Self-promotion is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. It gets even more complicated for women in the workplace when there are so many mixed messages about what professional confidence should look like – if you are a woman who is proud of your accomplishments, you can be interpreted as aggressive. If you lean more towards gratitude and humbleness, people can view you as unconfident and not “empowered enough.” The fact is, achieving professional goals takes more than hard work; it also takes a supportive network of people around you and the (often dreaded) task of knowing how to talk about your accomplishments and promote your own hard work. Luckily, this is a muscle that can be strengthened over time! Here are some ideas on where to start in your confidence and self-promotion journey:

Define what “Self-Promotion” Means to You.

  • To “brag” is typically to exaggerate and boast about one’s accomplishments, but if you did a great job at something and you want to share- you are just stating the facts. You get to define the kind of self-promotion you feel comfortable with; however, when you ground your accomplishments in factual evidence, you will start to recognize the real impact your work has on the organizations and people around you. You can share the spotlight with your collaborators and give credit to where your ideas were inspired, while still taking pride in the work you accomplished and the outcomes YOU made happen. Lesson: It’s not bragging if you are not exaggerating and just stating the facts.

Dive into the Discomfort.

  • The Harvard Business Review found that men rated their performance at work 33% higher than equally performing women. A study conducted by the Yale School of Management found that women in leadership positions who speak the same amount as men in equal leadership positions are received in a negative light, as less competent and less suited to leadership. Our cultural expectations of women are evolving for the better, but we can still catch ourselves reinforcing these negative stereotypes and assumptions around confident women. Try to take notice if you judge a person for promoting themselves and try to think about how outdated cultural norms may be impacting how you respond to others. Noticing that you can promote negative stereotypes will allow you to take steps toward changing your attitude so you can have more compassion for yourself and your colleagues when it is time to shine.  Lesson: Encouraging others to show pride in their work will help you feel more comfortable with your confidence as well.

Say it OUT LOUD

  • It sounds cheesy, but mantras can be pretty life-changing, especially when you say them while looking yourself in the eye. Positive self-talk is a habit that needs to be practiced and nourished. Repetition is a way to build new pathways and patterns for ourselves and re-write how our brain processes information. We all have a story of self-fulfilling prophecy in our lives, where we dreaded something so much it eventually came true. The same can be said for positivity and confidence! Fake it until you make it- make a commitment to an empowering mantra and repeat it in the mirror every day for 30 days, and see how those words start to translate to action in your life. Lesson: Repeating positive self-talk will eventually begin to feel natural the more you do it, so choose your mantra and go!

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. I am enough. I am worthy.
  2. I accept myself unconditionally.
  3. My possibilities are endless.

Document your Achievements.

  • When it comes to literal career promotion time, you will be so glad you wrote down and tracked your work accomplishments. Whether your work has regular performance reviews, or you are thinking about career opportunities in the future, you’ll need to have specifics on how you made a difference. Try keeping a running document or excel sheet for any projects you completed or positive feedback you received from colleagues. Lesson: Documentation will boost your confidence when you need it and prove you are an asset to your company.

Have a Pocket Acceptance Speech

  • Accepting compliments is not easy for everyone. It can be so easy to deflect and say, “it was no big deal” or “no problem. It was easy!” when really you wanted to say “I barely slept getting that project done and poured over every detail for hours.” Think about how the confident version of yourself would respond to a compliment, write that sentence down, and memorize it. It doesn’t have to be an acceptance speech; it can be something as simple as “Thank you so much.” Just have it ready to go in the back of your mind, so you can actively fight the impulse to downplay your accomplishments. Lesson: Be prepared with how to accept compliments, and you will feel the benefits even more!