Clay Shirky wrote a whole essay about chutzpah without using the word. In it, he argues that men tend to exhibit more of it than women do, and it prevents women (in general) from enjoying the success they otherwise might. Here’s the crux:
There is no upper limit to the risks men are willing to take in order to succeed, and if there is an upper limit for women, they will succeed less. They will also end up in jail less, but I don’t think we get the rewards without the risks.
Tom Coates is somewhat disgusted:
Generally, it’s being viewed as a call to arms to create a new breed of women who are as self-important, self-promoting, shameless and arrogant as some of the worst (and most celebrated) men in the industry. This attitude is being viewed as the ‘way to get ahead’ for any individual wanting to make their mark in the world.
Both essays hit close to home for me. I don’t think of myself as someone who engages in self-promotion, and I am in the tribe that tends to look down on people who I see as self-promoters. I try to do my best, and if people notice and and come back for more, that’s great. If they don’t, I move on (occasionally with some bitterness). That’s how I was raised.
The problem is, when you decline to ask for recognition, you often find your work going unnoticed by people who would probably appreciate it. It’s easy to err on the other side and come across as a preening jerk, at least to people like me, other people don’t seem to mind so much, but most people who are averse to self-promotion rarely run the risk of going that far in the other direction.
Both posts are worth reading, but what I really wonder is whether adults can even recalibrate themselves on the self-promotion axis? At one end are people who go so far as self-promoters that not only do they brag about everything they can do, but they also brag about things that they can’t even do. On the other end are people who toil in obscurity, doing great work and waiting for someone to finally come along and notice and give them a pat on the head. But once your position on the axis is set, I believe it’s hard to change it.