Why is it that we find it so easy to criticise ourselves, and so difficult to brag?
Ask someone to tell you what they are good at, and more often than not they struggle. After a period of embarrassment, they might mumble something quietly, or change the topic of conversation, or dismiss their impact with a comment at the end about how it wasn’t just them, or they still have plenty more to learn.
I understand the reluctance that comes out around self-promotion – I feel it too. I’ve had to overcome a huge element of this in running my business because my business is me – so I have to be able to tell people what I’m good at.
And while there are loads of courses sharing techniques around how to sell yourself, I don’t think that knowing how to do it is the real challenge. You can have all the tips and techniques in the world, but if you don’t feel comfortable promoting yourself you’ll still struggle.
What I’ve found most useful is noticing the resistance in my head, getting curious about it, and shifting the way I think about self-promotion, and these are some of the ideas that have helped me with that.
Why do we find it so hard to promote ourselves?
I think a large amount of our struggle with self-promotion is what we’ve been taught as part of our culture – both as a Brit and as a woman, I’ve been fed with constant societal messages that it’s a bad thing to do.
For example, I was always taught that being arrogant or proud was one of the worst things you could be. I was given the impression that it would lead to a sad and lonely life because “nobody wants to spend time with someone that only talks about themselves”. It would also make me blind to my weaknesses, and result in people taking advantage of me.
It’s interesting how just by writing these things down and seeing them on a page, they look a bit suspect.
Does being proud of achieving some things and telling people about them really lead to such a horrible life?
What’s being described here is the extreme. It’s what could happen when you think you know better than everyone else and are not willing to listen.
But being proud of yourself doesn’t immediately make you someone who thinks they know it all. It just means you’re celebrating some of the things you’ve achieved.
The opposite of pride is humility.
We are taught that instead of being proud we should be humble, but what does that mean? A bit of dictionary surfing results in the definition humble as “not being proud”. Not the most useful guidance ever!
But digging a bit further, and exploring the definitions of pride some more I discovered these two alternatives:
- having or showing respect for yourself
- feeling that you are better and more important than other people
For me, this reinforced where some of the confusion may be coming from.
If the definition of humble is not being proud, I agree that it means not thinking you are overly important or better than everyone else.
However, I don’t agree that being humble means not having respect for yourself.
So does self-promotion mean you think you are better than everyone else?
I would argue that it doesn’t.
Just because you tell people you are good at something it doesn’t mean you think you are the best. Even those who have mastered their craft will tell you they have more to learn – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have respect for and be proud of what they have achieved.
When you pair your self-promotion with the willingness to listen and continue to learn, you could provide a platform for sharing knowledge and opening up discussion.
This type of self-recognition and promotion can provide an opportunity for authentic conversations.
This is at the core of what triggered me to explore this topic in the first place.
Authenticity means showing up as yourself, and this is based on an understanding of who you are and what you bring. Recognising, respecting and acknowledging your own value is key to this.
When we feel comfortable in the skills, capabilities and knowledge we bring, with no attachment to what it means about our level of importance as a person, we show up and just talk about it openly, honestly and willing to listen.
This allows others to engage with you, learn from you and share their experiences in an authentic way.
If you consistently minimise and hide the good things that you bring, you are hiding your capabilities and showing up inauthentically.
My aim with this piece is not to tell you you should get out there and promote yourself more… it’s to encourage you to think about self-promotion and self-recognition in a different way.
- What if being authentic meant celebrating yourself and all your abilities (including an honest celebration of the good ones)?
- What if there was a way for you to speak out and be proud of yourself while retaining your humility?
- What if self-promotion was just about telling people about some of the amazing things you can do?
If you’d like to continue exploring the topic of self-promotion and hear others’ perspectives, come over and join the conversation in my facebook community.
And if you’d like some one-to-one support to get out there and promote yourself more, whether you’re preparing yourself for end of year review, finding a new role, or being more visible and growing your network, book a call with me to talk about a package of coaching sessions, either DM me or by via this link.
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