Self-Promotion Is No Fun

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?

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  1. I agree it definitely takes some getting used to. When I first started Little Tree I did dread having to do it but it really does get easier and has helped me build for myself a wonderful community of other mums doing their own thing around me and i find it is amazing how far that gets you. There is a definite camaraderie amongst this group and I find now that we have learnt to self promote that we promote each other too! So i'd like to thank everyone who I have self promoted too, all those who have listened and all those that have helped me get where I am today! including you Amber :o)

  2. I am VERY uncomfortable with self-promotion. It doesn’t help that my two main Things are so subjective (parenting and art).

    And when I do speak honestly about what I feel I am capable of, it doesn’t help when a man (even in jest) says things like “okay dear, when your done patting yourself on your back…” it just solidifies my feminine insecurities that I too picked up in junior high.

    I get mad at myself for being less outgoing with some things, and then with other things (like parenting) I feel like I get too caught up in my own opinions and some people are rolling their eyes and shutting off (too much information).

    My friends say I’m brutally honest. I also jabber when I am nervous in social situations. Not quite tooting my own horn, but it comes across that way I’m sure!

    So far getting older has been my best cure for my insecurities. Basically the older I get, the more confident I am in my abilities in certain areas… experience has told me that I am good in those areas, so I can go in with a professional attitude without having to prove anything!

    However, in areas where I want to help but am afraid to speak up…. no cure yet.
    .-= *pol´s last post ..This and That =-.

  3. How I feel about self-promotion…well the moment I read your title I felt a little “clench” inside me. That’s how I feel. I know it’s something that must be done but I am so damned shy that I have to fight like heck to actually do it.

    In my previous life as a business analyst I had to meet a lot of people. I had to run meetings and take charge and promote myself and my project. Sometimes I think I did alright but it was always a struggle because I always had to fight my natural instinct to hide in the back.

    For me self-promotion is almost like putting on a mask. A mask of self-confidence. Something I don’t necessarily feel but try to emulate.
    .-= Marilyn´s last post ..The Amazing Knee-Walking Girl: Wednesday of Few Words =-.

  4. Good luck with those steps — I’ll be back here cheering you on from my hiding spot behind the shoes.

    I have low self-esteem and a social anxiety disorder. Big whoop, so do lots and lots of people. I would say getting older has maybe possibly perhaps made me a teeny bit more confident about a few things, but mostly what it’s made me is aware of my issues and willing to admit that they’re never going to go away. So no matter how smart or talented I am I’m never going to be as successful as I might have been if my personality was different. And that’s okay. You can’t make a silk purse out of honey and vinegar, or whatever. What I am being very careful about is not projecting my issues on my generally extremely confident and outgoing daughter. At the water park this summer she came running over to the group of mothers and said “I went under the big waterfall! I was brave! I’m brave and smart!” One of my friends said “…and modest”, jokingly, but I was kind of embarrassed and had the impulse to tell Eve not to compliment herself so much in public. Then I told myself to shut the hell up.
    .-= Allison´s last post ..***********Favourite Quotes from Not-Necessarily-Favourite-Books =-.

  5. you go girl

  6. What has always annoyed me about self promotion is that it often seems like a ‘story’ or not geniune. So I usually let my work speak for me. The problem is that that often isn’t enough and others are talking (loudly) about how great they are. So you either get on the band wagon or miss out. The key, I hope I follow, is to always be geniune and authentic. And don’t do the female thing of underselling yourself or saying ‘we’ to your accomplishments.
    .-= Tracey´s last post ..What to wear =-.

  7. I learned a lot from my dance mentor, who promoted himself in a really classy way. It never seemed like he was name dropping or bragging, but everyone enjoyed his stories about places he’d taught or projects he worked on, because he made them so interesting. Easier said than done, but it’s nice to have a model of promotion that is understated yet effective.
    .-= Lady M´s last post ..Past and Future =-.

  8. Sam and I were just talking about this in the car today. So sometimes it’s not a woman thing, but it depends on the personality. We’ve had so many times in our lives where we’ve looked at someone apparently more successful in whatever way is important to us at the moment and said, “Waaah, why can’t someone discover how fabulous I am?” (I’m paraphrasing and adding in sound effects.) It took us awhile to consider that maybe they hadn’t waited around to be discovered. Maybe they’d done the hard, tricky, vulnerable work of putting themselves out there. So we’re learning, baby steps, but it’s still hard and still makes us — yes, clench.

    The Blog to Inspire contest is a good example. I saw that you entered it and loved your post and I thought, Hmmm, maybe I could…nooo…not me. But, you know, I finally did. I think sometimes we’re just afraid not of succeeding but of trying to, failing, and looking foolish. But how else can you succeed without the trying and possibly failing first?
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last post ..A call to persist in babywearing =-.

  9. How do you exactly do self-promotion?
    .-= Francesca´s last post ..Indoor inspiration =-.

  10. I know exactly how you feel. I’m not one to hang awards on the wall and tell everyone about my accomplishments. Whenever I have a work performance review, I’m always told that I need to highlight and talk about my accomplishments. To me, doing a good job isn’t a praise worthy thing; it’s what I was hired to do.

    In the spirit of your post, I’ll share one thing; I am Mike. And I am great.

    Yeah, that doesn’t feel quite right… 🙂

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