Tonight, after posting the participant’s review of my workshop this morning, I see that there are no comments on the blog post and no “Likes” or comments on the Facebook post. My first thought is “people thought it was obnoxious.” Self-promotion can be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition. You want to win people over, but you risk turning them off in the process. I don’t know if I ever strike the right balance when it comes to talking about my accomplishments or promoting my work. Lately, I fear that some of my status updates have been boldface brags; e.g., “New blog post: Rave Review for my Vague Language Workshop http://bit.ly/zWrno” (tweet), “I’m happy that 24 people came to my workshop in Phoenix, five of them all the way from Yuma and four of them all the way from Tucson.” (tweet), and “New blog post: Speak & Spell II a Successful Workshop http://bit.ly/171bC9” (tweet), especially the fact that I shared my teacher evaluation scores. Ugh.
What may or may not be apparent is that I have felt shame and failure in my life, and there have been a few times I doubted I’d ever achieve anything. When I do manage to do something good, my feelings of past failure and inefficacy drive me to shout my achievements from the rooftops. “See! I’m not a complete failure! I DID something!”
Perhaps it is the fact that there have been so many times in my life when I have felt paralyzed into inaction. I’ve wanted to do many things that I didn’t do because I didn’t believe in myself. Now, when I finally do things that I’ve only been dreaming of doing for years, I feel… well… vindicated! Especially when other people didn’t believe in me, either. It’s like, “How do you like me now?!” Well, maybe not very much, I fear.
What good does it do to shove my success in the faces of people who doubted me? Are they really going to “like me now”? Or are they just going to resent me for rubbing it in their faces that I succeeded in spite of them? My fear is that they are going to resent me as much as I resent them. Resentment begets resentment. The thing to do is forgive everyone for everything, starting with myself.
Will I ever be good enough so that I can stop proving myself to people? Will it ever be enough just to be? Well, sure, but I’d still want to do something. There’s a time to be and a time to do. Maybe if I can master being, then I can be better with doing. Right now, doing is like, “Wow!” A miracle!” (Though, I wonder if that will ever change, for what are being and doing but miracles?)
Another consideration is there may be others who have done what I’ve done and not had the same level of success. Am I hurting them by touting my success? That is not my intention, but I fear it may be a consequence. Then again, there’s that whole thing about, “Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” I would like to think that when I let my own light shine, I give other people permission to do the same (re: Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love).
My best intentions, when I get past the neurotic ego stuff, are to promote the work for the good of others. The workshops I’m doing are designed to help interpreters become better at serving their clients and taking care of themselves. I would like to believe that the work is worth people’s time, and so I promote it so that people can benefit from it. And the truth is that I want to teach, and I can’t teach without students.
An actor cannot perform without an audience. The same is true of any artist or creator of any kind. We create what we do because of our creative impulse. There is nothing to be ashamed of about the creative impulse, and there is nothing wrong with admitting that I am a performer who needs an audience. Yes, I need to say something, and yes, I need you to listen. The tricky part is how to charm you into granting me an audience and then entertain you so you feel it was worth your time.
The best self-promotion is really not self-promotion; it is promotion of one’s work. It is a plea to “let me entertain you” so we can all “have a real good time” (to quote Sondheim). I may be ashamed of the way my ego gets in the way, but I’m working on seeing the greater good beyond myself. In my future promotions, I will be cognizant of the issues I’ve raised here and try to make my statements the kind that promote my work without building myself up or tearing anybody down.