“Usually, the greatest boasters are the smallest workers. The deep rivers pay a larger tribute to the sea than shallow brooks, and yet empty themselves with less noise.” –W. Secker
I have heard about the fault of boasting since my childhood. I was instructed never to praise myself out loud or in private because it would give me a “big head.” I had no idea what my grandma was referring to, but I could visualize myself with a head twice as big as normal, and I did not want that happening to me.
If a Brook could feel good or bad would the feeling be a positive experience, even pride provoking to the point of boasting? That question makes me wonder about a path we all travel which starts with mindless doing. The River and the Brook are mindlessly doing an activity and will stay that way; we change with awareness.
When a new toddler begins walking, evaluation by the child of her skill level, doesn’t happen immediately. The curiosity of a new experience seems to be enough motivation to sustain the interest in doing the activity of walking. Walking well is not an awareness for us, it is a mindless activity, at the beginning.
As the toddler becomes a more proficient walker, there is still little interest (or judgment) in being the best at walking. In our social involvement, we hear about being the prettiest or the fastest but not the walk-iest.
It seems that none of us have learned to tie our worth to the ability to walk. Walkers seem satisfied with being able to walk without falling. We don’t even reference ourselves as “walkers” although as we become more aware of BE-ing a “thing” we call ourselves runners, hikers, bikers, surfers…
The awareness of self, being able to do something others can’t do ( like the River versus the Brook), seems to be where boasting happens. The inherent nature of the differences between a river and a brook make the competition of their contribution to the ocean seem unfair.
In boasting, the Brook, is wanting to get the credit that the river gets for exerting the lesser effort. In this case, the boast is a lie.
The Brook is lying to itself about the importance of something it cannot do as well as the River. The irony is how demeaning the boastful expression becomes within the one who makes it. The need to boast magnifies the inability of the Brook to produce. The focus is on what is not enough – confidence is diminished.
The Brook, instead of boasting, could focus on babbling about how she is sufficient and just brooking along in her own way.
One Thing to Do: Think about something you needed to boast about from your past. Write the incident down and then make an effort to discern how much lasting positive attention was gained by boasting and how much negative reinforcement the moment had on your self-image then and now.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.