How Can I Better Advocate For Myself?

Ain’t too proud to brag? Our resident psychiatrist encourages self-promotion.

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Q: While I’m proud of my accomplishments, I have a hard time talking about them. I think it comes off as bragging or false modesty or that I’m “selling” myself. How can I better advocate for myself?

Self-promotion can be uncomfortable. In fact, both men and women fear that it might make other people not like them, but men do it anyway. Women, on the other hand, are often paralyzed by concerns about backlash and being disliked and, as a result, don’t speak up for themselves. While it is certainly true that women who are seen as too boastful or aggressive might be penalized, keeping quiet about what you have done and what you are capable of doing comes at an even greater cost. Research shows that women who do more to make their achievements known are more likely to be promoted, receive greater compensation, and are more satisfied with their careers.

Simply put, don’t let misplaced modesty erode your potential. Here are a few strategies to help you toot your own horn.

  1. Stick to the facts: Use verifiable data like numbers, grades, and awards to demonstrate your accomplishments.
  2. Own your success: As psychologist Corinne Moss-Racusin of Skidmore College in New York observed, “Women tend to give their success away. They’ll say, ‘I was so lucky to work on a good team’ or ‘My adviser really helped me do this project.’ ” While it is important to give others credit, be sure to take credit for your contributions.
  3. Channel your inner PR agent: Think about someone who admires your work and imagine what she might say about you. I did this when I was applying for a promotion at the hospital and found it to be extremely helpful.
  4. Check yourself: Bear in mind that there is a difference between being an advocate for yourself and an insufferable braggart. Making others aware of your hard work will help them get to know you better and also help you get ahead. If you don’t tell them how awesome you are, who will?

    Dr. Samantha Boardman is a clinical instructor in psychiatry and an assistant attending psychiatrist at Weil Cornell Medical College in New York and the the founder of positiveprescription.com.

    A version of this story appeared in the Holiday 2019 issue of Marie Claire.

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