Building confidence is an active pursuit that requires regular effort, which is why creating a so-called “brag file” can help. It’s an easy way to boost your mood when times get tough, or if you’re feeling down, jealous, or exceedingly self-conscious.
Making a brag file is easy. Keep a running list of things that you are proud of to read in moments when you’re feeling down. For example, “I’m proud that I graduated,” “I’m proud of my children,” “I’m proud that I ran a marathon,” “I’m proud of the ____ award I received last year,” “I have a great smile,” or “I’m good at making people laugh.”
Whatever it is, no brag is too big or too small. And this list should be as long as you can make it. Write it in a notebook, or keep it in the notes of your phone.
No matter where you write these things down, save the list to revisit when you’re feeling sad, self-conscious, or experiencing hardship like a job loss or denial of some opportunity (like if you didn’t get the grant or are experiencing a break-up).
No brag is too big or too small, and this list should be as long as you can make it.
Revisit your brag file periodically for a gentle mood boost– and add to it whenever something good happens. The benefits are cumulative but you will also feel the effects in the short term.
If anything, a brag file is just a good reminder of your worth. You are a good person with many wonderful qualities, and in all likelihood your biggest critic is you! The problem merely stems from the fact that when we are children, we’re taught that bragging is bad. What we should have been taught is that bragging is only bad when you do it to other people.
The goal here, moreover, is not to make other people feel bad. A brag file is a private affair, like a diary. Its job is to remind you of your own self-worth whenever distorted thinking takes over.
Most people are far too critical of themselves, and creating a brag file is a healthy way to rewire your neural pathways. Over time, it helps you build confidence and notice good qualities in other people, as well.
As we previously wrote in our article on How Walking Through Doorways Helps People Change Their Minds, sometimes we also just need a change of scenery– or in this case, a change of “mental” scenery– to get our minds moving in a different direction.
If you are experiencing a negative thought spiral, it helps to change locations– quite literally, walking through a doorway into a different room can help.
Then, pull up your brag file to create what psychologists call a “positive-virtuous cycle” (as opposed to a “negative-vicious spiral”). It’s important to do this early whenever you catch yourself in a tizzy of negative thinking, as spiraling thoughts can quickly run away from you and can sometimes lead to panic attacks. (Especially when these negative thoughts surround feelings about identity, worthiness, or wellbeing.)
Anxiety and depression often stem from aspects of self-image that linger unchecked beneath the surface. When you foster deeply-held believes about yourself that are unkind to you, you imprint them on yourself. This affects your feelings of self-worth, how you see the world, and how you interact with others. Thus, it’s important to be kind to yourself and practice self-comfort regularly through doing hacks like creating a brag file.
Once you start writing things down, it puts you in the frame of mind to notice even more wonderful things about yourself. It’s sort of akin to the mindfulness practice of savoring, in that the effort naturally encourages a positive shift in thinking. Before you know it, you’ll find it hard to believe you ever failed to recognize the great qualities you embody and have always possessed.
Related: Read our article on Building Confidence, and Why Confidence Isn’t a Destination.