Bragging about one’s skills or accomplishments can cut both ways.
Some who have had great success defend bragging as a simple statement of fact. One of the great self-promoters of all time, Muhammad Ali said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
However, there’s also a Spanish Proverb that reads, “Tell me what you brag about and I’ll tell you what you lack.” William Shakespeare had an ominous warning about braggarts. “Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.”
President Donald Trump is given to bragging. Most recently he tweeted about his mental capacities. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman to top T.V. Star…
…to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius… and a very stable genius at that!”
First, in fairness to the President, many in the media are obsessing over Trump’s mental acuity and fitness for office. The generalizations and speculation are fueled by the questionable assertions in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury that 100 percent of the people around Trump question his intelligence and fitness for office. CNN is making a cottage industry out of it.
Trump, a notorious counterpuncher, cannot let any slight pass, and that’s a big one so by now we know to expect pointed responses. However, when your intelligence is questioned, a response of “I’m a genius” is sophomoric.
Loyal Trump supporters tell me that I’m missing the point. They say Trump is just yanking the chain of the press and his detractors in a way that drives them to distraction, all while Trump and his followers are having a good laugh.
Notably, Trump had significant achievements of his agenda in 2017—the tax bill, repeal of the ACA individual mandate, the economy is growing faster, the stock market is roaring, revocation of the Clean Power Plan, conservative judicial appointments, reduction of government regulations and victories over the Islamic State, to name a few. That’s a pretty good year one, and potentially enough for even the doubters to grudgingly acknowledge Trump’s abilities.
However the near constant self aggrandizing acts as a hedgerow, blocking the view of his accomplishments. Trump is so preoccupied with giving himself credit that he drowns out accolades others might give him.
I have met and worked with many very intelligent, accomplished people over the years and I cannot recall one who felt compelled to tell me how smart they are, or if they did it was in a self-deprecating way that showed they were confident in their abilities and comfortable with themselves.
Maybe President Trump is just joking with his Tweets about his intelligence and the size of his nuclear button. That would still be off putting, but at least we would know not to take it all so seriously. However, if he’s not joking then the old Spanish Proverb gives us valuable insight into his mind.