Working Woman's Guide to SELF PROMOTION - Part 1

Welcome to our mini training series where so far we’ve explored your inner critic, dealing with fear and accessing your courage .

Today is about Self Promotion. And it comes with a Warning – reading this may cause you to feel worse, before you feel better!

Do you recognise any of this.....?

‘In this organisation you have to wave a flag to show everyone what you’ve done in order to get recognised – I don’t want to have to do that  - all my good work should be recognised for what it is!’

'I don’t want to play this ‘game’  - that’s what all the guys do and I don’t want to have to beat them at their own game'

'I’ve never needed to promote myself, I’ve always just been lucky with new job opportunities’

 ‘I’m happy to talk about my team – that’s the most important thing’


As women we tend to believe that our good work should speak for itself – that we shouldn’t have to promote it or make it obvious to others.

Something about promoting ourselves can make many of us feel arrogant, prideful, ‘salesy’ or ‘male’. These feelings grate against our ‘good girl’ conditioning and can feel deeply uncomfortable. Our desire to stay safe means that we learn not to draw attention to ourselves. We learn not to raise our profile as our good work should speak for itself. 

Research shows that as women we incur a social penalty for self- promoting – we may be seen as less likeable. Studies also show that women who don’t advocate for themselves or their team can be seen as less competent.

This is known as the ‘double bind’ for women. Women who self-promote get treated differently to men who self-promote BUT this is not a reason not to do it. We just need to be super skillful at finding a way that is effective (so it doesn’t kick off the double bind bias) and authentic to you (so that it feels less uncomfortable).

Our fear of being seen as arrogant means that we under-pitch our self-promotion. But there is a difference between arrogance and healthy confidence.

Let me tell you about my kid.

Up until very recently when she’d done something at school she was proud of, she would bounce home, talking non stop, telling me all her news, in a delighted, fun, free way. ‘Mum I did this, and then this happened, and this is what so-and-so said about it, and I got to go to the jelly bean book!’ 

Is she holding back? No. Is she anxious about what others will think of her in telling me about this? No.

Contrasting my default reaction which I often catch myself in of ‘oh please speak quieter others will think you are bragging’ and noticing I found that would be a negative judgement.

My kid hasn’t yet learned to be self-conscious or self-censor.

Her exuberance, energy and joy at her achievements is really beautiful.

Wanting to share our ideas, our creations, the good things we are offering to the world, is not inherently wrong, selfish, arrogant, prideful, nor an inherently or necessarily MALE activity!

Before women learn to filter this stuff, girls self promote in free, fun and delightful ways!

The bottom line is we learned a while ago to tone this behaviour down – few of us have learned how to do it so it feels natural and ‘ok’ – this is a new muscle we need to start flexing!

Learning how to authentically self-promote – like learning anything new, or using any muscle that is underdeveloped – may feel clunky and hard work initially. Choosing to hold back or crediting our team are our ’comfort zone’ default behaviours. We need to get comfortbale with experimenting and feeling uncomfortable initially, as we build up our authentic self promotion 'muscles', and develop new habits.

So let’s explore why self-promotion is important and then in part 2 we’ll look at how we can do it in a way that feels less uncomfortable. 

Why is self-promotion important? 


·       makes your achievements visible.

·       sends a message about the extent to which you value yourself and are confident.

·       makes your work and ideas available to those who can use them.

·       helps you to manage and influence your reputation in your organization – you get to influence what you get known for.

There’s a bigger picture here too. Alongside networking, self promotion is one of the key enablers that allow women to progress and to thrive.

If we want to shift the dial on more women in senior positions across all industries and sectors (which we do right?!) then this is a skill we need to get more comfortable with.... AND we need to stop penalizing other women when they do it.

The more we practice the easier it feels – part 2 we’ll share some tips on HOW to self promote in a way that feels authentic to you


Over to you – coaching prompts and next steps:

1.       What emotions do you feel when we say ‘self-promotion’? what is that about for you?

2.       Do you recognise the belief that 'my good work should speak for itself'?

3.       What is the value of self-promotion for you – why could it be important for you?

4.       What is the story you want to be telling about yourself? What do you want your reputation to be? What is the story you want others to be telling about you? 

5.       How can you experiment/ practice telling this story this week?


Further resources:

Eleanor Beaton's Fierce Feminine Leadership podcast

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action,  Susan Jeffers 

Playing Big, Tara Mohr

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Dealing with our inner critic, doubt and fear; imposter syndrome; getting more visible even when you hate networking; navigating systemic bias; authentic self-promotion; comparing, competing and collaborating with other women; ally-ship and role modelling.

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