When Is Self-Promotion Good And When Is It Bad?
In our last post we talked about Jesus’ path being one of humility rather than that of the ego driven self-promotion that is so prevalent today. Admittedly, I have struggled with the issue of humility and self-promotion, especially as I have wrestled with how to tell others about my coaching and consulting practice and my religious art. Make no mistake, I have as much ego, need for recognition, and can be as arrogant and self-promotion prone as the next guy. Yet, I have come to believe the key determinant of whether I am self-promoting and coming from a place of humility is a matter of intent and motive, while accepting that none of us have 100% pure intentions and motives.
Motive Discerning Filters and Questions
We are all tempted to exalt ourselves to some measure. Some of us are actively and obviously self-promoting, while others of us are more passively and subtly self-promoting, but we all do it. I’m ambidextrous – I can do both equally well, so I have found the following filters helpful to reflect upon to gauge my motives. I have found that I am less likely to be perceived as self-promoting if my intent is to:
- Positively influence others
- Equip and serve others
- Bless and encourage others
- Use my gifts for the betterment of others
- Build meaningful and loving relationships
- Be my truest and most authentic self
- Be faithful to my calling and understanding of God’s will
- Honor God
Personally, I’ve found that a desire to honor God, to influence and serve people, and to share my best self are the most revealing filters, because they are matters of the heart. A deeper satisfaction than recognition surfaces when I am driven by these motives.
Further, I have found these diagnostic questions helpful:
- Do I engage in mental or verbal boasting?
- Do I post things on social media for the purpose of drawing attention to myself or my accomplishments?
- Do I manipulate conversations to get others’ respect or appreciation or attention?
Again, on any given day I can check yes to all of the above and most of the time it is because I believe that if I do so others will view me in a favorable light. But, interestingly, research studies have found the opposite to be true. Although self-promotion may make you feel or appear more competent, skillful, intelligent, and successful, it usually makes you less likable. The truth is that self-promotion can make you come across as conceited and annoying. These same studies show that the more you try to make others like you through methods of self-promotion, the more likely others will dislike you. I’ve found that focusing more on my self-development and less on promoting myself leads to more opportunities, attention, respect, and recognition.
Jesus Nailed It
Of course, as usual, Jesus hits the nail on the head when he says in Matthew 6 – “If you do your good deeds to be seen by men, you have your reward, and you’ll get none in heaven.” In other words if my motive is to be seen by men then I’ve lost all meaningful reward then and there and probably my efforts will be of little help to anybody. And, again in Matthew 23:12 where Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” I can attest to the fact that virtually every time I have been arrogant I have soon thereafter been humbled. And, that I eventually live to regret those occasions where I have engaged in self-promotion driven by impure motives.
Yes, it may be appropriate and legitimate to at times promote yourself. But in all our endeavors, we must place a higher value on trusting God to create for us opportunities for leadership and recognition rather than trying to make those things happen on our own. When I am honest I realize that probably 99% of the meaningful opportunities and recognition I have received came not from any efforts to promote myself, but rather from family and friends who love me, through answered prayers, divine appointments and God orchestrated encounters and experiences. These reflections suggest that any success I experience or meaningful recognition I receive has a lot more to do with God’s grace than it does any efforts to make myself or my work known.
Posted on March 9, 2021