March 12, 2024

Seven Ways to Promote Yourself as a Woman Without Feeling Arrogant or Uncomfortable



How many times have you heard a talented and highly capable woman downplay herself?

Women tend to be experts at self-deprecating.

Diminishing our role or achievements.

Dismissing compliments.

And it’s not our fault.

Social conditioning has taught us not to be arrogant.

We see how other women are treated if they dare to stand out – they are attacked, resented, disliked or cut down because of their achievements and success.

So, we can find ourselves stuck.  

We know that to progress in our careers, we need to be assertive and confident, showcasing our skills and achievements.  

But there’s a double bind. 

We also know that if we are too confident or assertive, we are perceived as violating societal norms.  Women are expected to conform to more stereotypical traits of being nurturing and communal.

But if we conform to these traits then we risk being overlooked or underestimated in both our authority and competence.

It’s what I would call a head f*ck situation.  We’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t.   It messes with our brains.

This double bind is a situation in which we face conflicting expectations.

Making it difficult to fulfil either side of those expectations without facing negative consequences.

If we conform to the expectations of being warm and nurturing, we might be liked but are probably not going to be considered competent enough for leadership positions.

If we become more assertive in sharing our competence and achievements, we risk being perceived as unlikable even if we’re considered competent.

We’re walking a tightrope – balancing not violating societal norms that will lead to negative perceptions whilst also trying to make sure we’re seen for all our brilliance.

No wonder we find ourselves hesitating to share our achievements.

But if we don’t find a way to overcome these barriers and showcase our skills and achievements, we’ll never get to claim the leadership positions we deserve and, quite frankly, are more than qualified to perform in.

So here are seven ways for us to promote ourselves without feeling arrogant or uncomfortable

  1. Know them to show them

Before we can effectively share our skills and strengths, we first have to know them. So many of us overlook our strengths, dismissing them with an “oh, everyone can do that, can’t they?” attitude.  But this just contributes to us detaching from our unique zone of genius.

The foundation of this work starts by identifying and acknowledging our individual strengths.  How can we expect others to acknowledge our talents if we’re not able to do it first?

This self-awareness enhances our personal fulfilment—we begin to give ourselves credit for things we may have felt uncomfortable with up until now. Recognising and articulating these skills fosters a culture of acknowledgement.

Research from Eagly and Karau (2002) emphasises the importance of self-perception in challenging gender norms in leadership. In essence, knowing our skills is the first step toward breaking barriers and fostering an inclusive work environment.


Do you know your unique skills and strengths?

What steps can you take to get clearer in understanding and articulating them?

  1. Cheerleading champions

Having a colleague in your corner who blows your trumpet for you is worth its weight in gold.  Their words carry power and can help shine a light on your skills and achievements – having a personal hype squad can’t be underestimated.

Cheerleading champions in the workplace are instrumental in helping women receive the recognition they rightfully deserve. These champions, whether peers, mentors, or leaders, play a crucial role in amplifying our accomplishments and advocating for our talents. 

Research from the McKinsey & Company report on diversity in the workplace highlights the positive impact a supportive network can have on career progression for women. 

Cheerleaders serve as advocates, ensuring that our contributions are acknowledged. 

The beauty of having trusted cheerleading champions is that we can do this for each other. I shine a light on your achievements, and you do the same for me.  So, instead of feeling like we have to focus on self-promotion, we can focus on the joy of sharing each other’s achievements.

If the concept of having your own cheerleading champions feels uncomfortable, perhaps see them as your own career board of directors, as shared in this Harvard Business Review article.


Who do you have as your trusted cheerleading champions?

What steps could you take to build a trusted support squad?

  1. Fostering Feedback 

Seeking feedback from colleagues and line managers is a savvy strategy for subtle self-promotion that goes beyond the conventional spotlight. 

By inviting feedback, you create a dialogue that allows others to recognise your strengths organically.  This not only demonstrates humility but also opens avenues for constructive discussions about your achievements.

Studies, such as those by Ashford and Cummings (1983), highlight the value of feedback-seeking behaviors in professional development. It’s a way to let your accomplishments speak for themselves through the lens of others, adding a layer of authenticity to your self-promotion game. 

So, next time you’re wondering how to shine subtly, just ask for feedback—it’s like letting your skills take the stage without grabbing the mic.

And if you don’t get the recognition you deserve in the feedback it opens a door of opportunity for you to share your perspective.  It’s an open invitation to take the stage and the mic!


Who can you ask for feedback from?

How can you leverage this feedback for your career progression?

  1. Promoting Professional Proficiency

In “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Marshall Goldsmith highlights a powerful strategy he uses with leaders:  He gets them to share their development goals with others to build their awareness of their strengths and achievements. 

Goldsmith argues that openly discussing your development goals creates a dialogue within the workplace about your skills and strengths. By being candid about the areas you’re working on, you not only demonstrate self-awareness but also showcase a commitment to continuous improvement. 

Here’s the extra benefit: it nudges people around you to spot your brilliant strengths in action. It’s like making a pact where everyone’s on the lookout for your skills and cheers you on. So, it’s not just you on this growth journey—it’s a team effort of spotting and celebrating your wins together.


Who can you recruit to be part of your development journey?

How can you contract with them to give you feedback that’s not just developmental but motivational, too?

  1. Update to Elevate

A great strategy for helping to share your skills and achievements is the practice of sending regular update emails.

It serves as a strategic yet understated approach to self-promotion. It allows others to be aware of your professional journey without overtly self-promoting. By consistently sharing these updates, you provide a snapshot of your accomplishments and strengths. 

This method not only keeps your colleagues in the loop but also subtly reinforces your contributions. It’s a professional strategy that bridges the gap between self-promotion and keeping stakeholders well-informed, demonstrating your commitment to transparency and collaboration.


Who would it be beneficial to share updates with?

How can you build in highlights of your skills, strengths and contributions?

  1. Communicate Current Contributions

A great way to shift your thinking about self-promotion is from achievements to contributions. By focusing on your contributions, you can showcase your strengths in the workplace. 

Think of it as telling the story of how your work ripples through the team or organisation. By underlining the positive effects of your efforts on colleagues, clients, or even the community, you’re creating a narrative that goes beyond individual wins. 

I like the STAR model to help reflect on contributions when giving updates:

S = Situation – share the context.

T = Task – what are the specific actions that were needed in this situation?

A = Actions – what were the actions or decisions you took (i.e. your 

contributions) to work through the task?

R = Result – what were the outcomes as a result of your actions?

This shift in focus from personal glory to collective success not only builds awareness of your skills but also paints you as a team player. It’s a subtle yet impactful way to self-promote while keeping the spotlight on the broader picture of shared accomplishments.


How can you share more of your contributions with your colleagues?

How can you articulate the ripple effects of your work more effectively?

  1. Achievement Anecdotes

The art of storytelling has been around for centuries.  People love a good story.

Storytelling is a powerful communication tool, and as the brilliant Brené Brown says, “Stories are just data with a soul.”

By mastering the art of storytelling, you can breathe life into your achievements and contributions without feeling uncomfortable.

Instead of presenting a formal list of achievements, consider incorporating anecdotes to illustrate your expertise in action.

This method transforms them into a relatable and human narrative.  By sharing these stories, you’re not just showcasing skills; you’re providing a genuine context for your accomplishments.

You can inspire, inform and educate, not just self-promote!


How can you turn your achievements into stories?

Who can you proactively share your stories with?

As women, the landscape for professional self-promotion is complex.   Navigating the double bind of conflicting expectations makes it challenging.

However, overcoming these barriers is crucial for claiming the leadership positions we rightfully deserve. So, let’s not shy away from the discomfort; let’s embrace these seven strategies for promoting ourselves without feeling arrogant or uneasy.

Because we deserve to shine brightly, and we can’t just leave it to chance that others see our greatness.

I’d love to hear from you – which of these strategies do you currently use?

What strategies work for you in your workplace?

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