Humblebragging – How to Avoid the Cringe Factor

Imagine this. You’ve been invited to the biggest event of the year. All the top dogs will be there and you’ve somehow managed to bag free tickets. This is PR gold; something you should shout about from the rooftops. But how can you do so without seeming like a complete show-off or making others resent your success? Well, many people turn to humblebragging!

What is a ‘humblebrag’?

With humblebragging, you totally want everyone to know how important you are. You’re feeling pretty darn awesome and have achieved something amazingly cool. But you’re aware that flat-out boasting is usually frowned upon. So, humblebragging is kind of a middle ground.

It works like this. You’re going to talk about your greatness, but in a self-deprecating way; a way that also reveals insecurities and flaws. A way that shows a certain lack of confidence perhaps, even if you’re actually badass and are totally unphased about being among the best in your field.

“Wow, I can’t believe a huge media event asked little old me to attend as a VIP! #blessed #humble #proud”

Say hello to the humblebrag. 

It says what it needs to say. People are aware of your importance and success. But you’re also doing your best to dull the shine by completely trashing your self-worth. Studies and books written over the last few years – including The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean Twenge and W Keith Campbell – have made strong arguments for social media facilitating a growth in narcissism through the mechanics of the sites. Humblebragging is the outlier on a spectrum that ranges from people tweeting about their day to posting pictures of their new clothes.

Below are a few living examples of a classic humblebrag.

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Got to love Stephen right?

Got to love Stephen right?

And then there are those long humblebrag stories we have all seen on Linkedin. The worst kind. Stories about selflessly helping others to find a job, anonymously tipping a waitress or sharing a lengthy “feeling blessed” post.

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The question is, does humblebragging work? Is it all a bit too cringe and are there better ways of showcasing your success?

The Uncool Nature of False Modesty

On one hand humblebragging shows that you care about your reputation. And that’s ok. You can also be proud of your company and your achievements, that’s ok too. It’s the false modesty that’s uncool. It’s the same level of uncool as “secret” charitable giving gestures captured on camera and posted all over social media #givingback and #payitforward. The humblebrag is not sincere or genuine. You’re trying to mask success and this can make people dislike you according to a study from researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Study researchers concluded that: “Humblebraggers overlook the impact of the strategy on another critical dimension of social evaluation: sincerity. Perceived sincerity is a critical factor in determining the success of self-presentation, with perceived insincerity driving negative evaluations. We suggest that despite its prevalence, humblebragging may be ineffective in making a favourable impression due to the perceived insincerity it generates—with this lack of perceived sincerity driving lower evaluations.”

The Worst of The Worst

Here are some of the worst humblebrags I scraped from social media, pass the bucket…

#Thatawkwardmomentwhen the lady in the gas station compliments your abs then asks to touch them…….

Owning a house…not a condo…is ALOT of work. mom and dad…i have so much more respect for what u did raising us in a home now. Damn

Remember when limos were cool? Now they’re pretty lame!! Every time I ride in one I feel corny… Glad it’s 3:30 am

Need to head to the golf course. Stressed about invite to Justin Timberlake’s Charity Golf event

Just gave 100 dollars to the homeless man I see every day here in Vancouver. Irrational kindness does feel really really good

If you could ask a US president a question in confidence, what would it be? (Don’t be a dummy like me and ask for his tie!)

Wow, honoured: @FastCompany’s 50 most influential designers in America includes ME for some reason.

Owning That Brag

While 70% of 646 people surveyed could recall a humblebrag, they’d heard recently, it seems owning a brag is a better technique as it comes across as more genuine than someone trying the falsely modest approachThis is something everyone should take into consideration particularly businesses and marketing professionals trying to promote a company in the best light.

Apologising for or hiding success isn’t necessary. If you have been invited to a prestigious event – say it. If you have won an award or taken home the top prize – say it! You don’t have to scurry underneath a rock. Indeed, information like this is a great way to stand out from the crowd. But there are ways to not be smug or boastful, other than the humblebrag.

Top tips include:

Stating the facts – keep things simple, don’t use overly emotive language and let the ‘breaking news’ speak for itself. Writing and sharing company press releases is a great way to share necessary information without overcooking your achievements.

Getting others to write about you – third-party content in the form of reviews, testimonials are a great way to draw attention to your brand without bragging. Content generated by others has an authentic feel which will heighten feelings of sincerity.

Video content – the great thing about video content is that you can record an awards ceremony or an acceptance speech and post it on your channels with the right hashtags. There’s no need, in this case, for a load of OTT content that might ruffle feathers.

Go live – Going live captures things as they happen. So, people can’t accuse you of being over animated about an event or exaggerating details for your benefit.

Hungry for more humblebragging cringe? Check out this awesome vid by my Linkedin bud Mike Winnet. Warning- he will be your new favourite thing on Linkedin.

Humblebragging can be difficult to avoid. But it’s important to actively think about the messages you’re putting out there. Don’t be afraid to sing about your achievements in a clever way without downplaying your efforts. What do you think about humblebragging? Seen any shocking ones lately? Tweet me @Charli_Says and let me know your thoughts.

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About the author

Charlotte Day, known as Charli, is a content marketing strategist heading up social media and storytelling at Contentworks Agency. A content marketing thought leader, she has 1000+ articles published, guest writes for leading social media hubs and frequently speaks at events. She also maintains her own blog at and a writer’s life presence on social media. When she’s not writing and managing the agency, Charli enjoys swimming in the Mediterranean, writing poetry and reading.