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4 Signs You’re Dealing With a ‘Flex Addict’

A braggy friend bombards you with her wins, good news and achievements. Is her life really golden — or are you being success bombed?

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illustration of woman holding 3 trophies, success bombing
Alexandra Bowman
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“Girl, guess what happened to me!” That’s how most conversations start with a certain friend of mine. Then, before I say one word, she launches into an avalanche of horn-tooting. She got a 20 percent raise. Her credit score increased by 50 points. Her guy did this supersweet thing for her. She killed it at the gym this morning. Such and such gave her this compliment. And, oh yeah, did I see her post on social media? She got tons of engagement.

Sheesh! I dread answering her calls.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for seeing any sister win. And I’ve got my own good stuff going on, so this isn’t coming from a place of jealousy. But the constant “I’m so great” spiels are annoying. Not to mention, when I share positive news, she immediately jumps in with some fantastic thing about her life.

I recently learned my friend’s endless bragging is known to some as “success bombing.” And although most people who do it aren’t aware they’re doing it (they think they’re simply sharing good news), this habit can negatively affect friendships and other relationships.

What is success bombing?

It’s exactly what it sounds like: when someone continuously bombs others with news of their achievements. You’re likely being bombarded when …

  • The person typically initiates the convo with a flex.
  • The person either doesn’t ask how you’re doing or doesn’t provide enough of an opening to fully reply.
  • Their “news” doesn’t stop at one positive event but is instead a laundry list of giddy updates.
  • If you offer positive news yourself, instead of taking time to celebrate with you, they counter or even one-up with impressive news of their own.

Most of the time, when people go overboard bragging, it’s rooted in insecurity or low self-esteem, says Jameca Woody Cooper, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and owner of Emergence Psychological Services in Saint Louis, Missouri. “If a person feels they are inadequate or feel like they’re lacking something … or they don’t have the most education or the most (fill in the blank), they could be insecure about it,” she says. Some people’s way of trying to boost themselves up is by bragging excessively about their successes, she says.

How to deal with it

If it’s someone you don’t cross paths with often or you know they don’t take feedback well, you could approach success bombing indirectly. “When they do it, change the topic of the conversation,” says Dr. Woody Cooper. You could also appear uninterested or unmoved by the bragging. “People typically don’t continue the same behaviors unless they’re reinforced, so if you don’t give them the validation they’re seeking, they will reduce or cease to do it,” Dr. Woody Cooper explains.

Now, we all know some folks won’t get the message or they’ll think you’re hating. In those cases, keep being indirect or limit the time spent with that person.

When the success bomber is someone you’re close to or have to be around often, Dr. Woody Cooper recommends being direct. “Telling them is going to help them and you,” she says. After all, bragging is off-putting to most people. Plus, if said person slows their roll, it can reduce your frustration with them.

Pull the boaster aside and give honest feedback. Dr. Woody Cooper says you might try something like: “Hey, I’ve noticed when we’re together, you mostly talk about your accomplishments.” Or, with someone like my friend, say, “Although I’m happy so many things are going well in your life, I feel bad and like you’re dismissing me when I try to share good news and you cut me off to say something about yourself.”

Hopefully the friend will understand and make some changes. If not, try the indirect strategies like switching the subject or not giving much attention when they go into one of their “awesome me” conversations. If none of that works, “you’ll have to either keep pushing until you get them to modify their behavior or you’ll have to ultimately accept it if you want a relationship with the person,” says Dr. Woody Cooper.

Of course, if you’re over the incessant bragging altogether, it may be time to think about distancing yourself. Otherwise, anytime you’re around that individual, there will be conflict or you’ll be annoyed, which isn’t time well spent, says Dr. Woody Cooper.

This I know. Although I talked to my friend about her success bombing a few times, it continues. For me, her constant self-congratulations (and selfishness) are mentally exhausting, so I’ve taken a step back from the friendship.