Humble Brag

While watching NCIS: Los Angeles the other night, I heard a new phrase:  humble brag.  I immediately perked up.  Humble brag?  What is that?  The character has been complaining that although she was tired, sweaty and wore no make up, she still got hit on at the gym.  Later in the show, the term came up again when her partner mentioned that she complained that her size 2 jeans were baggy.  Hmmm.  Humble brag.  Do I do that?

It really made me stop and think.  Yes, I think I do.  It’s not a conscious thing, really; I want the people in my life to know how hard I work.  Or work out.  Or what a good cook I am. I don’t like to brag; it’s not a quality I admire.  But I may have mentioned a few times that although a certain recipe didn’t seem to come out as well as expected, everyone gobbled it up and there were no leftovers for my lunch the next day.  Boo-hoo.  And in a recent conversation with my mom:

“I could only run eight miles today.  It was just too cold to run any farther.”

I just want to make it clear that I run long distances on a regular basis but am a bit ashamed to actually come right out and brag for real.

This is starting to feel like a confession.  Growing up Catholic, confession was supposed to be a healthy thing.  I remember slipping into the dark little confessional box in our church, my face burning as I confessed my darkest sins, like teasing my sister, or dreaming about boys when I should have been doing my CCD (Catholic Cristian Doctrine) homework.  I eventually stopped going to confession, then to church altogether.  Yet, there is something to be said for unburdening myself of transgressions.  Is a humble brag a transgression?

I notice a lot of other people do the same thing— they want you to know how cool they are, or how popular, how thin, or how rich.  But the information is delivered in such a way that it seems like they are complaining or burdened by their good fortune or hard work, when in fact they are letting you know how awesome they are, or think they are.  Facebook seems to be the perfect place for this.  How many status reads have actually been humble brags?  It’s not necessary to be famous to spout a humble brag—even my mom does it occasionally, although it is very popular among the truly rich and famous.  There is even a Twitter Humble Brag site.  Is this catching on everywhere?  Have people been doing it for ages and it just finally received a proper name?  Or am I the one of the only people left who never knew?

I mentioned this topic to my friend Robin the Mermaid and she had never heard of it, either.  Today she called to tell me that, now familiar with the term, she heard someone toss out a humble brag at work.  She thought it seemed to make more sense to go for a real brag.  If you’re going to do it, you may as well go all the way.

Perhaps I’m giving this too much thought.  Or too much press?

Well, from my trainer’s point of view, maybe it’s good to go for the humble brag about fitness.  Why wouldn’t anyone want to show off how fit they are?  Fitness rule # 17 :  Earn a humble brag! (Or a real one!)

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7 Comments on “Humble Brag”


  1. I’ve never heard the term either, but now that I know it has a name, I think we all do it to a certain extent. I agree with you: if it’s earned, why not enjoy it? How do others view humble bragging when we do it though? Even if it’s earned?

  2. Charlene Says:

    I don’t have to brag. I have you to do it for me. I just “slippped” and umm accidently hit the share buttom on yesterday’s post! 🙂


  3. Haha, I stumble across lapsed churchgoers everywhere, online and off.


  4. Did you know this post is cited on Merriam-Webster? That’s how I found it.


  5. I just saw the episode on NCIS on the humble brag…was going to write about it so decided to look up and read ur post…yeah we all do it at some point …thanks, enjoy reading ur post.


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