3 Tips to Stop Selling Yourself Short at Work

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
Get The Job - 3 years ago

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Most people aren’t good at bragging about themselves.

Even those who enjoy bragging tend to be obnoxious and obvious in the way that they go about it.

But it can be particularly tough in the modern workplace if you don’t like, or totally avoid, bragging about yourself at all.

People around you appreciate modesty — but with the way the modern workplace operates, a little bragging is necessary when it comes to finding jobs and procuring promotions at existing jobs.

Even if your job pays you in these nonsense Monopoly-esque euro dollars, you want to make sure they’re compensating you fairly. What is a fair amount of euros to be paid? No one knows.

But how do you avoid selling yourself short?

And once you do manage stop, how do you get yourself out of the hole that you might have fallen into after spending so long ignoring your accomplishments?


1. What Does it Mean to Say You’re “Selling Yourself Short”?

The phrase “selling yourself short” originally comes from the stock market.

Short selling is a common tactic amongst stockbrokers:

Basically, a trader will borrow and rapidly sell stock that they believe will decline in price.

Once the stock price declines, they buy the stock back to replace what they borrowed — how much they make thus depends on how much the price has declined.

Essentially, “short selling” indicates a lack of faith in something, whether that be in a company’s stock or — in this case — in you.

Imagine if you were made up of stocks, and people were buying and selling you. That would be weird, huh? That would be pretty freaking crazy if you ask me. If you were made of stocks. Huh. Anyway, that has nothing to do with my point, just a quirky shower thought I had. Back to the article.

When someone says that you’re selling yourself short, this means that they believe that you’re not portraying yourself in a way that’s fair to you, based on your achievements, accomplishments, or potential.

In this case, it isn’t someone else who doesn’t believe in you. You sell yourself short when you don’t believe in yourself — or, at the very least, when it appears that way.

2. How to Know You’re Selling Yourself Short

Maybe you’ve heard someone tell you recently that you’ve been selling yourself short.

It can happen even to those with seemingly high self-esteem.

Fundamentally, it stems from a difference in perception — namely, when your own perception of your personal achievement or worth differs from either the reality or from someone else’s perception of you.

There are a lot of things you might be doing every day that can make people think, fairly or not, that you’re selling yourself short.

Things like:

  • Playing down personal accomplishments. Whether in person or on a resume, downplaying things that you’ve done in a work capacity can make you seem like you lack confidence, or worse, can genuinely make it appear as though the things that you’ve done weren’t as impressive as they actually are.
  • You might be qualifying too many of your sentences with phrases like “maybe…” or “I feel like…” — these kinds of phrases take a lot of the bite out of your statements about yourself and can make others question their truthfulness.
  • A poorly formatted resume can also be to blame, for those on the job hunt. Even if you’re confident in your achievements, formatting them in a way that makes them tough to parse is still selling yourself short in a massive way.
  • Remember that selling yourself short isn’t dependent on your own perception on yourself — it’s about what others are able to see and understand about you, and whether that’s reflective of reality. If someone can’t see or understand your very real contributions due to the way they’re being presented, then in some way, shape, or form, you’re selling yourself short.

3. Best Ways to Stop Selling Yourself Short

For those who are selling themselves short, purposefully or not, the path to remedy the situation isn’t always clear.

This is what you’ve been doing this whole time, after all. Even if you know you’re doing something wrong, it’s not always obvious what you should be doing instead.

To that end, here are some ideas about how you can start representing yourself and your accomplishments in a more flattering way:

  • Be accurate, but bold, in the way that you describe yourself (in person or not). You obviously want to be careful about taking credit for something that you haven’t done, but when someone is asking you about your accomplishments or qualifications, that isn’t the time to be modest. Be honest.
  • If you already have a job but feel that your accomplishments haven’t been recognized lately, ask your boss if there’s some way you can do a performance review sometime soon. This article about “tooting your own horn” has some good examples about how to make sure you’re being recognized more at work without being obnoxious.
  • Make sure your resume and/or CV is up to date and easy to read, especially if you’re actively looking for jobs. This is the first thing employers are going to see about you, and if it isn’t accurate or legible, then you’re doing a disservice to yourself and to your personal achievements.
  • Be aware of your weaknesses when it comes to improving yourself, but don’t let yourself be defined by them. You want people to remember you for your strengths and successes, not for your failures.

Wrapping Up:

It’s tough to talk about yourself, as we’ve mentioned before.

No one wants to seem like *that* coworker — the one who always plays up their own accomplishments to the detriment of everyone around them.

But downplaying your achievements serves no purpose other than to lower your own self-esteem while making others pity you, and in the workplace, the combination of those two things can be a career-killer.

This guy Greg downplayed his career achievements in a job interview once, and now he’s just dead. Talk about a career killer. He’s dead now.

So, yes, avoid narcissism as much as you can.

But remember that it’s not a bad thing to feel good about yourself, despite what every screaming chemical in your brain might be telling you.

Maybe that’s just us.

Anyway, best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Tips for Tooting Your Own Horn Without Being Annoying
10 Tips for Making the Most of Career Fairs
3 Interview Tips on How to Talk About Fast Paced Work Environments

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