You’ve Earned Your Success. Now Own Talking About It

By Natalie StechysonMarch 25, 2022

Normalize celebrating your triumphs (and feel good doing it) with these five strategies

Ever wanted to share some exciting news — about a big promotion, how your portfolio is faring, or how uniquely gifted your child is — but then you just, well, didn’t? Happens to the best of us. It can be difficult to bring up our successes with others, especially if we want to avoid making comparisons or bragging. But with a little work, you can start owning your successes and help others feel empowered to own theirs, too.

As many Canadians continue to await an in-person return to their professional and social circles — whenever that might be — it’s worth remembering that discussing our achievements can be a healthy and constructive exercise. Verbalizing our wins can help us rediscover the positivity that often feels in such short supply these days — which goes double for those of us trying to rebuild our self-confidence and social connections after almost two years of pandemic restrictions. If you’re looking to normalize (and practice) talking about your well-earned successes, here are some strategies that can help.

1. Emphasize your effort

Try to avoid the dreaded humblebrag. Saying “it was nothing,” or “it was easy,” or, worse, framing your accomplishment as a burden (“Guess I have to replace my business cards now that I’ve been promoted!”), has the potential to make you sound arrogant.

If an accomplishment required a lot of effort, emphasize that instead — it can be easier to relate to. For instance, if you just scored a promotion, try saying “I’m so pleased. I worked so hard to achieve this.” And if you want to post your half-marathon time on Facebook, try following it with, “I trained for two years, and I’m so proud of the result.”

2. Be specific

It can help to avoid generalizations and jargony labels like “I’m a great salesperson” or “I’m a talented artist.”

A 2018 study published in the journal Self and Identity found that people were perceived more favourably when a self-promotional claim was paired with information to substantiate it. “If you want to present yourself in a positive way and talk about your accolades, then it’s really helpful to have external information or some sort of objective corroboration of how good you are at something,” study co-author Erin O’Mara said in Time Magazine.

Be specific. Try saying, “sales increased 30 per cent since I joined the team,” or “I have a show coming up in a gallery.”

3. Try not to compare

“There’s a big difference between saying you’re good vs. saying you’re superior to others or put differently — saying that others are worse than you,” social psychologist Ilan Shrira wrote in Psychology Today. “In fact, researchers suggest that one reason listeners are turned off by comparative boasting is because it can come across as threatening to listeners, even if they aren’t explicitly being compared to.”

So, rather than “no one else raised nearly as much as I did for the fundraiser” or “my kid is the smartest in his class,” consider saying something like “I put in a lot of time and exceeded my fundraising goal” or “my kid studies very hard and gets straight As.”

4. Say “because”

A foundational 1978 Harvard study by Ellen Langer found that, when people used “because” to explain something, others were more likely to respond. This little trick has since become prevailing wisdom in marketing and copy writing circles, where professionals have latched onto the powerful word — and you can, too, when talking about your accomplishments.

Some examples: “I am so pleased we bought a new house because now my children have a big yard to run around in,” or “I am so happy we’re going on vacation, because it’s been so long since we were able to get some rest and relaxation.”

5. Acknowledge it’s not just about you

First, acknowledge how others (or circumstances) may have helped you. A little gratitude can make you sound more down to earth. Try, “Our condo sold for twice the asking price. Our realtor worked tirelessly.” or, “My portfolio has seen such great growth. The market has been on a tear.”

Second, acknowledge and celebrate the success of others. Congratulate people sincerely. “Like” those social media posts. And, when you’re sharing your story, give others the opportunity to tell you about their achievements. Ask them about their goals.

Keep these strategies in mind the next time you meet up with a friend or colleague. The more we all normalize owning our successes, the better it can feel celebrating our own — and each other’s — wins together.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.