It’s always important to put your best foot forward, whether you’re in a job interview, at a party, on a date, or brainstorming with your boss. But some things you perceive as a badge of honor might not help you shine. You may hope that some of the ways you try to distinguish yourself can make you sound tough, but they may inadvertently reveal that beneath your tough exterior, you might not be mentally strong. In fact, bragging about the wrong things can backfire and cause you to sound weak.
Here are five things people brag about all the time, even though it actually makes them look worse:
1. “I’m a really good multitasker.”
What it really means: “I’m constantly distracted.”
Nobody is “good at” multitasking. Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking actually reduces productivity. Worse, multitasking takes a toll on your attention and your memory, and damages your ability to switch from one task to the next. And before you decide that you’re the exception to the rule, know that the Stanford team discovered that heavy multitaskers also lack insight. The heaviest multitaskers thought they were doing a good job, but, in reality, they performed worse than their peers.
You may be good at handling a lengthy to-do list or be excellent at prioritizing tasks, but there’s a good chance you aren’t really an expert multitasker. Try to rephrase your self-accolades when you’re tempted to say you’re able to juggle 12 tasks at once like a pro.
2. “I hardly ever sleep.”
What it really means: “Sleep deprivation is killing me.”
Many successful celebrities and entrepreneurs contribute to the idea that less sleep means more time to be productive. Donald Trump, Tim Cook, Martha Stewart, Condoleezza Rice, and Jack Dorsey are among the many who claim to be among the “sleep elite.” But glorifying a lack of rest is a strange phenomenon. After all, your brain needs sufficient sleep to function at its peak, and studies have linked sleep deprivation to poor cognitive function. We know that a lack of sleep reduces attention, working memory, and long-term memory, and impairs decision-making. Chronic sleep deprivation takes a serious toll on your mental and physical health. That’s not really something others should be impressed by.
3. “I’m a perfectionist.”
What it really means: “My impossible standards make it hard for me to function.”
Wearing the perfectionist label shouldn’t be a badge of honor. True perfectionists set unrealistically high standards for themselves. As a result, they struggle to get their work done because their performance never measures up to their expectation.
It’s natural to be a perfectionist about some things—if you’re performing heart surgery on me, I prefer that your work be flawless—but true perfectionists expect perfection in all areas of their lives. They establish unrealistically high expectations for others as well, which makes them harsh leaders. Their intolerance for mistakes and excessively high standards cause subordinates to hide their mistakes, rather than find ways to recover from them.
Studies also show that perfectionists have a much higher risk of burnout, physical health problems, and mental-health issues. So before you throw around the term, think twice about whether it’s really a bragging right.
4. “I’ve never failed.”
What it really means: “I don’t challenge myself and I’m afraid I can’t handle failure.”
There’s a big difference between trying to succeed and trying to avoid failure. If your goal—and bravado—center on not failing, there’s a good chance you aren’t living up to your potential.
Studies show that people who avoid failure don’t enrich themselves. They adopt goals that will help them look good and only try new things when they’re fairly certain they’ll succeed. Their motivation stems from their desire to fuel their ego, rather than a true interest in personal development. People who refuse to fail are also more likely to resort to unsavory methods of achievement, like cheating, because they aren’t really interested in learning.
Rather than deny your mistakes, acknowledge what you learned from them. Admit that you’ve turned failure into a learning opportunity that has made you better than before.
5. “I hustle 24/7.”
What it really means: “I’m paying the price for being a workaholic.”
You don’t have to look very far to find people who believe hustling all day, every day is the key to success. “Grind while they sleep,” “Let them party while you work,” and other internet memes tell you that success is directly tied to the number of hours you put into your work each day. But studies show that working more than 50 hours a week typically does more harm than good, and that workaholics experience a reduced quality of life.
Researchers have linked workaholism to a variety of psychiatric disorders, including ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. Working long days also takes a serious toll on your physical health and ability to manage stress.
So rather than insist that you’re proud to be on call 24/7, or that you enjoy skipping leisure activities because you value your work, focus on being productive. It doesn’t really matter how many hours you work; what matters is how much you accomplish during your working hours.
Make Sure Your Positive Attributes Shine Through
When you’re talking about your positive qualities, special talents, and extraordinary gifts, make sure that you’re citing things you really should feel good about. Otherwise, your “strengths” may come across more like deficits.