A couple months ago, I attended a Levo League book club event for the book, Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It, by Peggy Klaus. The book was a great primer on strategies you can use to promote your accomplishments in an authentic way, and I thought the book club was going to be a great forum to practice some of those strategies. Instead, there was a lot of discussion around why it is so important to learn the art of self-promotion, but no one stepped up to actually try it. Finally, the facilitator asked, “Why do we have such a hard time talking about ourselves?”
It’s not because we don’t recognize its importance. It’s not because we don’t know how. It’s because of how it makes us feel.
Bragging. Self-promotion. Talking about your accomplishments. How do you feel after reading these phrases? Do you feel icky? Do you feel disgust? Maybe there’s a thread of frustrated obligation in there, too, like you know it’s something you should do, but for some reason you still resist it. Why do all of these negative feelings come up? I polled a number of people, and one response came up over and over again: “I don’t want to be so self-serving.”
Bingo. No one wants to be a self-serving brag who talks about him/herself simply to promote their own agenda, and even worse, makes others feel less-than. So how can you approach talking about yourself without turning into that kind of person?
Here are three mindset shifts that can show you how talking about yourself can be more about supporting others than about serving yourself.
Sharing more about yourself creates opportunities for deeper connection. Countless times I’ve heard people answer the “So, what do you do?” question with just their job title. That answer gives your listener very little fuel to propel the conversation further. It’s almost like slamming a door in their face. Don’t be rude; invite them in. Go beyond your job title to talk about the impact your work makes. Give them something they can get curious about, so that they can get to know you better. Who knows, you may be the perfect person to help them in an area they need help with. But neither of you may know that until you open the door.
Achievement is not a zero sum game. When someone succeeds, there isn’t suddenly less success to go around. When someone is good at something, it doesn’t make everyone else around them worse. And yet, some people feel this way when they hear others talk about what they’ve done. It is that myth that keeps people silent about their accomplishments. So, help bust the myth. The next time someone shares about what they’ve accomplished, understand that it doesn’t take anything away from you. And when you fear how others may feel if you share about your success, understand that it doesn’t necessarily take anything away from them. Give yourself permission to shine, and you’ll give others permission as well.
Being open about your accomplishments will ultimately pave the way to opportunities to help more people. Maybe you have a unique message to share. Or you have valuable expertise that can help others in their work. Whatever your genius is, there are people out there that need it. But no one will know to give you the stage unless you share about your genius. Your manager won’t know to give you more responsibility until you share stories about what you’ve done to build her trust in you. You may be the exact change-maker your organization needs, but you won’t land the job or the promotion to lead more people unless you are vocal about what you are capable of. There are people out there who need you. Talking about what you can contribute will be the key to earning the platform to connect with them.
You were put here to make a difference. You have some gift that can help others. However, no one will know how you can help or what difference you can make unless you tell them. In marketing, that’s called positioning. So, have the courage to position yourself as the resource that you are.