For a lot of people, this is a super uncomfortable thing. I get that.
Here’s the good news for you if you feel that way – you just need practice.
To solve that problem without completely wrecking your moral compass, I’m going to throw some ideas and perspectives your way. I hope you’ll take advantage of them.
What Makes Self-Promotion Skeezy
To dissect how one can get to the act of talking about their work without difficulty, we have to break down a bit of what makes it “feel bad” in the first place. Then we’ll tear all that apart, really quickly.
Here’s a handful of common false beliefs that lead to paralysis:
- My work isn’t good enough
- My work isn’t finished yet
- I feel like I appear as if I’m begging for attention
- I don’t like selling, salesmen are pushy and it’s always uncomfortable
- I’m going to lose my friends if I’m selling
- If I’m making money, I won’t “feel” my art anymore, I’ll just want money
- I just don’t like the attention focused on me, it’s uncomfortable
- I’m afraid nobody will want to buy my stuff, and then I’ll look bad AND be a failure
Let me argue for a minute that literally all of these thoughts and emotions arise due to the fact that when you promote or sell your stuff – you’re out of your comfort zone.
That’s all, you’re just trying new (perhaps difficult) things.
Now, in your rational mind, think about these two scenarios:
- Someone you’re with is thinking about ordering something new on a restaurant menu. What do you tell them?
Probably some form of “Try it! You’re in the mood for it – worst case scenario you don’t like it and you’ve got your fall back!”
- Your child is learning to ride a bike and has got training wheels down pat. You’re at a point where they can start learning to ride without them. What do you do?
Undoubtedly, you take the training wheels off.
“But Adam…” as always, you protest.
“Of course you should occasionally try new things at a restaurant, and yes I want my kid to ride without training wheels! But THIS scenario is different! There’s a lot at stake here!”
To this I say – is it? Really?
Let’s play the two scenarios out:
- Your friend orders the new-to-them meal. You’re both excited. Except the meal comes out real slow, it’s covered in sauce, soggy, and isn’t very appetizing. In fact, your friend is so put off that they can’t finish it and don’t want to take it home.
What happens next? You probably mourn the situation, maybe tell the server, or at least you go out and get dessert to forget the situation. You might stay away from the restaurant for a bit, but you’ll probably go back eventually – your friend has a fall back meal they like!
- Inevitably, your child falls off the bike and gets hurt. It might happen a few times, or a lot. Maybe your child gets injured and afraid – maybe you have thoughts like “will they ever ride a bike without training wheels?”
What happens next? You’re both awesome. You, the parent, get to instill in your child the mental strength and fortitude to try again and not give up. You re-learn everything you’re teaching your child as you teach it, because you still fail all the time. You decide not to tell your child how deeply flawed you are yet, and eventually they wobble their way to riding on two wheels instead of four. You both stand triumphant at the end.
So what’s the cycle here?
- Entertain getting out of your comfort zone
- With trepidation and excitement, you commit
- You fail, hard. Screw life and everything in it, to hell with it all!
- Repeat this process with varying levels of emotional determination and willpower
- Keep fighting until you succeed
You might protest again and go “or I could fail indefinitely.” The only way you do that is by quitting, and if you’re with me for long enough – you’re going to give up quitting.
So now that we know you’re afraid of getting out of your comfort zone, how do we reduce that fear? Let me give you some strategies.
Increase the volume of risk-taking
The first, most difficult, yet most rapidly effective way to win and reduce your fear is by more frequent exposure.
Don’t like talking about your stuff? Too bad, tweet out every little piece of art that you do, even if you think it sucks.
You’ll cringe, you’ll freak out, you’ll feel not yourself.
But then something awesome will happen – someone will tell you “That’s so awesome! Good job!”.
This may come after a load of crickets, no attention, and maybe someone even saying you suck (probably not though – people are too focused on themselves).
But you’ll get more comfortable with this new you the more regularly you get into those shoes.
Break it down to the smallest elements, and act
So you’ve made something you’re proud of and you really want to tweet about it – but you’re afraid of our big list above.
Think about what it takes to actually get that tweet out, and write down the steps. Literally.
- Turn your phone on
- Open the camera app
- Take a picture
- Open the twitter app
- Click the box to compose a new tweet
- Click the button to select a picture
- Select your picture
- Write a tweet
- Push send
For today, redefine success as taking the very first action. I’ll assume you already have your phone on, so just open the camera app.
If you do that, for today that’s success. Next time, you need to take a picture too.
See how this breeds familiarity with the steps? There’s probably one step on your list that is the most uncomfortable. It’s the biggest risk. But if you work your way up to that, you get used to all of the smaller risks before it and therefore make the big one less of an emotional investment.
You’ll realize one day you just have to try the hard thing, and you’ll do it.
Reframe your perspective
You might be afraid of failure.
Here’s my response to that: If you fail, what do you actually lose?
Most likely, you think other people’s perception of you will diminish. Usually, this is the opposite. Usually people appreciate you even more for trying, even if you fail. Most people don’t even try.
Otherwise, here’s the answer: You lose nothing. Literally nothing.
By that line of thinking, you’re an idiot if you don’t try – right?
But let’s say it’s not even failure that bothers you. What if you just feel yucky about asking people to buy stuff from you, or to pay attention to your work?
You don’t want to be an attention whore or a used car salesman. So what then?
Don’t sell, don’t beg. Teach.
If you go to my products page and check out any of my stuff – all I’m trying to do is teach you.
My first book is the obvious example – the book teaches you how to write your first code. But the “sales page” teaches you why you might want to consider that, and why my book is the solution.
Whenever you come into my realm online, I’m rarely going to come at you with “HEY BUY MY SHIT OK?! LOOK AT ME!!!” If I do – and I might – I’m failing.
Instead, I’m going to be both more successful and comfortable if I instead use the attention you give me as an opportunity to teach.
You might even do me a service after that, and tell me where you’re struggling and what you want to learn.
In turn – I can teach you more. I can create some sort of product (be it software, education, or even my time) and teach you how it can actually help you if you use it.
You already do this all the time, in fact.
Ever tell someone “oh my GOD you need to listen to this album/watch this show/check out this movie” You’re teaching someone that their entertainment time will be well-spent by electing to use it for whatever you’re suggesting.
What I’m doing is telling you that your education or work time will be improved by using one of my products.
Now, it would be skeezy as shit if I was lying. But I make things I believe in, and I don’t apologize for them. You should do the same, and never apologize for it either.
Do you see better now? All it takes it a little reframing – instead of “HEY! LOOK AT ME! HAND ME SOME MONEY!”, you’re saying “Hey, come here a sec – I think this is really going to help you!”
If you’re right about that, people are going to love you. If you’re wrong, oh well, try again!
Hopefully you find that some or all of these tactics help you. I want you to be successful, and I believe you can be! Feel free to throw me all of your thoughts and objections. I’ll be waiting.
Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.