There’s something about people who are always tooting their own horn that rubs me the wrong way—people who are unapologetically blunt, who profess their greatness as a matter of fact rather than opinion, who don’t understand why everyone else hasn’t achieved the same level of success that they have. And I’m even more baffled by the people who admire these individuals, who become disciples almost, constantly touting their praises, looking to them for advice and direction, only to be arrogantly shunned or patronized depending on the type of day their role model is having.
Still, I realize I’m a part of the crowd too. I follow these people on Twitter, I read the formsprings to see just how much annoyance will show up in their answer to someone’s question, I go to their websites and read their blogs, because there’s something about that very boldness that attracts people and makes them believers. It makes you question whether you’re being unfair because when someone knows they’re hot, who can tell them otherwise?
Growing up, I recall hearing comments about other women, like “she thinks she’s so great/cute/special/etc.” that sent the message that one shouldn’t think too highly of themselves. In church, I was taught to be the antithesis of a horn blower: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted; If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. And others would tell me, “People are watching,” as if to say that one has to tone themselves down for the sake of onlookers.
I understand what the Bible is getting at in terms of remembering that life on earth is nothing compared to what awaits in Heaven, and that our talents are gifts from God and we should not be too proud, but is it so wrong to think that you are amazing and to not care if others are looking? How do these messages affect our psyche and our personal relationships and even our professional lives?
Modesty about the amount of work that you do doesn’t garner a promotion; Diffidence doesn’t create the connections that allow the company that you’re starting to grow; and being reserved about your talents, skills, and abilities doesn’t make people take notice. Those who know how to effectively promote themselves are the ones that get asked to be a part of panel discussions, or to participate in a new business venture, or to simply go for a drink on a Saturday night. By unquestionably believing in their greatness, these people make others believers as well and that leads to opportunity.
My boss always tells me that I’m the only one who knows all the work I’m doing and it’s my responsibility to let my superiors know just how much I contribute to the team. In the same token, we are the only ones who know just how smart, unique, and gifted we are, and if we don’t spread the word, how will people know? I’ve always been the type to let my work speak for itself, but I’m starting to realize that sometimes you have to work your mouthpiece as well. As two articles pointed out last week, (F’ You, Pay Me’: Why Do Women Have A Hard Time Putting Themselves First? And When You’d Do it for Free) sometimes we have a hard time doing this because of the things that we’ve been taught growing up.
So what is that fine line between cockiness and confidence, between boasting and being bold, and how does one reconcile the need to promote themselves with years of being taught to be reserved? Of course there’s a way to be self-assured without being arrogant, but self-promotion is sometimes a hard thing to rectify in ones mind when you’re fearful of coming off as someone who thinks too much of themselves. Perhaps it’s just time to lay this antiquated way of thinking to rest.