In the children’s literary classic Peter Pan, the eponymous hero is no stranger to exuberant crowing. Indeed, it comes in the form of a spontaneous victory cry after he accomplishes something he is proud of and happy about. Unfortunately, these days when the “tall poppy syndrome” (otherwise known as “levelling”) is so prevalent, a declaration of personal or professional achievement can often be misconstrued as a sign of bragging whereupon you must be cut down to size.
In psychology, the act of “levelling” stems from a person (lets call them Person A) who feels inadequate or insecure about themselves or their level of achievement, skills or knowledge. If Person A then encounters somebody (Person B) who is perceived as a threat to their ego, Person A will respond by either elevating their own importance or criticising Person B and downgrading them to an inferior level. This is common in all walks of life from the home to the office to a group with whom we seek to interact. The creative comics community is not immune to this phenomenon either.
Having said that, we need to establish that we each have the right to crow. The act of crowing actually serves multiple purposes. Firstly, we are acknowledging ourselves for a job well done, which helps bolster our confidence and self-esteem. Recognising hard work helps propel us in a forward momentum towards wanting to accomplish more of the same or at a higher level thus moving us toward reaching our true potential.
Secondly, crowing establishes our talent and credibility in the marketplace, as well as the world beyond thus attracting more recognition and opportunities. Therefore, being shy or wary about crowing can be counterproductive and counterintuitive to your professional goals. You need to learn how to be comfortable with your achievement.
Thirdly, crowing with purpose is about removing the bragging from the facts. Think about marketing yourself in the same way you think about your CV: you need to list your career achievements to encourage somebody to hire you. In your comics publicity and promotion material, you want to list your creative achievements to encourage somebody to buy and read your books, as well as provide you with further opportunities for creative advancement. Your achievements are a statement of fact rather than a statement of self-glorification. Therefore, let your marketing material reflect that.
Fourthly, when we take levelling out of the picture we see that there is a fine line between crowing and outright arrogance. The former is about demonstrating pride in your own achievements. The latter, if exaggerated, can be about grandstanding. It can also be a symptom of feeling inadequate and thereby over-compensating or at the other end of the spectrum a signal of profound narcissism. People in general are intuitively sophisticated enough to comprehend which is which. So when it comes to crowing just remember: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Operate from a core of authenticity and a quiet sense of self-awareness. Also openly acknowledge your humanity and the trials and tribulations you encountered along the way. Most importantly, retain your sense of humour. People will pick up on who is real and who is not.
Finally, acknowledge that you will have your detractors. Understand the mechanism and then move beyond it. Aim to be the professional. Remember that people are at different stages of their emotional and spiritual evolution and life journeys. Recognise that the people who will be most excited for you are the ones who will stand beside you. They recognise the hard work that has gone into fulfilling a project and they are genuinely happy that you have received your rightful acclaim. Surround yourself with these people because ultimately generosity of spirit begats generosity of opportunity.
So here is a list of WHAT you could potentially crow about:
Here is a list of WHERE you could crow:
The final piece of advice to take away from all of this is: If you don’t crow about your achievements, nobody else will do it for you.
© Julie Ditrich, 2015
Originally published in Comics Masterclass Spotlight (Vol 2. No 4, May 2015).