Fear of self promotion is "irrational," psychologist says

by Dr. Michele Leno

As a psychologist, I am always assessing my client’s underlying schema: a cognitive framework that develops based on experience.

For instance when children are first learning about animals, to them every animal is a dog; their working schema for all four legged creatures is “dog.” And as we mature, so do our working schemas. When something does not work the first time,  it most likely will not work the second time, right?


This is a faulty or irrational thought process - in other words, it's a working schema that hinders growth. Irrational thoughts are those that we hold to be true even in absence of supporting evidence. Often times these thoughts are so deeply rooted that we don’t even recognize them.

Have you ever attempted to explain to someone why you could never achieve a certain goal and they looked at you in total disbelief? This is possibly because to them, your explanation sounded like an excuse; however, you have subconsciously nurtured these ideas - working schemas - for so long that they seem perfectly normal to us.  

If you are on social media, you undoubtedly regularly witness others being what you may term as "self-promotional." Whether blatant or inconspicuous, the general message of self promotional people is “I have something of value and worthy of attention.”

We are accustomed to seeing celebrities shamelessly promote themselves and even accept this form of advertising as a norm. However, for many people there is trepidation around self-promotion, which I have personally experienced due to my own irrational thinking.

But it's critical to promote oneself in the digital age. Whether you are an entrepreneur or are climbing the career ladder, more and more the opportunities go to those who are promoting themselves. Promoting oneself has become a necessity - not an action only taken by celebrities.

Chances are, if you are afraid to self promote, you too may have fallen victim to your own faulty thought process.  The possibility of having this fear increases if you are female; constantly comparing yourself to someone else; preoccupied with others’ opinions; or perceive self promotion as arrogant or brash.

Here are some steps to take to overcome your fears of self-promotion:

  1. Embrace it. Understand that if you are at a point in your life where you are thinking about self promoting and feeling anxious about it, chances are you are ready to promote yourself! When we begin to entertain something that enters our consciousness, there is a reason for it. Start discussing your ideas and products with others, even those you meet at the supermarket and soon you will embrace your value. This alone will boost your confidence.
  2. Go ahead and COMPARE. Comparing self to others is practically inevitable, so why not do it to your benefit. Instead of sizing up another person simply to figure out what you need to change about yourself or what they need to change, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from this person that has your attention. What do they have to offer and what do you have that is similar or different?  Another person’s self promotion could give you just the motivation you need to promote yourself, if you allow it.
  3. Take your focus off the NAYSAYERS. Of course there is always someone waiting to judge or criticize and the tendency is to focus on the naysayers, no matter how self assured you are. Those who shamelessly self promote do not necessarily have higher self esteem; but they are less preoccupied with others’ opinions. They also understand that no one ever has all the answers and perfection is a perpetual process.  You are perfectly You. 
  4. Don't wait for the COMPLIMENT. Who does not love a great compliment? However, standing down until someone tells you that you are good enough is not the best idea. Self promotion involves an internal drive, an ability to recognize your own greatness and talent, and desire to evolve. It is not merely a symbol of pretentiousness or vanity…and if it is in your case, so what…go for it and promote yourself and what you're doing anyway!   

What about you? What tips do you have for self promotion? What does putting yourself out there bring up for you?

About the Author

Dr. Michele Leno is a therapist and licensed clinical psychologist based in Detroit, Michigan and a  graduate of the spring 2016 Package Your Genius Academy. She's the owner of DML Psychological where she helps her clients forge connections, renew their hope and find their way to holistic success.  Visit her online at www.dmlpsych.com and tweet her at @DrMicheleLeno.