Talk Yourself Up

How do you “Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It”? (from the title of a recent book that I’ve got to start reading.)

Taking my middle school students on a walk to Central Park allows them to feel free and confident.
Taking my middle school students on a walk to Central Park allows them to feel free and confident.

My shyness around self-promotion started in Middle School. I was the first girl student president at Lincoln Junior High — a big and surprising achievement, given that I ran against a suave and popular boy.

After my election, during a parent-teacher conference, one of my teachers told my mother that I was getting a little too big for my britches ever since I won the election.

He should not have said that. She should not have told me. (Though, to her credit, she told me because she was very mad about his remark. “He had a lot of nerve telling you not be proud, Bethie!”)

So I cloaked myself in humility.

Years later, I was beyond thrilled when a funny story of mine appeared in Self magazine. I was on a sidewalk in Orange County, and bumped into a Pulitzer-prize winning friend of me. (Yes, I have amazing friends!) I wanted to share my brilliant little gem of a story but I couldn’t figure out how to broach the subject. Instead, I hugged the magazine to my chest, hoping he would notice the magazine and ask me about it. He didn’t.

On the sidewalk, we talked about kids, California, and my friend’s beautiful new play.

I have always felt more comfortable praising other people’s achievements than my own.

These subway performers got a ton of money, because they were good and they weren't afraid to show off their mad tumbling skills.
These subway performers got a ton of money, because they were good and they weren’t afraid to show off their mad tumbling skills.

Now that I’m starting my own business and continuing to get published, I have to rethink my humility habit. I have to let people know that I am awesome.

I can write, edit, and teach. (Hey, last month, I starred in one short comedy film and wrote and directed another for the Iron Mule Film Festival.)

I can no longer wait for people to notice the little gem that I’m hugging close to my chest.

Here are some things that help me hop on the self-promotion train:

  • Social media. People can’t see the way I cringe when I have to promote myself. I like the anonymity of the web.
  • B2B Networks. Friends who have small bizes, like me, can know, support and cheerlead one another.
  • Belief statement. Tony Bacigalupo, founder of new work city, was talking about this the other day. He’s into building community. It makes sense: you don’t have to be nervous about selling your goods or services if you really believe in them. Start with your belief. I believe making people into better writers makes them into better people.
  • Passion for the work. I love writing and leading workshops.
  • A Fact. Quoting one interesting fact or one happy customer somehow sets everyone at ease. It only takes one.

How do you talk yourself up? How do you toot your own horn without blowing it?

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