Make Up Your Brags

Last time I wrote, I had you imagine yourself as Queen of your Domain.

Since then, I’ve been dreaming up more exercises for stepping into your power, and it brought to mind another topic that comes up with almost every woman I work with: how hard it is to talk about our accomplishments. To crow, to claim, to boast, to brag.

Everyone likes the idea of OTHER women bragging. But when it comes to doing it yourself, there is an instinctive deflection – a resistance – a horror.

Here is how the horror plays out for me.

There are things I know I can do well. And I can own that, in a comical half joking way, like…

I’M A REALLY GOOD SINGER. HA HA I’M THE BEST SINGER THAT EVER LIVED. JUST KIDDING!! I AM PRETTY GOOD THOUGH

Even if it’s something I know I can do well, there is this fear of saying it out loud, like I might jinx it or draw negative attention to myself. Or that I might not be as good as I think I am, I might be blind to the reality that actually I suck. Someone else out there is better so who am I to claim originality or excellence or anything special?

Like, oh my god, what if I am bragging about something that I am not in fact excellent at, but only REGULAR at? How embarrassing would that be? Who am I to say this spaghetti I made is delicious, what if it’s just regular old spaghetti that ANYONE could make?

THE HORROR. THE HORROR. That I might say out loud, this is really good spaghetti, and everyone eating it would be thinking, ehhhh, it’s ok.

That I might claim excellence when in fact IT’S NOT EXCELLENT.

I have known many men who do not have this problem. Who are not haunted with fears that they might secretly be subpar. Who are quite willing to take credit and claim excellence for regular or even mediocre work.

What many of us who identify as women do – and I’m not the first person to say this so OH MY GOD DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND I AM TAKING CREDIT FOR INVENTING THIS IDEA – is deflect and diffuse. We deny the credit. We share the credit. We do anything but TAKE THE GODDAMN CREDIT.

Taking the credit is SCARY. It’s taking ownership, it’s taking up space, it’s vulnerable, it’s exposed.

I led a beta test workshop over the summer on becoming Queen and bragging about your accomplishments and here is a hilarious thing that went on inside my head while I was leading it.

I had a group of women write a list of things they had done that they were proud of – things that were hard, things that seemed impossible, things that changed and stretched them – and then read them out loud.

There were some incredible things on those lists!

Here is what was going through my mind: oh wow. These women REALLY have things to brag about. They have been living life to the fullest. My list is not that impressive. I haven’t swum with sharks or traveled solo or raised my kids in an intentional community. Here I am leading an exercise on bragging and what do I have to brag about?

And yet, I was also aware that each woman didn’t think the things on her list were impressive until she read them out loud.

Afterwards, I had an idea for a new exercise, and I’m going to share it with you because it kind of blew my mind.

I made a list of things I wished I could brag about. A list of made up accomplishments.

If you want to do it, try it now: write down the things you wish you could say you have done.

There are lots of impressive things I have not done, that I would not put on my list. I do not wish I could say I’ve swum with sharks. I mean it would be impressive to say, but I don’t feel a pain in my heart when I hear someone say they’ve done that.

The ones that make you inhale sharply and say, oh wow I wish I could say I had done that – those are the ones that go on the list.

MY MADE UP ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I wrote a rock opera
  • I traveled through rural China for six months and learned rudimentary Mandarin
  • I planted a night blooming garden
  • I gave talks on energy conservation, climate change and wild clowny art at some big think tank conference
  • I took my kids backpacking in Montana
  • I toured as a backup singer with Tom Petty
  • I bought a house in my 20s

Now here is the amazing thing that I only realized after I’d written my list and was looking at it.

The very first thing on the list IS SOMETHING I HAVE IN FACT DONE.

I did write a rock opera! In my mind I was like, oh it wasn’t really a rock opera, it was more of a song cycle, but then I remembered that some critic had called it something and I looked it up and it was “a one woman no orchestra polyphonic opera” which is actually WAY COOLER than a rock opera.

Everything else on the list – and I mean every single thing – is something I have not done TO THAT EXTENT, but have done on a smaller scale.

I was SHOCKED to realize this. There is a grain of truth in every one of these fantastical, out there, made up accomplishments. I’m not as far away from that list as I thought.

LIST OF REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I traveled across the US for 3 months with my best friend when we were 22.
  • I planted a tiny fairy garden with my five year old last year.
  • I gave a talk on “creative living in an alternate world” at SXSW in 2016.
  • I’ve taken my kids car camping in Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Texas since they were each 10 months old.
  • I opened once for Justin Bond.
  • My partner and I bought a house in our 30s.

When I look at THAT list, I think: hell, that is nothing to sneeze at! Why am I not bragging about THOSE things?

It tells me something about where I am, and where I want to be.

And it tells me, I’m not starting from scratch! The seeds are there. I can brag about what I’ve done, right here, right now.

You can too! Whatever it is you wish for, you can find the seeds in your life right now. Look at your list of made up accomplishments, and ask yourself: have I done something like this, on a smaller / different / more modest scale?

Or ask yourself: have I actually done that? Is there something I’m minimizing or not seeing that is in fact AN AMAZING THING I DID?!

So to recap, here’s how to brag in make believe and then in real life:

  1. Write a list of made up things you wish you could say you have done
  2. Look at the list and ask: is there a grain of truth in here? Have I done anything like these things?
  3. Write the list of things you have actually done
  4. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask: can I take credit for these things?
  5. And if the answer is YES: say them out loud.

(If the answer is NO, schedule a free session with me and by the end of the hour, I’ll have you bragging like a pirate.)