Reflections on Self-Promotion

I was completely new to the practice of promoting myself until I started a creative project that then turned into a business. Until then, I had about 10 Instagram posts to my name and had never made a status on Facebook. I had close to no online footprint, and that was a decision I didn’t have to make because I have always been deeply ambivalent about talking about myself in public. I’m not particularly shy, and though I get reasonably nervous, I can deal with public speaking. I’m plenty comfortable talking about things I care about (I happen to get comically impassioned, actually). I like attention, and there’s little I love more than praise. That’s all precisely why I feel squeamish about touting my own accomplishments. I’m scared of the part of myself that’s a little bit of a show off. I am scared of opening the floodgates and becoming an insufferable salesperson.

That was the root of my hesitation, but there’s a much more universal way to describe why it’s so hard: we make ourselves incredibly vulnerable when we promote ourselves, particularly if we’re making projects that we’re personally invested in. Shouting something we care about from the rooftops requires a giant leap of faith. Every hesitation is just another version of this, as is each of these reasons to say and do nothing that have crossed my mind:

We don’t want to appear foolish or outlandish.

We definitely want to be laughed at or judged harshly.

We don’t want to bore other people.

We don’t want to bother people who don’t care.

We don’t want to appear egotistical or self-involved.

We don’t want to brag.

We don’t want to ask for help.

We don’t want to have to alert people if we fail.

Each of these qualms is worth getting over, and each presents its own particular challenge. But here are a few reassurances to get you started: I promise that so many people want to know about what you’re up to, and the people who don’t care aren’t paying attention, so no need to worry about them. Plus, people love success stories and love seeing underdogs make it.

My advice: When in doubt about how to promote something you’ve done, go with a short, clear statement that sticks to the facts, and focus on your enthusiasm and gratitude. Genuine excitement is appealing and infectious, and recognition and humility go along way. This guy works perfectly online, in print and in person:

“I’m just put together a project with [insert Dream Brand or collaborator] and it was a dream. Thank you to [@lovelyperson] for making this happen.”

Sweet, to the point, and totally unobjectionable.

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