Brag ’til you gag

Written by: surgeoninkicks

Yesterday I was sitting in a very boring informative session on how to get promoted within my academic institution. In other words, I am now an Assistant Professor of Surgery, and there are a bunch of hoops steps to go through to then become an Associate Professor of Surgery and then full Professor of Surgery.

One of the requirements is the development of a personal statement. On a side note, I hate personal statements. They are my nemesis. Unfortunately these pesky little buggers have been and continue to be a requirement in my life. Why this animosity towards personal statements? I will gladly explain.

Why do you want to be a medical student/surgery resident/trauma surgeon? This question sucks, and there is such pressure to have something cool, interesting, and unique to say. I don’t have an identical twin with whom we invented our own language, I have never saved a family of cats from a burning building, or used my belt as a tourniquet on a hike up Mt. Everest. Answering that you just want to help people is cliché and answering that you like to cut on people will get the police called. So every single time I am asked to write one, I end up with my forehead on the keyboard wanting to poke my eye out, trying desperately to not sound lame and make something mundane sound amazing.

Back to my riveting promotion session yesterday. The person giving the lecture about personal statements said, “The personal statement plays an extremely important role in your promotion process. You all need to learn how to brag until you gag. And women in this room need to listen up, because in general, you are not as adept as this as men.” Later, two example personal statements were handed out. One was direct, to the point, and informative. The other was less focused, lacked details of accomplishments and even sounded apologetic for any accomplishments that were noted. In the group discussion that followed, it was the clear assumption amongst everyone that the apologetic personal statement was written by a woman.

This expression about bragging really stuck with me, and here is the definition, per Webster:

Brag –

  1. A pompous or boastful statement
  2. Arrogant talk or manner: Cockiness

Clearly, I don’t think the advice was to be pompous, but the message was loud and clear: be proud of your accomplishments and be able to speak or write about them plainly, without apologies or excuses.

So how many of you think that you could do this easily?

I feel as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, women that this is a skill upon which we could all probably improve. No, this is not to take an opportunity to rub something in someone else’s face, or make someone else feel bad. This is about feeling good about ourselves! This is to take credit for all the hard work we do.

Accept a compliment without making a wisecrack, shrug your shoulders, or laugh it off. We should be able to speak plainly about what our talents are, what we did well that day. Listen, ladies, we do a LOT. And we do a lot of things well, why not enjoy some of the fruits of our labors? Why not say, “yep, I look and feel good in these jeans because dang it I did put down that doughnut the other day and took that extra set of stairs.” Or how about, “Well, thank you for saying that was the best poundcake you have ever tasted, I am really proud of that recipe”. Or, “yes, I was in charge of that project and we had great results”.

My advice for your next personal “project” – I wouldn’t try bragging until you become nauseated, but at the end of the day, name off one or two things that you are proud of and did well that day. So maybe next time someone tells you your appearance/poundcake/project is amazing, you will stand a little straighter, pat yourself on the back, and say thank you. No apologies, jokes, or explanations made.


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