Becoming known and the six common barriers to self-promotion


I was recently cleaning out some computer files when I came across one of those assessment programs you take to determine your ideal career (mine was 1. writer/literary; 2. scientist; 3. clergy!).

The report was filled with interesting insights, many of which still seem accurate today and there was one personality characteristic that made me pause: “You have trouble promoting your own accomplishments and good work.”

Hmmm. Yes. That is probably still true.

I once had a wise teacher who told me that there are no such things as a weakness … only over-done strengths. Think about it …

Overdone confidence is arrogance.

Overdone analytical skills is indecisive.

Overdone caution is paranoia.

… and overdone humility is obscurity.

I’m not saying I’m obscure (at all) but I am probably successful in spite of myself. When I read what other well-known people write about themselves, I think, “I could never say that.” But being humble is not necessarily a virtue In today’s world; it’s important to promote yourself, to some degree.

The power of being known

There used to be a time when you could become powerful and influential by your personal accomplishments alone. Today, that is probably not enough. An important factor in the fame equation is “being known.” In fact, many people on the social web are famous primarily for being known!

As I reviewed this old personality profile I thought about another conversation on this topic that has haunted me for years — why most of the social media marketing stars dominating the speaking circuit are men.

Several times, I’ve written about the fact that this is a male-dominated business. This is mystifying to me because more than half of the people in the business are women.

One of the leading theories that emerged in the comment sections from these posts is that women are shy about promoting themselves. I don’t know if buy into that premise, but since a lot of people think that is the reason, it is something to consider.

In any case, people who have an aversion to self-promotion are probably at a disadvantage on the web. If you’re like me, you need to work to overcome this.

Barriers to “Blowing Your Own Horn”

Here are aspects of our personalities that might be keeping us from taking the credit we deserve:

  1. You’ve been taught that nice people don’t do that.
  2. You don’t want to be seen as “hogging credit”… “I truly did not do it alone – others helped.”
  3. You feel that your business is no one’s concern but yours… “I know that I am capable, so why should I have to convince others?”
  4. You come from a company or national culture that emphasizes teamwork and discourages individuals from taking credit
  5. You don’t take credit for the many things you have really accomplished… “It’s all in a day’s work”…“It is just my job.”
  6. You are not sure how to do it without sounding egotistical.

There’s a difference between empty bragging (or “humble bragging” … whatever that is) and the true confidence that comes from knowing your skills and being optimistic about your future.

I believe that but still really struggle with doing anything about it. I do need to push myself to do better at self-promotion but I’m stuck. It’s hard to change your personality.

I realize I will probably always be less “optimized” than other people in the field. Then again, maybe that is part of my brand? Mark Schaefer: Sub-Optimized and Loving It.  : )

Are you comfortable with self-promotion? What are you doing to become better at it? What can you teach me that would help?

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Piero Dimarches

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