The first time I heard the phrase “bragplaining” was from a freshman college student at a prestigious college. We were working together to deal with the high levels of anxiety and stress she was experiencing. It had gotten so bad that she was considering dropping out. As she discussed the pressures to fit in, she mentioned ‘bragplaining’—where students complain about all they have to do in such a way that it implies they have this incredible, successful life that requires them to juggle all these balls. This had become the norm on campus. She found it disgusting at one level but also found it hard not to get swept up into it even though it was making her ill.
The second time I heard the phrase was from a University professor telling me that on his campus, it had become epidemic. Students were obsessed with taking on more and more just to feel as if they were being as successful as others. The administration were truly concerned that this was having a detrimental impact on students. They could see that it was increasing student depression, anxiety and possibly even suicide risk.
What’s old is new again? To me ‘bragplaining’ is a millennial phrase that replaces the ‘rat-race’ of previous generations. Both phrases reflect the angst that results when we’re living hyper-busy lives to imply we’re successful. Deep down inside, no one really likes it but we’re afraid to stop doing it because who will we be if we’re not part of this status quo, rat-race game?
When I started my private practice in the late 90’s, my clients were expressing this same dilemma. They were caught up in doing what everyone else was doing (rat-race/bragplaining) and at first they thought it would bring them happiness. But by the time they came to counseling, they were not finding happiness and joy in this process. They were concerned that this reflected there was something wrong with them because they were convinced everyone else was enjoying it—except them. Having heard this from so many clients, I could honestly say to my clients—“No, no one is enjoying it—let’s work on changing it.”
The same thing is going on for these college students. My freshman student was smart enough to recognize early on she was getting caught up in a ‘bragplaining’ cycle and it left her stressed out and anxious. Initially she thought everyone else was doing okay with it while she was not but then it dawned on her—“No, we’re all miserable, I’m just willing to say it out loud!”
And in saying it out loud, she had taken a quantum leap to break out of the reactive pattern that most people live their entire lives in. Our work together focused on what she would do instead. Because it isn’t really enough to break out of the rat-race. Knowing what you don’t want to do is only half the equation. The other side is figuring out what you do want to do instead. This is when I introduced her to the Life Puzzle—a framework for building a whole and dynamic life.
This made great sense to her. Together we worked on strengthening her edges/SELF and this enabled her to realize—she could be proactive and create a life that worked for her. Yes, there was still plenty of bragplaining going on around her! When she heard it, she would purposely smile and relax knowing this behavior did not reflect how she wanted to live her life. With practice, it became a gentle reminder to her to stay focused on building her own whole and dynamic life. So, while everyone else complained they didn’t have time for X because they had so much to do—she determined what she wanted in her life. With that clarity, she created her own way of life and successfully completed her freshman year happily out of the ‘bragplaining’ cycle!
Lily Tomlin was once quoted as saying, “Even when you win the rat-race, you’re still a rat.” Getting out of the rat-race or bragplaining cycle is doable! Life Puzzle is a framework for wholeness that enables you to refocus and create a sane life. To learn more on how you can make these choices in your life—check out Life Puzzle—the DIY for you.