It’s Thursday, and so I’m Crafting my Life! Today I am talking about self-promotion. Which, honestly? Is not my idea of a good time. But it’s really important to understand it all the same.
I am a woman. I wasn’t exactly encouraged to get out there and toot my own horn. It’s a generalization, I know, but it rings true for me. Women are supposed to do excellent work and hope that someone else will notice and reward us for it. We must not let our egos get too big or talk ourselves up too much. And we should not show others that we are smarter or better at something than they are.
For me, the lion’s share of this messaging originated in junior high. I was the ‘smart girl’, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It’s one of those things that pays off in life, but not so much with your peers. Adolescent girls are supposed to be as homogeneous as possible, wearing the ‘right’ clothes and listening to the ‘right’ music and saying the ‘right’ words. You don’t want to stick your neck out or brag about that great test score you got if you want to be cool. Which I really did.
I carried this attitude into adulthood with me. I always waited to be asked how I did on a test in university. Sometimes I made other people give their results first, so that I would know how to present mine. At work, I was hard on myself in my annual review, because I didn’t want other people to think I had an overly-inflated opinion of my abilities. And here, in the blogosphere, I hid. I blogged for years, but I didn’t leave comments or do anything to draw traffic.
I was afraid because, as soon as you invite others in and start talking about this great Thing you’re doing, you become vulnerable. When you say, “Hey, look at me!” people might just … not. Or they might not understand your Thing. Either way, it stings. When people leave comments suggesting that I am not offering anything concrete to society, or that something I made looks tacky, it hurts my feelings and it takes the wind out of my sails. It’s almost enough to make me want to go back to hiding.
I’m also afraid of saying the wrong thing when I’m doing some self-promotion. I’ve received email messages from people telling me about their Thing. They talk about how much they enjoy my blog and how cute my kids are. And then they refer to my 4-year-old ‘son’, when in fact I have a 4-year-old daughter, and they lose credibility. I’ve made similar mistakes. I’ve called people by the wrong name, or made suggestions that weren’t well-received. When that happens you appear careless or disorganized, which is probably not the image you want to project.
In spite of the potential drawbacks, though, self-promotion is still totally worthwhile. No one else understands your Thing in the same way that you do. No one else is as passionate about your Thing as you are. And no one else is going to even know about your Thing if you don’t tell them. And so, I’m consciously taking steps to get over my fear of self-promotion. I talk about my Thing. I start small and I work my way up. In the process I hear about other Things and get excited for the people doing them. And the more I talk and interact, the easier it gets.
If I’d been a better self-promoter at work people would have known what I was up to, how I could help them and why I was valuable. Even in volunteer roles, a little bit of self-promotion can help an organization run more smoothly and help people find the best way to use their abilities and interests. It’s scary to stick your neck out and hard to know what to say, but the pay-off is significant. And it doesn’t just benefit you, it can benefit the people you want to help, too. Because, as it turns out, self-promotion does not have to be remotely selfish.
How about you? Do you find self-promotion easy or hard? And how do you get over your fears and self-doubts enough to actually do it?