When Is It Good to Brag, and When Is It Ill-Advised?

New research on self-enhancement in personal and professional relationships.

Grant H Brenner
6 min readApr 15, 2021


From Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash


  • Bragging is seen as a social liability, but that’s overly simplistic; sometimes we need to share positives with others.
  • Bragging is problematic in many cases, but fear of being seen as a braggart can interfere with intimacy in close relationships.
  • Learning how to distinguish when bragging is negative and when sharing positive news is healthy is a key achievement.

We are socialized that it is bad to brag. And, it often is — perhaps, by definition, always given that bragging almost never has a positive spin. With the possible exception of “bragging rights” — in which boldly building oneself up is earned and therefore, socially sanctioned, bragging is out.

Does pride always go before the fall, or is there room for healthy appreciation?

Whether touting one’s perceived strengths is deemed “arrogant” or “narcissistic”, or gentle but objectionable “humble-bragging”, you risk painting a big target on your back when you appear proud. Yup, it can be adaptive to put one’s accomplishments out in front, even necessary in today’s dog-eat-dog competitive world of marketing, in which we are less likely to trumpet one another’s talents and deeds.

It can be a sign of a healthy sense of self to feel comfortable with one’s accomplishments. And that shows in how we speak about ourselves. Folks with social anxiety or awkwardness may have trouble making effective decisions, leading to escalating uncertainty about what to do, and (often) ultimately withdrawal. More secure individuals don’t evoke such strong negative feelings in the listener.

Elevating your brand or inviting envy and retaliation?

Self-promotion tends to split the world down the middle — one group of people are cool with you, while another group disapproves. If anyone is actually paying attention, that is. That’s why on social media promotional messages require metered repetition and novelty — getting a signal to stand out from the…



Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer