“A university lecturer, huh? So, how much do you make?”
I almost choked on my wine, narrowly avoiding showering my shirt with red droplets . In the UK, where I lived at the time, this was a question you would never, ever ask – even your best friend. And yet, the cute girl from abroad had no qualms about it, although we had only just met. I managed to slip away at the first chance I got, rattled by what I perceived as a regrettable lack of manners.
A Confident Friend
I was reminded of this when I recently fell out with a good friend. She is the kind of person who enjoys announcing her worth to the world. She will tweet about her book daily, and promote it to everyone who’ll listen.
I, on the other hand, immediately shy away from anything remotely seen as blowing my own trumpet. Indeed, in my mind, doing so only reveals one’s insecurities. Naturally, her behavior made me shake my head, and one day I told her as much.
“That’s a terrible thing to say,” she said, obviously shocked. “I am a strong, confident woman. I believe in me and my work, and have worked hard to get where I am today. Why shouldn’t I be proud of my achievements?”
There’s no real answer to that, I realized, and I could see that she meant every word. It also dawned on me just how much my cultural references have to do with my reaction to her boisterous nature. My upbringing can be summed up nicely in the words of Lord Chesterfield, 4th Earl of Stanhope, as written to his son back in 1748:
Above all things, and upon all occasions, avoid speaking of yourself, if it be possible… Never imagine that anything you can say yourself will varnish your defects, or add lustre to your perfections. But, on the contrary, it may—and nine times in ten will—make the former more glaring and the latter obscure. If you are silent upon your own subject, neither envy, indignation, nor ridicule will obstruct or allay the applause, which you may really deserve. But if you publish your own panegyric upon any occasion, or in any shape whatsoever, and however artfully dressed or disguised, they will all conspire against you, and you will be disappointed.
Texas Vs. Europe
So, was Lord Chesterfield wrong and my friend right? Or was it the other way around?
Neither is the case. We are both the product of our upbringing, and we mirror the values of the societies in which we have been brought up. My very European outlook towards things seemed to her, a fiery Texan, incomprehensible. How could I market my books if I didn’t believe in them or in myself? She could not understand why I would never speak of my achievements, being instead happy to let others steal the spotlight.
Likewise, her own behavior signified insecurity to me. I could not understand her constant need to promote herself; to shout to the world, “I’m worthy.” Having no interest in doing so myself, I frowned mentally whenever she did that. From my point of view, someone who is truly confident in their own worth, feels no need to prove it.
Ironically enough, this attitude of mine was a sign of insecurity to her, whereas to me it was one of self-confidence.
Just Ask the Chinese
A major influence in my life – cultural reference if you wish – has been the Tao Te Ching (you may remember how I’ve even translated it into Greek and give away my translation for free, just so that more people can benefit from reading it).
Anyway, Taoists have this lovely concept called Wei Wu Wei. Translated literally, it means, do without doing. It signifies that people should go with the flow instead of forcing a situation, and advises against going against the nature of things.
My own nature is one of helping others rather than blowing my own trumpet. If I try to promote myself, it comes across as awkward; unlike my friend, who is able to effortlessly combine confident self-promotion with helping others. Therefore, my marketing is focused on three simple principles:
- Be real,
- be fun,
- be helpful.
If you do that, people will buy your books simply because they will like you and will want to support you. In other words, “if people like what you’re saying, they’ll buy what you’re selling.”
More importantly, though, if you’re like me, you’ll be able to market your work and your brand without mentally cringing every time you send a tweet or hit “post.” And that is something even more important than making a sale!
And your friend?
As for my friend and me, after a series of long conversations we came to realize just how much our cultural references define us, and what an impact they had in our relationships. And I’m glad that we finally managed to overcome this misunderstanding and understand how we each see the world, respecting each other’s outlook.
So, if you’re comfortable promoting yourself, do so. As for me, I’ll keep following my marketing strategy, as I’m still uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet. Or discussing my income with strangers, for that matter…
While making up your mind as to the strategy that appeals to you, why not read my children’s book, Runaway Smile, for free?