We are taught to be polite. Stay humble. Don’t brag.
I think those are all important habits. Arrogance is a turnoff for most people. But we need to be confident, especially when we’re running a business. Where is that line? When is it okay to talk about yourself and when does it mean you’re being cocky if you do? With the current climate of social media and personal branding, self-promotion has become necessary. But how do you promote yourself without sounding like you’re bragging?
It used to be that talking about yourself like, “Hey, look at me! Look at me!” people would think hmmm… you’re full of yourself. Now, if you don’t post about what you’re doing, it’s a missed marketing opportunity. It’s all a little too much.
What do you do when something great happens and you want to share your excitement? How do you do it in a polite, humble, non-braggy way? Especially when you don’t want to resort to a passive aggressive “humble brag,” which is when you’re basically trying to draw attention to something you’re proud of by pretending to be self-deprecating about it. We see right through that.
You don’t want to hint around and hope someone will ask you. At least I don’t – one of my pet peeves is when people hint at something instead of being direct about whatever it is they want to say. It bugs me so much that if I pick up on someone trying to get me to ask about something, I intentionally won’t. Just tell me what you want to tell me! I also don’t like the guessing game, so you know. “You’ll never guess what happened!” Nope. I won’t. Just tell me!
But, my personal nuances aside, why is it so difficult to come out and say that you’re proud about something you’ve done? If you’ve accomplished a goal, landed a big client, been asked to participate in a cool project, or whatever it might be, don’t you want people to share in that happiness with you? Especially these days, when it’s been pretty bleak for so many, isn’t that the kind of thing we all want to hear? Don’t we want our friends and family and colleagues to be excited about what they’re doing?
We should be able to celebrate our successes. Now more than ever, we need to take the wins where we can get them, and be proud of what we’ve achieved despite the craziness going on in the world. But I’ve heard a lot lately from people who feel they should apologize for doing well. “Hey, I did this great thing, but I’m not sure it’s in good taste to talk about it when so many other people are struggling.” Or, “I really want to share this, but I don’t want it to seem like I’m rubbing my good fortune in everyone’s face.” And, the worst, in my opinion, “I can’t talk to my friends about this because they’ll be jealous.” Don’t be friends with someone who doesn’t want you to do well. Ever. That’s not what a friend does.
There are so many reasons why people try to diminish their accomplishments. They shy away from acknowledging how incredible it is that they achieved a goal, because it’s “not the polite thing to do.” Or because they’re worried about how someone else might react. Or because they’re afraid that saying it out loud will jinx them somehow. But I don’t think it’s fair to you to keep it inside. So just like we’ve been encouraging everyone to open up lately – to be vulnerable about what they’re feeling when it comes to struggles and hardships – shouldn’t we also encourage everyone to share what’s going right in their lives?
Your success is not my failure. Just like my success is not your failure. There is room for all of us to succeed. And if someone else is having trouble, our success stories might actually be encouraging. Your accomplishment might be a huge inspiration to someone who needs it. Sharing something positive might motivate someone else to get out of a funk and move forward. Someone who is having a hard time might find hope in your story. Give yourself the opportunity to be that good example.
There is so much bad news in the world right now and we need to offset that with everything we can that’s good. Instead of sharing complaints, why don’t we share more compliments? Instead of targeting potential clients with questions like, “Why are you struggling?” and “What’s holding you back?” why not ask “Why are you thriving?” and “What’s propelling you forward?” I know we all want to solve their problems, but we can do that without being condescending. How about we stop assuming everyone is failing and starting talk about our wins, no matter how small they might seem. Let’s encourage everyone to share all the goodness! That’s what we all really need.
And when someone does share something they’re excited about, be excited for them. Don’t dismiss them or put them down or say their idea is dumb. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s ridiculous. Some of the best ideas are ridiculous in the beginning. Remember that people can be fragile, especially when it comes to sharing a new business idea or passion project. Your quick negative reaction, even if you don’t intend it to be harmful, might shatter their confidence and shut them down completely. If they ask for your opinion, be honest, but be polite. There’s that word again.
While we’re talking about celebrating successes, remember to also acknowledge the people who helped you get to where you are. It’s that whole saying of give credit where credit is due. Let them celebrate with you. That little shout out might mean a whole lot to them, especially when so many feel unappreciated.
Or if you did it all on your own, don’t be afraid to say I DID THIS! It’s a great feeling when you make things happen for yourself. And sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. You can’t expect people to ask you about it, or to even realize that it’s a big deal to you. We’ve become a quick-scroll, low attention span society where it seems like we’re always connected, but we’re actually missing quite a bit. So don’t assume others will figure it out. Tell them. Share your wins. Celebrate your successes. You deserve it.
And I mean that quite literally. I’d love it if you’d send me a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me @aardvarkgirl to let me know something good that’s happening in your life – big or small. I’ll celebrate your success with you!