The line between self-promotion and bragging can be a tricky one to define.
A big part of the reason I wanted to discuss this topic is because there can be such a gray area between telling people about what you’ve done in an enthusiastic way and bragging or one-upping someone else- the distinction between the two is often times in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has there own interpretation of bragging v.s. self-promotion.
For me, I think I didn’t always receive the support I needed growing up and since there weren’t a lot of other people tooting my horn I relied on myself to do the tooting.
When I was younger, at times I definitely bragged. I told one of my best friends we were the best looking girls in town when I was maybe 18 years old (God, I can’t even believe I used to think like that.) My friend still reminds me of this from time to time and we both laugh at how immature, boastful and ridiculous I was then.
What changed my bragging tune? Maturity, becoming more comfortable and confident in myself and realizing as I aged that I didn’t need to convince others of who I was I just had to show them through my actions.
How do I talk about myself now? Did I become like so many women who are afraid of standing out? Am I humble? Well, maybe occasionally, but as a general rule no. I think I’m a pretty natural self-promoter and becoming better at it as I age (Wait, was that bragging? Hah!)
When I know I’m good at something and someone compliments me, I thank them and I might even say, “That’s how I roll.” I’m not a shrinking violet to flattery. I actually LOVE compliments, both giving and receiving them.
I think the world could use more authentic praise and gratitude and I try to do my part to give it.
When I have a chance to show off my skills, I take it. If I want to try something new with new people, I ask for it and tell them of my skills and experiences. I try to be someone who doesn’t need to tell others about how good I am at things unless it’s necessary for me to get the gig. Generally, I like to show people rather than talk about skills. Actions speak so much louder than words.
Behind closed doors, with my friends and family who I know and trust, I’ll still do an occasional celebratory dance move, sing a victory song and tell stories of the things I’m proud of – then I get off the “stage,” so other people have their time to shine.
Are there people who still think I’m a braggart? Oh, I’m sure there is someone somewhere who believes that of me. And here’s why: everyone comes to every story and every person with their own story and interpretation. All I can do is be true to myself and try to be respectful to others around me. I hope people get me, but how others interpret me is out of my control.
I, on the other hand, have always felt modest about my accomplishments, perhaps because I grew up with the opposite of what Jen experienced- there was always someone to toot my horn for me so I didn’t have to- my Mom!
She tooted it to co-workers, family, teachers, grocery store checker-outers, the pharmacist, strangers- anyone who would listen got to hear all about how great my mom thought I was. It always felt braggy to me, and I didn’t like it. So I’d distance myself from it, deflect the compliments and praise, say “No, no- I’m not that great at that.” “No, no- she’s exaggerating.”
I’m getting better at accepting compliments these days, but my first inclination is still to deflect or lessen them somehow, and I think a lot of that is from worrying about other people’s perception. I don’t want to be perceived as boastful or a braggart, I don’t want to ostracize anyone by making them feel “less than” somehow. I think a lot of wanting to remain modest & humble is just not wanting to rock the boat, to try to remain like-able to everyone.
But being liked by everyone is impossible. And it gets especially tricky when it’s time to promote yourself or your business, where you’re actively trying to set yourself apart.
In a way, modesty feels inauthentic to me because it’s denying a part of your truth- the part that rocks the shit out of something and is proud of it! Modesty is not really respectful of your hard work, skills or talent.
So, ever since I started having to promote myself and my business, I’ve tried to just be honest- honest about my strengths, and my weaknesses. Honest about my knowledge, skills and natural talents. Honest about the hard-work, dedication and heart that goes into my words and work with clients.
And when you speak honestly and authentically- even about how great you are at something- it doesn’t feel like bragging, it’s just the truth. And that’s what I think effective self-promotion is- speaking your truth.
How other people perceive that truth is not up to us, as Jen mentioned above, but tooting your well-deserved horn, allowing yourself to be proud of and accept praise for your accomplishments, knowing and owning what you’re good at- that’s not bragging- that’s showing respect to yourself and all that you are.
Where do you think the line is between self-promotion and bragging?
Do you have problems with self-promotion because of other people’s perception?
Do you err on the side of bragging, or modesty, and how has that affected your life and/or business?
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