Discover more from Human Stuff from Lisa Olivera
The discomfort of self-promotion
The practice of self-celebration
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A song I’ve been loving:
My book, Already Enough — A Path to Self-Acceptance, is coming out on paperback this coming Tuesday, 1/10/23. I almost didn’t mention it anywhere. The hardcover version came out a year ago and I told myself I’ve already shared about it enough (which I definitely haven’t), anyone who wants the book already has it (which logically makes no sense), it was annoying and obnoxious to share about my work again (which it isn’t), and it would be safer to just let the release quietly come and move on (which it won’t be). These stories are familiar not because they are true, but because they are what I’m used to recycling when there is an edge nearby, when I’m putting myself “out there”, when I choose to step into the discomfort of visibility.
Why is self-promotion so hard? Why are we so hesitant to share about the things we create, the ideas that swirl, the gifts we have to give, the projects we spent YEARS (I got my book deal nearly four years ago now) developing, the work we have to offer the world? Why do we worry so much about what people will think when we tell them about something that matters to us? Why does it feel so wrong to talk often about the things we’re passionate about, the things we’re here to do, the things we make and build and bring forth from our hearts, from our selves?
A few of the (many) reasons I’ve found personally over the years:
Wanting to be for everyone. It is easier to be for everyone when I keep my focus on others and don’t shine the spotlight on myself. It’s easier to be for everyone when I lean more on self-doubt than I do on self-celebration. It is easier to be for everyone when I avoid standing tall in my gifts, my talents, my work. It is easier to be for everyone when I shy away from regularly promoting the offerings I have to share. It is easier to be for everyone when I try to use “relatability” as a reason to not shine a light on the things I’m really good at, the things I’m really proud of, the things not everyone has done that I have done. So, when the part of that thinks I need to be for everyone arises, this all comes to the forefront. The yucky truth is that shared challenge and suffering is much more likable to most than self-promotion, than seeing someone own their gifts, than seeing someone (especially a woman) share proudly about their work.
Not wanting to intimidate, offend, cause misdirected jealousy/envy, stir up doubt in others, or otherwise negatively impact anyone by sharing something I’m proud of. I know writing a book is something so many want to do and haven’t yet done, and I know seeing others do things we want to do can stir up a lot. My personal history created a habit of molding how I show up in order to ease the way others react — not sharing good news so I don’t invoke negative feelings in someone else; not promoting my work so no one looks at themselves and pokes at all they haven’t yet done; not saying what I really want to say so I don’t ignite anyone else’s inner critic; not bragging or being outwardly proud so it doesn’t cause self-judgment in others. Essentially, I long held the false belief that I could control how anyone else feels, how anyone else reacts or responds, how anyone else experiences themselves in relation to anything I do. Further, I long held the false belief that it was my responsibility to protect others from their own inner world. When I say it now, I see how self-centered it actually is — how it’s actually about protecting myself and how I’m seen — my own discomfort at taking up all of my rightful space. What is really comes down to is me not wanting to be judged, criticized, or seen as someone else’s false competition in their mind.
Living in a world where owning your gifts is seen as self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-centered, pompous, entitled, “too much”, full of yourself, unlikable. We live in a society that loves when we doubt ourselves, question ourselves, keep ourselves small and in disbelief of our art/work/gifts/offerings, stop ourselves from shining too bright, see ourselves as better or worse than others, believe there isn’t room for everyone, and hold stories about what a “good” or “humble” person acts like. I inherited these messages and didn’t grow up seeing anyone I knew truly own, be proud of, and share openly and freely the gifts they held within them. Dimming was normalized. This conditioning continues to seep into the way I interact with my work, creativity, and choice to share some of it publicly. These messages still live within me somewhere and bubble up when it comes time for me to show up fully.
Self-doubt. The biggest one, I’d say — questioning whether or not what I make is something to be proud of. Going back and forth on my place in the world, the place for my work and writing and offerings. Knowing there are other writers who write way better than I do. Knowing there are other teachers who hold way more wisdom than I do. Knowing there are other creatives with way more experience than I have. Knowing I’m not fully any one thing. Knowing it could always be better, there will always be people who don’t like what I do or think it’s too basic or boring, knowing there is never a guarantee of success, knowing there is uncertainty in how it will all go… doubting myself and my abilities/gifts/offerings is a pattern that quickly returns to me in moments of vulnerability or showing up for my work.
When I comb through these reasons, I see clearly that it isn’t really about me at all…. it’s about patterns I have — behaviors that have carved grooves in me — beliefs I’ve inherited. Things that started outside of me and have found their way in… which means they can also find their way back out. And when I comb through these reasons, it makes sense why self-promotion feels so hard — why self-celebration feels so scary, and why it often requires a lot of before and after care.
If this all sounds bleak, keep reading. I promise it isn’t.
I long thought I needed to rid myself of these reasons before I could show up, before I could share about my work, before I could let myself fully own my gifts in my way. And in some ways, sure — not having these experiences ever again would be lovely, and probably very beneficial for my visibility, income, and self-concept. Yet I’ve learned it isn’t realistic for me to shed myself of these lifelong inner battles in a matter of months, or even years. It’s too big of an ask to never again move through the fear, the doubt, the self-questioning, the hesitation, the wondering how I can contort myself just enough to make sure no one dislikes the way I show up, the work I do, the person I am.
Instead, I practice. I take stock. I notice. I feel the sensations of shrinking in my body. I feel the tightening of the throat when I think about promoting my work. I feel the need for a deep breath when I send out a newsletter to thousands and thousands of people. I feel the shoulders rise when I know I’m about to do something uncomfortable, and I remember —
The discomfort of self-promotion doesn’t mean anything is wrong.
It means I have tending to do.
The discomfort of self-promotion doesn’t mean there is fixing needed.
It means I have practice to do.
The discomfort of self-promotion doesn’t mean my work sucks, or my gifts aren’t real, or my offerings aren’t valuable.
It means I have remembering to do.
Self-celebration is an honoring of who you are, of what you offer, of all you bring to the things you choose to share.
Self-celebration is a mirror; a reminder that others get to celebrate themselves, too; that there is room for all of us to acknowledge and be seen in our gifts.
Self-celebration is an undoing of harmful conditioning and messaging about what it means to like ourselves, to like our work, to know it is meaningful and life-giving.
My book isn’t the best book ever written. It’s cliché and cheesy in some ways, and feels young in some ways, and demonstrates all the ways I’ve grown even since finishing it a few years ago. It leaves out important pieces of growth — it doesn’t expand as widely on certain areas as I wish it did — it doesn’t contain as much cultural criticism or history, and it isn’t as creatively written as it could have been had I started it now. I could pick away at it forever.
And, I always return to the reality of how obvious all of that is, and how okay it is, and that I wrote this book anyway, and it’s powerful and profound, gentle and wise, nourishing and supportive, meaningful and human. I’ve received thousands of messages, emails, and comments about how it has impacted people. I poured myself into these pages, into every word. I spent hours every week huddled over my laptop at cafés in Oakland, turning nothing into something, turning what I’ve learned into a living object I could hand to someone else trying to return to themselves in their own life. I did countless edits and rewrites, had whole chapters deleted and cut, let go of what it was so it could be come what is is now. I pushed past every single voice of doubt that rang in my brain over and over, and I did it anyway. I showed up anyway. I wrote and wrote and wrote anyway, imperfectly and to the best of the abilities I had when I wrote it. I finished a book during the pandemic, while pregnant. I released a book with a newborn sleeping on my body. I am proud of it. I am proud of myself for the work, life, experience, wisdom, pain and heart I energetically let bleed into this project. I made this. I made this. I made this.
10 years from now, when I have (hopefully) more books under my name and more practice celebrating them, I imagine feeling a little more comfortable promoting and sharing about my work. It’s a vision I can see — one that is dusted with genuine pride and delight in getting to allow more people into my world, reach more people in meaningful ways, and connect with more people from a shared humanity. Until that felt sense of comfort comes, I am leaning into the discomfort. I’m practicing what isn’t natural and not letting it mean anything is wrong. I’m staying curious about when it feels extra hard and instead of berating myself, holding awe for the fact that I keep doing it anyway. I’m noticing where my growing edges are and trusting them instead of making them mean I’m behind. I’m remembering what is true and pivoting back toward it when I forget. I’m showing up. Again and again.
I know so many of you are practicing the same in your own ways, in your own lives, your own bodies, own selves. I hope you can see what a gift it is to yourself, to those who need your work, to those who light up when they see your name pop up in their inbox or mailbox or feed, to the world. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
△ My sweetest little helper organizing my paperback copies, out this Tuesday 1/10 :)
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