no brag at all, unless the conversation is not “famous people we have met,” but instead it was your reply to, “Have you decided what you’re getting yet? I’m starving.”
“I was hanging out with Oprah Winfrey the other day,” is a big brag if you merely saw her at O’Hare Airport. We have been taught that people do not like braggarts and that humbleness is a positive attribute to be celebrated.
“I bet Oprah Winfrey tells just about every li’l ol’ barista that they make the best (insert name of coffee concoction here).” That is a humblebrag.
Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is an invitation for writers to humblebrag about ourselves. It asks, “Can you keep a secret? Have you ever—intentionally or not—spilled the beans (when you should’ve stayed quiet)?” If I were to tell you that I am good at keeping secrets, am I not inviting you to test this self-theory on me? It would probably be a test that we would both somehow fail. Conversely, if I offer up an example of a time I goofed and let the cat out of the bag about a surprise birthday party or whatever, because (shrugs and makes a crinkle-face) I’m just so darn honest, I would be humblebragging.
(In full disclosure, I am not a barista and I have not met or otherwise encountered Oprah Winfrey. I have been in O’Hare Airport.)
If a new acquaintance tells you that he or she is good at keeping secrets, test this and tell them something about yourself that you do not mind becoming public. Or give them one detail that is new and different and memorable from other versions of the story; in this way, when you hear that particular detail get repeated back at you, you will know who broke your confidence.
“I didn’t know you’ve been arrested,” a friend told-asked me one Monday morning. I have not yet been arrested or even ever been inside a police car, but I did know with whom I had planted that particular Easter egg in the video game of my life. Trust is something that can withstand minor tests like that.
As I reflect on it, it seems to me that trust is not something that needs testing to know that it exists in one’s life. “We are only as sick as our secrets,” I have heard, so I do not need to add anyone else’s to my own.
But I can not wait to tell you about the time Sammy Davis, Jr., took me aside and told me in confidence not to tell my friend that I am too modest for a career in show business …