The very thought of self promotion sends shivers down my spine. I wouldn’t be capable of tooting my own horn if someone rammed the thing in my mouth and pressed down hard on my tummy. When it comes to the act of selling myself, I’m the worst.
I suspect this might be why I spend a large portion of my life feeling as though I’ve let myself down, missed opportunities and not done enough.
The crippling fear of rejection, the panic that ensues the minute I begin down a path that might lead someone to believe that I am arrogant, the insecurities that bubble up inside me when I’m forced to try and prove my worth to someone that doesn’t already see it is enough to leave me willingly missing opportunities if it means I won’t have to put myself out there.
Whether it’s pitching for a campaign with a brand, securing a public speaking gig, selling my book to a dubious mother who isn’t sure her teenage daughter should be reading a book that says ‘fuck’ so many times in it, shmoozing an editor who I want to commission me for something or asking (note, I should be saying demanding) the right amount of money for a piece of work that I have completed, more often than not I find myself failing.
Even if I do end up selling myself, you can be sure that I’m underselling.
Being the unofficial but self-proclaimed queen of FOMO, I’m often just so pleased to be involved that I will not only offer to do whatever ridiculous task it is for free but more often than not find myself hopelessly enthusiastic about things I don’t even particularly want to do just because I think it might be the polite thing to do.
I’m British, I’m awkward, I spent years feeling very insecure and unsure of myself and I suffer with a disgraceful bout of imposter syndrome at the best of times. I hate the idea of offending anyone, or worse, letting them down, I would never presume to insinuate that I am more important than anybody else and then of course there is the small matter of not having an awful lot of self belief.
Despite the fact I know in my heart of hearts, that on some level, I have made a success of my life thus far, I’m still the first to put myself down.
Writing a book?Omg it was so much easier than I thought it would be. ANYONE COULD DO IT. I was just really lucky. Right place, right time. It’s probably shit. Definitely shit. Oh no, don’t buy it! What a waste of money, I’ll just tell you what happens, so….
Blogging full time?Oh babe it’s SO much easier than you’d think. Your job is SO much harder. Yeh no I’m a bit tired but nothing compared to you. It’s a dream come true really, it won’t last, I will fail, just you wait, I’ll be back working as a delivery driver again before you know it.
Running a half marathon? It was so hard. I’m so rubbish. I don’t even know how I did it. I basically didn’t. It took me like six years to do. I walked it. No, I crawled it. I’m shit, I’m so shit, trust me. YOU’D HAVE DONE IT SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME. (this one applies to the triathlons I’ve done, and the week long 400+ mile bike rides I do with Help For Heroes every summer too).
I’m modest, bordering on depressingly self-deprecating.
And I know that this is why so many opportunities have not only passed me by, but been unceremoniously snatched away from me. I’ve never really shown people the passion burning inside me, or the guts that I know I have, because I’m absolutely obsessed with not coming across an arsehole. I don’t want to push anyone, pester anyone, I don’t want to be an irritant.
It’s one of the traits that my boyfriend finds totally infuriating about me (along with the fact that I chew my thumb and drum my nails on the table when I’m thinking/stressed/just sitting there.). He spent years pushing me, encouraging me, begging me to put myself out there more, demand things, expect better. To get better at self promotion.
Eventually I decided just to give him my laptop and let him to reply to all my emails himself. Inevitably I hated what he’d written and ended up rewriting the whole thing myself. Who’s surprised that I never heard back from anyone?
I know that the language I use plays a big part in my total inability to sell myself. I wrote about this last year – why, as women, we need to stop using the word ‘just’ in our emails. As it transpires, a lot of girls were guilty of that one – something that whilst I’m not surprised by, does make me sad.
“So sorry to bother you, just popping in to ask if there is any possibility of me doing this thing with you. Absolutely no worries if not, I know my following isn’t very big and you’ve probably got ten zillion girls lined up for it already, but, you know, I just thought I’d throw my hat into the ring! Sorry again for bothering you, and like I say, please don’t worry if it’s not an option. Thanks! Em.’
I might as well march this pathetic piece of shit that actually looks a lot like all of my emails to the unemployment centre right now.
Thankfully, I’m currently going through a bit of a life readjustment at the moment. A very big part of this is to a) stop apologising for existing b) start knowing my worth and ultimately, to get the fuck over myself and start tooting my own horn.
I was out with a friend for her birthday drinks a couple of weeks ago when she came running up to me with this sort of manic glint in her eye.
“You’re about to be so proud of me,” she said.
Her boss had taken her into his office, denied her request for a pay rise, implied that she should be grateful that he’d even given her a chance in the first place and even started talking about her future and what babies would do to her career.
Well, she had said, I told him where to stick it didn’t I?
I was proud of her, so proud of her. But I was also saddened by this. Not because sexist men like her boss are still getting away with treating their female employees differently to their male ones because of something that she may or may not be planning to shove out her vagina in years to come, but because she had wanted to tell ME this because she knew that I would be proud of her.
She had thought of me when ripping her boss a new one. She was thinking of me, the girl that would literally run the other way from an opportunity presented to her on a silver platter in case she came across as too eager as she reached for it.
I got home that night, a bit pissed, and vowed to do better.
I wanted to make that friend proud. I wanted to finally make my boyfriend proud. But more than any of that, I really, really wanted to make myself proud.
And so, ladies. That’s what I’ve been doing. Perfecting self promotion. Tooting my own horn.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading, and re-reading and then re-reading my emails over and over again before I send them: no ‘justs’ and definitely no ‘sorrys’.
I’ve been introducing myself to new people, emailing brands, demandingto know how much I’m going to be paid for something before I do it and not three weeks after it’s done and I’m getting a bit hungry.
I’ve been saying yes to party invitations, going, AND THEN TALKING ABOUT WHAT I DO IN A WAY THAT MAKES IT SOUND AS IMPRESSIVE AS IT IS.
I’ve been looking at my life, for the first time, and thinking about where I want to take it.
Do I want to settle, constantly, for whatever is left when everyone else has pushed their way to the front of the queue?
I was always Wing Attack in Netball at school because of this shitty way of thinking. I was the thing that no one else wanted to be because I was too frightened to tell anyone what I really wanted. Do I want to spend the rest of my life as a Wing Attack? Do I fuck. You stand around with nothing to do other than freeze your fingers off until everyone else has finished hogging the glory.
What I have come to realise, after a-l-l this time, is that this not only only the way that business works, or the way that everyone else works, but it’s the ONLY way that works.
If you walk into a job interview you have to do it believing, 100% that not only are you right for that job, but that you would be the best at it. To quote the leader of the free world, Donald Trump (a man who is not actually fit to be leader of anything but a man that tooted his horn so loudly that we were stupid enough to believe him): ‘no one could do this better than me’.
That is the thing you need to repeat, over and over again.
Even if you don’t believe it, say it over and over again, until you do. Until you know, you absolutely know, that you are the best of the best.
If there is one thing I know for sure in this life, it is that no one else on earth will toot your horn better than you. Sure, your boyfriend’s not bad. Your mum might even be pretty good, but at the end of the day, when all the chips are down, you’re the one on the stage holding the thing, expected to play it, and play it well.
How is anyone going to know your worth if you don’t tell them? Why would anyone give you anything unless you’re the one that’s there to catch it when they throw? You can’t sit and wait for life to come to you. It won’t.
In the same way that you have to walk to the bus stop if you want to monopolise on the very convenient method of transport gifted to you by your city, you’re going to need to walk yourself to a spot where opportunities at least stop. The bus isn’t coming to your front door. Why would your future?
You’ve got to pull yourself up, sharpen the elbows, and dive into the pile of bibs until you’re the first one to grab the one saying Goal Attack on it.
Know your worth, tell anyone that will listen, and for the love of all that is good, get practising that horn.