Self-promotion is an art I have yet to master.
I don’t say this out of a false sense of modesty. Really. I promise I haven’t shunned the practice of self-promotion based on judgment or principle. The whole “tooting my own horn” and “being my own loudest advocate” and “putting myself before others”—I understand the value in these acts. I do.
And I fully acknowledge my failure. Actually, people have flat out told me this is an area I need to “work on.”
Ironically, I’m a great self-cheerleader…internally.
I just haven’t ever been very good at tugging on someone else’s shirt sleeve and saying, “Hey. Look at me. I’m a god damn ROCK STAR, and you should notice. And, if you haven’t? Well. Sit back. Let me show you. Let me show you.”
Why? I hesitate to point to a lack of self-confidence, because on the whole, I consider myself a confident woman. I know I have strengths, insights to offer, love to give, kindness to bestow, ideas to share, and so on. I know I am smart and good and worthy. I know I am strong and athletic, womanly and pretty. I don’t doubt these things.
I just bristle at the idea of having to explicitly outline my winning qualities to another person. Personally or professionally. (Queue the discomfort in writing online dating profiles, cover letters, self-evaluations, applications…)
Don’t the actions, the end result, the person as a whole, tell a more compelling and interesting story than the words anyway?
I’d like to think so. And, in an ideal world, perhaps this would be the case. But, we do not live in an ideal world.
In the past month, I have begun to realize, more and more, and with greater and greater clarity, that my mode of survival for the past year has been sitting back and letting others hold the reins of my life. My mode of operation has, in fact, been the polar opposite of self-promotion or self-direction.
Sure, I will go and live with my sister and brother in law for an indefinite amount of time and live within the comfort and safety of another’s warm roof…without having to take responsibility for said roof. Certainly, I will take a job I don’t necessarily want or enjoy and slog through 50+ or 60+ hour work weeks for month’s on end because it’s easier to follow the direction of others than it is to pave a direction of my own. Yes, absolutely, I will let him dictate and define the parameters, however hurtful or unfulfilling, of our relationship—better that than lose him completely. And, surely, I will dutifully listen, patiently follow suit, follow orders, all to please and endear myself rather than look to protect and propel myself on my own, chosen course.
It’s frightening, really, how easy it is to settle oneself into the backseat. Who needs a clear view or a strong hand on the wheel when you can simply let the road carry you—versus you making the turns and reverses and sudden departures from the map altogether? Who needs to lead when others are so willing and eager to have you follow?
Let me tell you: It is frighteningly easy.
Somewhat recently, a relationship with a man I cared for very much ended. Our final conversation and the sudden reality that our time together was complete gutted me, for weeks. Still, a small ache swells within me each time I think of him, of what could have been the us I’d wanted and fought for. I didn’t realize or appreciate it then, but I see now that closing that one door quickly motivated me to close other doors, too. Because ending that relationship was the first, real, tangible sense of self-directed progress I have felt in…a year? Or more?
It motivated me to sign a lease to a new apartment. (Yes, I’m moving…finally.) It motivated me to pick up the phone and call a dear friend or two and have some long overdue conversations. It propelled me to send away or throw away momentos, both sweet and sour reminders of him, that I had clung to—and now no longer need or want. It has even helped me launch a new job search. And begin a renewed effort to date, to dust off the shelves of my heart again.
Ultimately, I have captured and harnessed one of the ultimate tactics of self-promotion: selfishness.
And, by selfishness, what I mean is this: I did it for me.
Extremes of any kind are unproductive and usually destructive. Selfishness is no different. But, I know I have not been selfish enough these last few months. I have not looked out for my best interests. And I know that has been to my own detriment. Personally and professionally.
I don’t intend to blaze down some self-indulged, “me, me, me only” path in the months aheads. But, I do intend to put myself first: in love, at work, in training for my triathlon and getting to yoga, in setting up my new home, and in putting my two feet squarely on the ground again and launching this new chapter of my life.
I intend to focus on the changes I plan to make for myself.
I intend to hope, whole-heartedly, for the future I want, while working doggedly on the today, my way—for me.