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Showing off is a natural human behavior. Almost everyone wants to feel recognized, important, and receive attention sometimes.
In fact, it’s normal to want to show other people what you accomplished and maybe get a pat on the back for your work.
In addition, almost everyone will feel pride in accomplishing a goal they worked hard on.
There’s nothing wrong with showing off in limited doses. Everyone does it.
Showing off becomes a problem when it is more than just seeking an occasional pat on the back for a well-done job.
For starters, people who show off a lot will likely find that their relationships suffer for it. Few people want to spend time fluffing someone up who spends all of their time seeking the attention and validation of the people around them. It’s exhausting and alienating.
The person who does the showing off will likely find that many of their relationships are superficial and shallow.
But that doesn’t mean that a person who shows off is bad. Far from it. The person who shows off is likely just dealing with things they don’t understand yet. You must first understand the problem and where it comes from to stop showing off.
Why do people show off?
Insecurity is the biggest motivator for showing off. People who struggle with feeling secure about themselves will often need outside approval. They typically try to convince themselves that they are valuable because something is missing in that part of them. They feel a need to show off.
Secure people don’t feel the need to show off. They are confident in their skills, understand they are valuable, or don’t care. The idea that a person may not care can seem foreign if you are someone who struggles with caring a lot.
It’s not that this person is so different from you. It’s more that this type of person realizes that life doesn’t have to be a competition. A person who feels comfortable with themselves doesn’t feel the need to show off.
Many things in childhood shape how we interact with the world as adults. Some show off because that’s what they learned as kids from the adults in their life.
For example, a child is taught that they need to show off when they are only given love and affection when they do something good. So, they develop the habit of showing off because showing off directly leads to attention and love.
That is a habit that can carry over into adulthood. The person has been taught that they are not valuable unless they are worthy of attention. As an adult, that translates into seeking validation and praise by showing off to other people.
A person showing off may be lonely. That can turn itself into a self-perpetuating cycle. The person is lonely, so they show off to try to get attention for socialization, which turns people off to them. It’s hard to be close to someone who constantly needs validation from people around them. People just can’t keep up with the emotional energy that it requires.
It doesn’t help that people who show off don’t give the same kind of attention. Showing off can easily lead to a cycle of loneliness that reinforces the behavior, particularly if the person doing the showing off attracts unhealthy attention.
For example, if Steve flashes his money around, the vultures who want to use Steve for his money will start circling. The vultures can easily be mistaken for friends or people that care.
Life doesn’t always go so well. Sometimes, we have a hard time accepting the problem before us. It could be that a business isn’t doing well, a relationship is crumbling, or life isn’t going well.
A person may show off as a subconscious way to prove to others that everything is great so they can convince themselves that everything is great.
After all, a business failing or a relationship crumbling is painful and difficult. Life not going so well can wear you down with the weight it drops on your shoulders. Sometimes it’s easier to just try putting on the show to demonstrate everything is okay to the world.
The problem, of course, is that doesn’t work out in the long run. Sooner or later, reality comes crashing in whether you want it to or not.
How do I stop showing off?
Now that we’ve established some reasons why people show off, we can start looking at ways to curb the behavior.
The good news is that you can do some relatively easy things to start making that change. Of course, it will take some work, and you’ll likely get it wrong from time to time, but it’ll become a better habit given time.
Let’s look at some tips on how to stop showing off.
1. Allow yourself to be proud of things.
To “show off” is to be excessively proud. Being proud of an accomplishment or something you worked hard for is not inherently bad. It only becomes bad when you do it excessively, for outside approval, or to tear people down.
Not many people will have a problem with, “I am so happy to be able to buy my dream car!” In fact, your friends and family will quite likely celebrate with you if you let them. So do share your happiness and feelings of accomplishment with people close to you.
But limit that to one or two times. Remember, excessive is the keyword. Once or twice is not excessive.
Avoid doing this with people you don’t know well or in a company that may otherwise be jealous. Jealous people will use “show off” to tear down people who show any kind of positivity to themselves out of their own negative feelings about themselves. If you’ve only demonstrated pride once or twice and you get “show off,” it’s most likely them and not you.
2. Elevate other people.
Look for ways to elevate the accomplishments of other people. You won’t be so focused on self-promotion if you are instead thinking about how you can boost someone up for their accomplishment.
This is another thing best done in moderation. Once or twice is fine. You want to avoid being pulled into a similar cycle with another person who may struggle with similar issues. You don’t want to end up becoming their emotional support battery.
Another way to approach elevating other people is to aim to accurately state your contribution to a project. For example, let’s say you’re a team leader who manages to knock out a major goal at work.
A self-centered leader showing off will say, “I did this. We could accomplish this due to my leadership and ability.” And you know what? To some extent, that might be true. But what’s also true is that they were just one team member. They didn’t do all of the work.
A better approach that elevates others would be more like, “The team did a great job accomplishing this goal. John and Jane were particularly helpful with X task. Becky really came through on X job.”
3. Use self-accepting mantras.
Many people who show off are doing so because they feel insecure about themselves. Using some self-accepting mantras may help you get into a better mental space to avoid doing that.
Should you feel the need to show off or brag, stop, take a moment to breathe, and repeat a mantra to yourself until the situation passes. Here are a couple of suggestions, or feel free to come up with something that makes sense for you!
“I am not my accomplishments or things. I am worthy.”
“I do not need to show off to be liked or accepted. I am valuable.”
Short and sweet is generally the best approach for a mantra.
4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
We’ve discussed that people often show off because they feel insecure or bad about themselves. They may even feel like they are bad if they aren’t accomplishing things and receiving praise for those accomplishments.
One way to shift your perspective is to allow yourself to be vulnerable about something you didn’t succeed at.
The act of trying means that you will eventually not succeed at something. That’s just the nature of trying. No one gets everything right all of the time. And guess what? The people that claim to are lying. That’s just not how life or the world works.
Effort does not always lead to success—and that’s okay! In fact, it’s to be expected! However, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough or that you lack value as a person.
Sometimes, our inability to succeed has nothing to do with us and everything to do with external circumstances outside our control. In that case, you may feel bad about it, but it’s clearly not your fault.
And even if it is your fault? It’s alright. It happens. No one’s perfect, even though that may be what they want you to believe.
5. Embrace your reality.
Some people show off because they try to convince themselves that life is going better than it actually is. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back, look at a situation, and accept it for what it is. It’s always painful when a relationship ends, a job gets lost, or things don’t work out.
The problem is that it is always more painful to avoid the inevitable. So don’t waste years of your life trying to make a relationship work that is clearly not working. Sometimes you just have to pull the plug.
Did you lose a job? That’s terrible. It is. But all you can really do is cut back on your spending until you can get something else going. Maxing out your credit cards or taking on loans to keep up appearances for social validation will bury you into debt that can take years to crawl out of.
The sooner you can embrace your reality, the faster you can start moving toward a resolution and something better. Don’t waste your time showing off to others to convince yourself that everything is okay. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle and have a hard time.
Anyone that says otherwise isn’t worth listening to because they just aren’t being honest.
6. Consult with a therapist.
The truth is that many people who struggle with showing off do so because of a deep-rooted need that isn’t being addressed. Sometimes that need isn’t healthy.
As we’ve discussed, sometimes this kind of behavior comes from a childhood desire to just be loved and accepted by the people who were supposed to give the child love and acceptance.
Overcoming a problem like that is not something you’ll be able to do through self-help or yourself. Instead, you will need a counselor to better help you navigate that trauma, heal, and replace your negative habits with positive ones. The tips we’ve given you here can help you shift your mindset, but they won’t heal trauma.
The good news is that this is a reasonable, actionable goal. You can work to create happier, healthier relationships with people where you don’t feel the need to compete or show off to feel good about yourself.
Still not sure how to stop showing off? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you get to the botton of your need to show off and then provide tailored advice to tackle those underlying issues.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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