On seeking visibility — How to feel better about tooting your own horn


Ugh. It was the word I dread most come performance review time in my corporate job. Who can relate? 

The hard truth is, whether you’re working for yourself or someone else, it doesn’t matter how good of a job you’re doing if nobody knows about it.

Yet, in working more closely with women this past year, and learning where they’ve struggled in work and business, I’ve come to learn that wanting to be visible is complicated for us.

Tara Mohr, author of the book, Playing Big explains there are two main ick-factors, and I tend to agree.

First, many women are simply turned off by the idea of self-promotion. Tara jokes, nobody is saying to themselves, “Yeah! I want to do more of that! That’s just my style! And exactly what the world needs more of— people promoting themselves!” #touché

Two (and this one hurts), research shows that women incur social costs for advocating for themselves too strongly. They’re seen as less likable, especially by other women.

A third issue I’d throw in is on self image— the deep-seated wounds and insecurities we carry around not wanting to be seen in a physical sense. So many women (and plenty of men, too) avoid the limelight because we are afraid of all-those-eyes-looking-at-us.

So, what to do about this?

As I said above, whether we like it or not people have to see you shine. Often, we’re the only ones who know about those extra hours put in, the certification programs, and the fact that we did this all with a baby on our hip/debilitating student loan debt/manic-depressive disorder/[insert whatever you overcome on a daily basis], so it’s up to us to find a way to share it.

Here are a few ways to re-frame how you think about self-promotion to make it more palatable:

  1. Forget about the term “self-promotion” and focus on “being seen” instead. In a way, this is just about sharing your genius, your insight, your beauty with others who can use it. If what you’ve done isn’t seen, it's not helping anyone and certainly not being appreciated.

  2. Tell the whole truth. Often, we lie by omission. Instead of taking the credit for our hard work, we’ve been told to give it all away to our team. Perhaps the team did do all the great work, but whose idea, whose strategy was it? Another way this shows up for a lot of entrepreneurs is by leaving out important social markers (like working at Google for many years!) when talking about where they are now.

  3. Start with the problem. Aka, pretend you're on Shark Tank. When presenting something great about yourself, start with what you had to overcome. It’s humbling and endears your audience to you. For example, instead of saying, “I built a million dollar cookie company,” say, “after I lost my job I was so depressed all I could do was bake cookies. My friends telling me how good those cookies were was the only thing that got me through. I had the crazy idea to make baking cookies my new job. I’m proud to say I’ve turned my cookie company into a thriving million dollar company.” Can you feel the difference? I hated the first person and loved the second.

So, whether you’re working on your personal brand and trying to bag that promo, or attempting to set yourself apart from your competition in business, remember that a little visibility can go a long way. 

And here’s the thing I want you to take-away most of all—this isn’t just about finding personal success: 

Being able to toot your own horn paves the way for all of the women who come after you. If we never share what we’ve overcome and what we’re capable of, it keeps the bar too low.

How do you feel about “visibility”? Reply to this email and let me know!

Until next time,


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