Walking a fine line
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
There’s something I’ve been pondering lately – is there a fine line between celebrating achievements and successes, and appearing ‘up yourself’. To be ‘up yourself’ is the delightful Aussie slang which means to be smug, arrogant and self-important. Another lovely aspect of the Australian culture is ‘tall poppy syndrome’ – whereby people of high status or prominence are resented and disparaged for their achievements and apparent superiority to others. While I’m certainly not saying I have anywhere near the status to be a target for tall poppy syndrome, it is something that I can’t help being conscious of here. However, from what I’ve seen on Twitter lately, I don’t think this is a uniquely Australian issue.
This leads me to the notion of self-promotion, and the negative connotations surrounding it. It’s seen as somewhat shady, annoying and can leave an icky feeling. People who self-promote are seen as egotistical and big-headed – ‘up themselves’. I think part of this may come from the insecurity, jealousy and possible small-mindedness of those criticising self-promoters. Especially in this era of a plethora of social media platforms, it’s all too easy to sit behind a screen and fire off comments condemning and judging those who put themselves out there.
However, is a bigger problem the lack of relationship, or authenticity, between those promoting and those receiving the messages of promotion? It takes bravery to share, to be vulnerable, to stand in the arena striving, struggling, achieving, and failing. We need to ensure we share ALL of these things – absolutely celebrate our achievements and successes, but also our challenges, struggles and failings – so that we truly connect with others. It is through connection, and showing our authentic selves, that we build relationships and a sense of community.
Another important element is engagement. We need to not only share with others, but engage with them as well. We need to be aware of and responsive to people. Hopefully, people engage with us in respectful ways, but if we are questioned or challenged, shouldn’t we respond? I think the reluctance to do so arises because so many people doing the questioning or challenging don’t really seem to want to authentically engage – they simply believe their opinion is the correct one and want everyone else to believe this too. Attempting to engage with these people is futile, however some people do sincerely want to have a conversation and I think we should participate in these conversations.
Back to my original question of self-promotion. Is it self-promotion to share our passions and the exciting events happening in our classroom, to want to share our successes and the achievements we are proud of? And does doing so make you ‘up yourself’? Is it dependent on the other messages you also share – how you tried something new and it didn’t work out, the struggles you are having in the classroom, the challenges you face trying to meet the needs of all your students? Is self-promotion only a bad thing when it’s ‘shameless self-promotion’? If we are authentic with the messages we share, does this lessen to taint of self-promotion?
Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, can be such inspiring, supportive and uplifting environments, but they can also rip people to shreds and leave their heart in pieces. Maybe it comes down to your motivation and how you are using the platform? I really don’t know – but what I do know, is that we will never please everyone, not everyone will agree with us or even like us, so at the end of the day we need to be ourselves. Stay strong and true to our goals. Remain positive. Know we will make mistakes, but are doing our best. And maybe even more importantly, remember that other people are doing all of these things as well. If you need to question or challenge others, do so respectfully. No one is perfect. Be accepting of differences. Be kind.