I had one of those moments recently where I was flooded with a wave of self-doubt. I've spent the better part of the year pitching articles for publication and pitching myself to prospective employers and pitching the organization that I work for to potential partners—and sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's uncomfortable and a lot of the times it makes me feel weird. I worry that if, by sharing my published articles, I read as cocky to friends. I worry that by taking pride in my accomplishments, I might come across as self-absorbed. I don't want to be a navel gazer (although I am sometimes), I'm not vain (well, a little bit), and I don't think that I'm the best (but I do accept the good and the not-so-good parts of me).
In the midst of my minor moment of uh-oh, am I a bad person? I realized two important things: (1) we can never control how people react to us (so strike that off your "to worry about" list) and (2) when my friends share their accomplishments and articles and artistic endeavors, I never think what a self-promoting piece of work. I think: cool! I LOVE when my friends let me know what they are up to. Reveling in our successes helps fortify us against setbacks. We get to celebrate together in the small and shared pleasures of a just-booked performance or a recently released essay. That ability to celebrate is a true gift, one that we get to give to ourselves and to one another.
For women especially, we are socialized to grow inward. We have anxiety about sharing our successes or embracing what we know to be true (e.g. that we're beautiful, smart, and capable) because we're taught that confidence is unbecoming and assertiveness is aggressive. Loving yourself doesn't mean that you're an egomaniac. Sharing your successes doesn't mean you can't share in the successes of others. And appreciating where you are now doesn't mean you aren't open to growth. So often, it's easy to fall prey to the "either/or" binary that dominates our culture.
The politics of self-promotion are tricky. But I think that by and large, a good rule of thumb for deciding what you share and when is to honor the celebratory spirit within you and to remember how you feel when a loved friend blasts their good news. A couple days ago, Lily talked about how when a women tells her story, it opens up the space for other women to tell their stories. Let's continue to grow that space by taking pride in our stories.