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As the title says, how to talk about myself without showing off?
when I was 21 years old and I was still studying, I was hired by an IT corporation and I had a good income. Now I'm 24 and my income is better than before. I also had few successes over the past years. I hate showing off my life and I always try to keep it to myself.

Whenever my relatives ask about my job or success and I say something they got really jealous and try to attack me with words. Even not only me, my family too. I'm not showing off at all they just get jealous even if I say I read a book. My parents have worked hard to raise me and I love them so much. I buy gifts from time to time for them to make them happy. One day one of my relatives saw the necklace I bought for my Mom and said things like "how ugly and expensive! U should tell your child to save for its future not to waste for you!". They do this a lot but I don't care about my relatives here. I hate them.

But my friends. It's been a while that this has been a problem for my best friends. We are apart because of Covid lockdown but sometimes we chat on social media. When they ask me what did I do during for example last 2 months I don't know what to say. Talking about my new gaming PC? lots of books I added to my library? I didn't know how to tell them because of Covid we are all staying home and I did nothing but work for my company remotely, buying things online and playing games they don't like. I wanted to talk about my bird and how cute he is but they said no, what did u do? MY friends are affected by Covid and lost jobs and are not in good financial condition. It's been a while that I had nothing to say and they are getting upset.

We talk about lots of other things but it comes to me I don't know what to say. Before Covid I could talk about historical places I visited for example; there are lots of historical places in our city and cities near mine. So, how can I talk about my life without being offensive?

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  • Hey BlackCrystal! While it's very hard to convey e.g. tone on the internet, could you try to at least include how you say certain things? There is a bit of difference between casually mentioning you're reading a book or had a good success at work, or something that comes across much more like bragging (are you using superlatives, for example?). Also, have your friends ever accused you of showing off before, or is this just a worry caused by how your family behaves? – Tinkeringbell Feb 3 at 13:17
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    @Tinkeringbell hi. when i say things about myself i try to be humble. not only to my relatives but to everyone. in that example, reading books, we were in a party and someone (let call her Amy) asked me 'blackcrystal have you read new books recently? i said 'yeah child of vengeance, it is about a samurai that...'. they know i read books a lot so Amy was looking for a book to start reading and my jealous relative jumped into my explanation and said 'oh Amy do you see my daughter here? she is a book worm and..'. it is always like this with them. i can speak for days if you want :) – BlackCrystal Feb 3 at 13:35
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    @Tinkeringbell and about 'accused of showing off before'. not from my family and friends and co workers at all. relatives yes? :| – BlackCrystal Feb 3 at 13:37
  • This question might be helpful (for talking with your friends, maybe not your family): How to talk about my comfortable lifestyle without sounding like I'm bragging? – Em C Feb 4 at 1:37
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There is a lot to what exactly you tell people. Even the plain truth will be seen as bragging by many (including me).

Just as an example, compare these two answers to "What did you do yesterday?"

Well, I hopped into my Porsche convertible and went to this new place called FancyBurgers. They are a little spendy, but their Burgers are great. Pure Kobe meat. Delicious. The steak looked great too. Costs a fortune though. Ever had their steak?

... and ...

Well, I finally got a burger. With barbeque sauce. I love barbeque sauce. I hadn't had a burger in months, it was great. Fatty, greasy, just delicious. So what did you do?

The point is, if you mention things just to mention them (in this example the Porsche, when even the word "car" would have been enough to transmit the same information, where the information itself wasn't even necessary), people feel like you are bragging.

Tell them how much you enjoy this computer game. No need to tell anybody you got a new computer. Tell them about this cool story you read in a book. No need to tell anybody whether that was a special signed first edition or a rundown copy from the public library.

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This is difficult, for sure. Almost anything that is good in your life can be seen as bragging, especially if someone is already feeling jealous of you or feeling that you are showing off regularly. But look at this spectrum:

  • Everyone should find time to read and a few hundred dollars here and there for books. 10 a month is a reasonable target.
  • I read 10 books this month. It's lovely to just order from amazon if it looks good. I make a point of finding a few hours every day to read and relax.
  • I read some good books lately. I really liked X [... go on to talk about that one]
  • I enjoyed reading X recently, have you heard of it?

The first one is judgy and completely forgets that some people don't have the time or the money to read a lot. The second is less obviously judgy, but someone who can't "just order from amazon" or don't have that time will feel othered by a casual assumption that your way of life is normal. The third one doesn't mention how you came by the book - it might have been from the library, or a gift, but it launches into a speech without considering whether the other person wants to know about this book you read. The fourth one is about you exclusively, and gives them a chance to contribute to the conversation.

I've had some great luck over the last few years that makes it possible to buy things I didn't think I ever would. I've also had decades of experience with friends who do things like buy a plane ticket to go to a birthday party, at a time when I was struggling to afford basics and necessities. So I'm careful how I talk about the things I now have. I don't ever talk about how expensive they are or anything like that. Instead I focus on sharing my joy or excitement. Not being all cool and laid back and "yeah man, whatever, really you need a [very expensive thing very few people have] these days, no big." This is the opposite of "not showing off".

If you're really not doing much because of the pandemic, and they say "what do you do?" you can say "I play some games" without specifying the exact title and what device you play on. You can say "I hang out with my bird, he does cute things". You can point out that even though you still have a job, it's not roses for you. And then you can ask them how they are doing, and really listen when they tell you.

As for the side-commentators who want to call you a name like bookworm or otherwise judge you, you can smile and own it if you like. "Yup! I've always loved reading! One thing about all this staying home is it lets me catch up on the pile a little." And then ask the person you're in a conversation with, "what kind of books do you like?" or "how are you passing all the extra time?" or something else that focuses on the other person, not on the interrupting labeller or gossiper and not on you either.

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