As a nation, we thrive on self-deprecation, and now the ‘humblebrag’ is on the rise too
False modesty and the rise of the ‘humblebrag’
They say modesty is a virtue, and playing down your achievements is second nature for many of us. But 70% of people can pinpoint at least one humblebrag they’ve heard in the last 30 days, suggesting that our faux-humble horn-tooting is not as subtle as we think.
Celebrities are just as guilty. In a recent interview, renowned waif Victoria Beckham said she can’t be bothered maintaining a flat stomach because she’s too busy to worry about that kind of thing – you could practically see the nation’s eyes rolling. And when illusionist Derren Brown called himself a ‘rubbish celebrity’ for trying and failing to sneak past the red carpet at a glitzy event we all got out our tiny violins. Being so famous must be such a bore, right?
We’re all allowed to have insecurities, but mock humility and self-deprecation can end up irking our friends even more. So why do we insist on it?
but I couldn’t admit it. Instead, I kept on with the self-deprecation, ‘well, it’s long enough to hide my chunky thighs!’
Until my early teens I was plagued with puppy fat, then when I turned 16 I discovered aerobics. I loved working out and the excess weight dropped off. I was 5ft 11in and slim with legs that went on forever, but I wasn’t used to being in the spotlight. So although I looked great, I’d bat away any kind words. I was terrified that I might come over as boastful.
I was a walking example of false modesty, and my friends smelt it a mile off. on the first day of a girly holiday abroad I wore a sleeveless dress, but before anyone had even spoken I was pointing out my wobbly arms – in reality, there wasn’t an ounce of fat in sight. what followed was a catty argument that threatened the whole trip.
at my 21st birthday party I wore a pair of black leather hot pants to a nightclub. Secretly, I thought I looked great. But I spent the evening grabbing at my inner thighs, joking, ‘It’s a good job it’s dark in here!’ I was doing it because I didn’t want to alienate my girlfriends, but I was clueless at the time that such behaviour got people’s backs up.
It continued into my 30s. my best friend, a gorgeous curvy size 16, openly bridled at me going on endlessly about existing on rice cakes with a smear of marmite in the run-up to my first wedding. on one memorable night she pushed away her favourite tiramisu dessert and cut short our evening out.
Changing my ways
In 2008, I married my French husband and left London behind. one day, my stepson antonio had a friend round, aged 13. I said I loved her jeans and she replied, ‘They’re fantastic, aren’t they? Don’t I look great?’ Finally the penny dropped. French women don’t know the meaning of false modesty – they’re confident in their skin, faults and all.
So today, if I think I look good or I’ve done something well, I don’t play it down, and if I’m told I look nice, I say thank you. I’ve clocked that when someone takes the time to pay me a compliment, it’s only polite to acknowledge them in return.
samantha couldn’t accept a compliment
emma Watson ‘it’s been 10 years but i still feel so uncomfortable with being recognised,’ says the shrinking wallflower and a-list hollywood star.
Victoria Beckham ‘When i used to go out, it was, “Watch what i eat for lunch…” i mean, who can be bothered with that now?’ Well, that’s easy for you to say.