Talk­ing About

As a na­tion, we thrive on self-dep­re­ca­tion, and now the ‘hum­ble­brag’ is on the rise too

Woman (UK) - - This Issue -

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.

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