Humble Personal Branding: How to “Lean In” as a Catholic Woman
“A glance toward the Mother of God becomes indicative for us again. For example, Mary at the wedding of Cana in her quiet observing look surveys everything and discovers what is lacking. Before anything is noticed, even before embarrassment sets in, she has procured already the remedy. She finds ways and means, she gives necessary directives, doing all quietly. She draws no attention to herself. Let her be the prototype of woman in professional life. Wherever situated, let her always perform her work quietly and dutifully, without claiming attention and appreciation.” Saint Edith Stein
Catholicism can sometimes seem at odds with what we’re taught as professional women. “Lean in,” they say. “Promote yourself. Share your accomplishments. Demand what you want, and explain why you deserve it.”
Meanwhile, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
And St. Peter: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another” (1 Peter 5:5).
What’s a Catholic woman to do when she wants to promote herself, whether as an employee who wants to move up the ranks or as a business owner who wants to gain customers? There’s nothing wrong with wanting a successful career, after all. But where’s the line between personal branding and prideful boasting?
Building Others Up
“Many women may feel uncomfortable talking about their accomplishments and promoting themselves directly. But there are other ways to show your areas of expertise when building a brand,” wrote marketing strategist and author Dorie Clark in Harvard Business Review. “In almost any organization, there are ways that you can you demonstrate your knowledge and help others.” She suggests methods like hosting a lunch-and-learn, sharing information on the corporate intranet or publishing content. Sharing your knowledge and skills is a way to cultivate your personal brand - and, if it’s genuine, it’s also a way for you to help others.
Similarly, says consultant Ronna Lichtenberg, author of “Pitch Like a Girl,” it’s important to build relationships in the process of self-promotion. Successful women, she says, “know that sharing something about themselves is a way to connect to other people and is, if done correctly, doing someone a favor rather than a disservice.”
Large companies are learning that being a good “corporate citizen” (i.e., using sustainable business practices, supporting the local community and treating workers fairly) is good for their brand. Similarly, we can serve on nonprofit boards, give profits back to the community and help co-workers, because it’s the right thing to do, and give our own brands a boost at the same time.
Kicking Out the Impostor
Impostor syndrome is a phenomenon in which people (not just women) don’t feel like their accomplishments are valid or feel like they’ve succeeded from luck or from the help of others. In short, they feel like an impostor when other people view them as successful. In addition to being uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing, impostor syndrome can impede personal branding and, therefore, career advancement.
As Catholics, we have an important reminder we can use to fight our impostor syndrome: We know our true value. We know that regardless of what we do, how we feel or who we know, we are children of God, and therefore we have great dignity and worth. This understanding is a great way to fight imposter syndrome and build self-confidence both personally and professionally. When we no longer feel like an imposter, we can embrace our brand and show it to the world.
It’s All About Intention
Ultimately, prideful self-promotion and personal branding are not the same. If you are sharing your accomplishments with your boss, your co-workers or your customers because you want them to think that you’re better than other people, it’s a problem. But if you are sharing your accomplishments with your boss, your co-workers or your customers because you need to make money, you want to build your career or you want them to celebrate your successes with you, it is possible to do it in a humble way. That humble intention will come through in your actions and your words, and it will help make your personal brand not just about what you can do but about who you are.
Taryn Oesch is a writer in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she works as a managing editor for Training Industry, Inc., a digital media and content marketing company. She writes and speaks about women’s issues and disability inclusion for a variety of publications and conferences and is a contributing writer to FemCatholic.com. Her role models are all named Teresa, and she keeps discovering new ways they influence her work and her life. When not writing or editing, Taryn is typically reading Jane Austen, drinking Earl Grey, and spending time with family and friends. She is an active member of the Raleigh Catholic Young Adults, where she co-leads a women’s small group and plays the piano and flute for monthly Holy Hours. You can follow Taryn on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and on her blog Everyday Roses.