Is it bragging or self-promotion?

Womens Event May 5th Invite

The world of work today?  Amorphous -how to navigate getting ahead, finding direction and trying to find career satisfaction in the crazy world of work today – well, it’s a question that comes up often with women leaders.   

Susan MacKenty Brady recently wrote about the 7 hurdles women face.  Many of them – confidence, brand and presence, making the ask – are woven together in a tight  tapestry that chokes the capacity for women leaders to ascend with sure footing.  Trying to figure out how to remain authentic, to have a voice and to be on the same playing field as their male colleagues is a challenge and women leaders often don’t play big.  Why?

Running the edges

Subtleties in the workplace act as micro-inequities  that stealthily move women to the edges. What is a micro-inequity? Small actions-seemingly harmless jokes, greeting one colleague more enthusiastically than another, disregarding someone’s comments in a meeting – are more difficult to see as wrong because the offenders are typically unaware that they’re being offensive and the recipients are generally unsure how to react, often wondering if they’re just being oversensitive. Over time, this can cause women leaders to lose their sense of their place a little bit at a time. The sense of belonging that strengthens a leaders’s capacity for being empowered, for taking risks and for speaking up becomes elusive at best. At worst, when the belonging is given instead of assumed women run back and forth from the center to the edges never experiencing what it is like to feel confident and a part of things. That jagged edge is not only driven by context, but by deeply held beliefs such as “if only I achieved this or that” that act as a regulator for being certain that perfect or not, we belong.

Iceberg beliefs

Iceberg beliefs refer to self-limiting beliefs as those often subconscious thoughts such as self-doubt and fear of looking bad that act as software for decision making.  Experience teaches us about boundaries and acceptable behavior.  That can be good. Often our beliefs act as a compass for safety and correctness.  Sometimes though, we carry with us outdated beliefs that linger in the background telling us “its’ not nice to talk about yourself” “it’s not as good as I thought” “they won’t like me”. These old programs can influence what we do rather than have us consciously choose to behave in powerful ways that enable us to be clear about where and when not to be self-promoting.  The ability to self-promote without arrogance requires awareness of how to communicate your abilities and achievements so that the message gets across without the defeating governor of our self-limiting beliefs.


Sometimes in the face of challenges that strike at deeply held beliefs related to worthiness, overcompensating can come across as overstating or bragging.  When we try to make amends for a lack of power and certainty, our assets get shaded by poor communication, a lack of style or fear.  How do we take pride in our achievements without bragging?  What is the best way to speak with confidence without overcompensating?  To be successful at bragging, Susan Krauss Whitbournes suggests in Psychology today that two things can make a difference – address the social norms and personal belief systems that suggest that being modest is a part of our cultural norms. Second, being intentional about what you say and how you say it makes a real difference in how you are received. Over time if and you generate the wrong responses – it’s a turn off.  In my coaching practice, I work with women leaders to discover what they do well, are proud of and have been rewarded for. Short snippets and stories act as validation, provide color and serve to showcase achievements and talents with grace.  It’s not bragging, it’s not overstating, it’s just the truth.

On May 5th, I’ll be moderating an exciting panel of women on this very provocative subject:  Is It Bragging or Self Promotion? sponsored by Empire Wealth. Here is the invite and if you can come, please do – Womens Event May 5th Invite  Right after that session I’ll be back to you with what we have learned.

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