When it comes to personal attributes, bragging is not a revered trait. Several years ago I wrote the post How do you handle a bragger?, which has experienced continued traffic over the years, from people I can assume seeking coping strategies to deal with a boastful colleague, relative or friend.
In my own upbringing, I’ve been brought up to see values like humility, quietly working away, and keeping victories to oneself as the real way a person should behave.
Because of this reinforcement, my judgement on anyone who displays opposite qualities, showing the self-confidence to shout from the rafters about their success, and talk about everything they’ve done or going to do, as cocky and arrogant.
As I reach a more measured age, I’m more willing to take an open view, believing that the truth, like most things, is somewhere down the middle.
Does anyone have a good word for a self-promoter?
On researching this article I’ve been trying to find a positive word to describe a person who is at talking about their achievements, but they all seem to come off as negative – egotist, braggart, blowhard, boaster, self-aggrandizing, arrogant, bumptious, complacent, conceited…
Even the term self-promotion, which suggests a neutral way of describing someone like this, gets a slightly depreciating writeup from Psychology Research and Reference:
Self-promotion refers to the practice of purposefully trying to present oneself as highly competent to other people. When people self-promote, their primary motivation is to be perceived by others as capable, intelligent, or talented (even at the expense of being liked).
Words like perceived suggesst the person talking isn’t actually being genuine about their achievements!
With such a dismissive attitude, you start to wonder how anyone would want to publicly shout about their triumphs.
But from the hundreds of article like 7 Ways to Talk About Your Accomplishments Without Sounding Like a Braggart, it sounds like it’s a highly coveted skill.
Enter the Hype Man
Last year, I got tired of being modest. For all the moral superiority it gave, I felt my humility was holding me back from chances at work, as colleagues who weren’t as good as me got more opportunities, and progressed further in their career because they were better at talking themselves up.
Even as a long-term blog writer, I’ve noticed those who feel more comfortable constantly showing off their work, seem to be more effective at getting the rewards of bigger audiences and more engagement, than those who quietly plugging away producing high quality content.
Then I received a newsletter by the confidence coach Armani Talks, where he talked about being a hype man, a reference to the guy who supports a touring rapper pumping the crowd up and providing support during songs to help the main star rapper look good.
In terms of self-promotion, I like the term ‘hype man’ because it demonstrates someone who has confidence to shout out about their own abilities, but often will take a step back being willing to help someone else look good.
I’ve lost the email, but this video helps explain the hype man:
This message inspired me to set a goal to get better at promoting myself, being my own hype man for all the things I had to offer.
And how did it go?
Unfortunately, not great. I felt awkward talking about my achievements, and whenever I did anything to promote what I had done, I just imagined people thinking “go away, we’re not interested.”
Because of these fears, I fell off and went back to working in the background, passive aggressively resenting those who had the confidence, and distinct lack of shame to keep talking about how great they are.
This got me thinking about my approach, talking about myself doesn’t come naturally, it feels awkward and I didn’t want to be just another bullshitter, faking it till you make it type.
Therefore, I created my own system to hype myself, designed for people of a more introvert nature.
Check it out:
The first step, is to show understanding. If you can’t be compassionate with yourself, then your missing the basic fundamentals of self-confidence and will fail at showing people all the great things you have to offer.
When I promoted my work on social media and didn’t get much response, I started dismissing the voice in my head telling me that everyone wanted me to “go away”, but more a case that I hadn’t found the right audience.
My voice also changed encouraging me to persist with my efforts. I began to tell myself I was one of the good guys – my primary motivation was not to show off, but share my work and skills so that I could make a difference to someone’s life.
Seek rejection, accept feedback
What if I said your modesty was not about humility?
You keep telling yourself by keeping quiet you’re showing real integrity, unlike those boastful show-offs.
That’s how I used to think, but the more I think about it, is this moral superiority simply a response to a subconscious defensive mechanism to avoid rejection?
The reason you don’t hype yourself up is nothing to do with being modest, but because you’re wanting to avoid the reality that you’re not as special as you think.
Although I don’t particularly agree with boasting, there is one thing we can take from them – be being fearless about what people think about them.
Therefore, the simple solution is to put yourself out there – yes you will fail, mostly from silence with people who don’t have the time for you, which doesn’t help with your growth, but occasionally you will get feedback – use this to your advantage, so you know how you need to improve.
A simple solution if you don’t like showing off your success is to make sure you take opportunities to promote the achievements of those around you at least twice as much as your own.
This can be simple gestures such as sharing the work of others, buying from someone’s new business venture, or making sure you call out a good job done by a work colleague in a meeting.
By doing this they’ll be appreciative of it, maybe they too, fear coming off as big-headed if they promote themselves. Become the hype man for other people!
What you’re doing is starting a movement – creating a culture where it is okay to celebrate success. Talking good things of others spreads like a virus, they’ll reciprocate supporting not just yourself, but also offering encouraging words to others.
For further guidance, check out this article 40 Ways to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk.
There is a bit of a perfectionist in humility. You become too busy looking ahead of what the big picture is, to recognise all the achievements right in front of you.
Secondly, when you encounter a natural self-promoter, they make you feel self-concious about your own achievements, because they are so good at bragging their own.
I’ll always remember my first project management role working on recruiting university departments to take part in an environmental behaviour change programme.
I went to a workshop event attended by all the equivilants at other universities in the country. We had to do a presentation discussing our achievements. The guy before came on stage all teeth, confidence and charisma. He boasted about recruiting 104 departments.
104! I could have spat my drink out! My insecurity triggered at the realisation how insignificant, he made my progress in comparison.
If I’d taken time to show gratitude, I could have recognised the time and effort put into my work, and realised just because someone else was further ahead, did not mean I was running an unsuccessful project.
By displaying gratitude, you can take time to recognise what you’ve done, what you have, and what you are fortunate to have that you take for granted.
Become the Humble Hype man
Humility has positives. People who talk too much encounter problems, because often they make big claims without making the achievement. If you’re going to big yourself up like that you’d better achieve it otherwise the integrity of your words become worthless as people will just think you’re an arrogant blowhard who is all talk.
For the humble among us you are more driven to let actions speak louder than words. But that has downsides too, hard work can be ignored, or even worse a self-promoter steals your spotlight and takes credit for it.
Hence the trick is to get a balance of both, therefore keep these tips in mind:
- Be compassionate to yourself, recognising you have a lot to offer.
- Go seek opportunities despite the possibility of rejection and learn from the experience.
- Celebrate the achievements of others at least two times more than you highlight your own achievements.
- Show gratitude for what you have achieved – these are not insignificant and there are lots of things in your life you take for granted.
If you can follow these, you have the start of creating a beautiful hybrid – attributes which help keep you grounded, but the self-confidence ready to show the world what you can do when that moment arises and reach your full deserved potential.
Do you have any other tips for maintaining humility, while promoting all the excellent things you’ve done?
Wishing you the best in your success.
James @Perfect Manifesto