My friend, Jennifer Faught, just shot me an interesting email. Her question was pretty simple: as creative entrepreneurs, we do a lot of self-discovery work. Passions, values, core, strengths. As we discover these things, how do we keep from sounding like we’re bragging? How do we keep away from boastful? How do you self-promote without sounding like an arrogant jerk?
GREAT QUESTION. And one that has been bugging me as well. Over the past several months, I’ve been having conversations with friends here and there about ego. It DRIVES. ME. NUTS. See previous blog post.
I picked the phone and called Jennifer almost immediately, hoping she would have an answer. We discussed, and here are four ways to keep your ego in check, your pride in balance, how to self-promote without sounding arrogant.
- Be equally willing to promote others. I’ve said it before, but we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, right? If someone helped you get to where you are–maybe they trained you, mentored you, offered ideas, suggestions, insight–and ESPECIALLY if they did it for free, out of friendship–the best way to say thank you is to give them credit. Offer a shout-out, a retweet, a Facebook share. They’ll be more willing to continue to help you in the future.
- Realize that you aren’t the only person in the world with that specific attribute. Someone else is ALSO good at knitting while bareback riding a horse backwards. Maybe you taught someone about the knitting part, but someone else may have taught them how to bareback ride backwards. Quit looking for credit. (Honesty: this is probably one of my biggest struggles.)
- Realize that a rising tide floats many ships. In other words, as others succeed, it’s in your best interest to help them succeed. You’ll succeed in their wake. Celebrate their time in the spotlight with them. (There are a few exceptions to this–toxic people, and people that lack character need to be eradicated from our lives–they hold us back and there is little we can do to help them out of their own toxicity. You can send prayers and good wishes from afar, without having to be daily involved in these people’s lives.)
- Be willing to offer excellent alternatives to potential customers. I once sat in a geology class, where are professor stood at the front of the class and ferociously proclaimed the pros of evolution. Curious about his willingness to see both sides, I raised my hand and asked him if there were any pros in the argument for creationism. He said that, of course not, there were none. Immediately, he lost credibility in my eyes. Intelligent people are capable of at least seeing both sides, even if they wholeheartedly choose to believe in only one side. A customer may contact you, looking for pink knit hats. If you only offer yellow, it’s only fair for you to help them on in their journey by suggesting someone who does the best pink knit hats.
Another interesting discovery: the better you know yourself, the harder it will be for you to recommend a comparable service, just because you realize that your service is unique. Someone asked me for a graphic designer recommendation the other day, but it was hard for me to offer someone who could meet their needs of time, budget, and skill. That’s tough. I still provided a name, but it took me a few days to come up with a suggestion that would benefit all parties.
An additional thought: staying humble is easier than becoming humble. The stuff that “keeps us humble” is the hard stuff, because that’s the stuff that takes us down a couple of notches. It’s a lot easier to practice humility on a regular basis than it is to go through the struggle to learn it. (I have no experience in that at all. #sarcasm)
One final note, and I say this with all humility: the more you learn to love yourself, the easier it is to love others. If you’re just starting out in your entrepreneurship journey, a lot of what you hear people saying about themselves may sound or look arrogant, but look for their willingness to help their community, refer people to alternative services and product options, and see how generous they are with the retweets and Facebook shares. Listen to the people who listen to others.
Pride comes before a fall, right?