Is self-promotion shameful?

Carmel Siler
2 min readFeb 13, 2021

The struggle to promote yourself is real. Understanding the emotional dynamics at play may help you overcome personal roadblocks and achieve your goals.

We’ve all heard the term “shameless self-promotion”. The term insinuates that self-promotion is inherently shameful, and for a good portion of us it can definitely feel that way. Author and researcher of shame Brené Brown offers this definition:

“Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Ouch! But is shame the true emotion behind our fears of “putting ourselves out there”?

The truth is that the opposite of shameless self-promotion is not shameful self-promotion, it is actually promotion filled with empathy. Brown asserts that empathy and shame are on opposite ends of a continuum. The opposite of, and the antidote to shame, is empathy.

Empathy is most commonly known as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathy nourishes connection, something we all crave — especially in today’s world — your clients included. On the other end of the spectrum; shame results in fear, blame, and disconnection.

Empathy feels like a much safer emotion than shame, so why do we experience such discomfort when trying to promote ourselves or reach out to our spheres?

The catch is that true empathy requires you to be authentic and to be seen, therefore it can also make you feel extremely vulnerable. Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It’s that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.“

Vulnerability is also an intense experience, making self-promotion feel like you are stuck between a rock (shame) and a hard place (vulnerability).

In order to transcend those painful feelings you may encounter before connecting with your sphere (aka fellow humans) and vanquish shame, you must first mindfully connect with your own humanness and reach out from that space.

This is no small feat, as it takes courage to lean into vulnerability and display genuine empathy. If you can find that courage, you will be richly rewarded with not only more confidence in your true authentic self, but also deeper connections with your community and clients whose experience you deeply care about.

For more on the topic, I recommend reading Brené Brown's “Daring Greatly”.