Life & Work Skills

Confident or Just Bragging? How to Balance the Fine Line of Self-Promotion


Raise your hand if you hate it when people brag — right, I thought so. Everyone does, which is why it’s easy to be paranoid that you’re crossing the line of confidence and bragging. Having the confidence to promote yourself and your accomplishments is a great thing, but it can feel icky. Luckily, there are ways for you to be confident and proud of your accomplishments without stepping into bragging territory.


The Cost of Humility

When I first left my full-time job to start my own business, you could say the last thing I felt was confident. I was pretty sure I would fail, but I figured I would get the entrepreneurial urge out of my system. I spread the news of my career change to select members of my professional network, but I didn’t want everyone to catch wind of my new status as a freelancer. I wasn’t confident I would succeed. I thought I would announce I was looking for a new job in a few short months. Cue the embarrassment.

Then a funny thing happened. A few months passed and I was doing OK. A few more months passed and I was doing better than OK. By the time the new year rolled around, it was clear I would be just fine on my own. So I made a resolution: to be proud of the work I was doing and how far I’d come — and to shout it from the rooftops.

Like any normal person does over the holiday break, I hopped onto LinkedIn. I announced that I started my solopreneur journey to my entire professional network, and I am so glad I did. A wealth of support poured in, including some commissions for my work. It turned out that some people in my network had no idea about my career change, and they were more than ready to hire me to handle their content needs. Within a few months, I made thousands of dollars off those leads. To this day, that one post is still helping me pay my bills.

The point I’m trying to make? Not promoting myself cost me big time. Here’s how to not make the same mistakes as me:


Why Confidence Matters

This may sound like cheesy advice, but if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Sure, there are times where a mentor or colleague will go to bat for you, but most of the time, you’ll have to do that for yourself. You need to be able to sell why you deserve a raise, a promotion, or the chance to tackle that special project. Maybe you need to convince a client to give you their business. You can only do that if your confidence shows. And yes, a little bragging can help accomplish that.

Being proud of your accomplishments or excited to talk about your successes at work isn’t bragging — you may feel like it is if your parents raised you to be humble like mine did — but it’s not. Women, in particular, are afraid of bragging. A fascinating study from Montana State University found that while women tend to downplay their own accomplishments, they have no trouble promoting a friend’s achievements. First of all, let’s appreciate the fact that women love supporting their friends, but it’s wise to remember to also be your own best friend and make sure you’re giving yourself the credit you deserve.


How to Balance Self-Promotion

We’ve all seen the lines of self-promotion cross into “bragging.” So how do we make sure to stay on the right side of that line? The work needs to start before you sing your own praises. For example, if you want to share your career successes on LinkedIn or Instagram, make sure that’s not the only business-related content you share. Celebrate the successes of others in your field. Start thoughtful conversations about the latest industry news. Ask for help when you need it. The more you post about other areas of your career, the less it will seem like you’re bragging when you need to toot your own horn. Next thing you know, you’ll be a bonafide industry thought leader. Then your reputation will speak for you.


Go For it Anyways

Alright, let’s face the facts. Sometimes you are going to just have to brag. And while you should give credit where credit is due, there is no need to diminish your success by always pointing out what a team effort it was, especially when it wasn’t. Stay away from words like “lucky” or “fortunate.” Luck had nothing to do with where you are today. Every step, big and small, led you down this path. Celebrate that moment, and don’t be afraid to pop the champagne after.