Author Meredith Fineman Helping Us Master The Art Of Fearless Self-Promotion In Her New Book “Brag Better”

Self-Promotion. Bragging. Talking up your achievements. Fearlessly proud. These are words and phrases that can easily conjure up anxiety or even shame in a number of people. What is it about being proud and confident in your own abilities and successes that makes us want to shrink back and sell ourselves short? More importantly, what potential opportunities have we missed out on in our careers because of this? For women, this is a very familiar concept that we hear a lot about in the professional and corporate sector.

According to a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, women are less inclined to self-promote than men, especially in jobs. The study found that female workers’ deep discomfort over touting skills and experience adds to gender gap in promotions as well as pay rates. The research showed that if both women and men scored 15 out of 20 on an exam, the women were more likely to look at their results less favorably than men. How does gender play a role in fostering this confidence gap, and how can we start to course-correct this cultural faultline?

Professional leadership development expert and author Meredith Fineman explores this topic in her new book and is giving readers some practical tools in “Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion”. Meredith is the founder and CEO of FinePoint, a leadership and professional development company that elevates individuals, from young professionals to CEOs. So if there is anyone we want in our corner to get us back in the ring, it is Meredith.

Her book is a much-needed guide to self-advocacy for highly competent professionals who struggle to communicate their accomplishments to others. Even with these tough and uncertain times, the book reminds readers that your accomplishments are real, valid, and worthy of celebration. This new approach to self-promotion helps readers manage anxiety and empowers them to champion themselves, unlocking career opportunities and inner confidence. The book touches on everything from preparing for salary negotiations to bragging better on social media. 

We spoke one-on-one with the “Brag Better” author on leadership, confidence, and her obsession with collecting vintage clothing!

How did the idea for “Brag Better” initially come about?

I was watching the trajectory of nobody knowing how to talk about themselves or brag – particularly women. From young women wanting to work for me, to friends, to household names I was representing. I changed my business from strictly PR to executive strategy, speaking, and training to tackle this universal issue. I had a really impressive client I was representing and she didn’t go on TV because she didn’t feel “qualified”. I hung up the phone with her and wrote the word brag in the margin of my book, because I knew I had to write this. That was in fall of 2013.

Through your company FinePoint, you help the development of professionals in their careers. Have you seen major differences between what holds women back vs men? 

Yes. Anyone who is an “other” – not a man, not white – is going to have more trouble. For women specifically, positive attributes were associated with passive behaviors – particularly around silence – coy, demure, shy. Truly silence was attractive. You’re judged on metrics that men are not – you’re policed from your voice to your ankles. Plus, it’s hard to see what women in public actually go through on a daily basis. Add in the performance of gender roles and your upbringing, and it’s an almost impossible recipe.

Why do you think self-confidence and “bragging” is seen as scary to some?

People are all afraid of the same things – that people won’t like them. That their accomplishments aren’t worth talking about. That their work doesn’t have meaning. It’s also an act of vulnerability – putting yourself “out there”. It’s scary.

Women Write Washington: Spirituality & Speechwriting with Sarah Hurwitz and Meredith Fineman at The Line Hotel DC on January 23, 2020. Photography by Karlin Villondo Photography

What were some of your own personal experiences that lead you to this line of work?

I just couldn’t sit back and watch people struggle anymore. I also couldn’t sit back and watch us reward the wrong voices. I also was never afraid to use my voice – had a vocal mother and a TV-pundit Dad, which led me to figure out the combination between volume and brand. 

We’ve read a lot about how women negotiate salaries vs men as well as the wage gap. How can self-confidence and knowing your worth play a role in dismantling outdated systems and ways of thinking in the workplace?

Asking for recognition and praise and asking for money are the exact same thing – it’s just different literal currencies. I’d like for the follow up to Brag Better to be Brag Better With Money because it’s tied together. A lot of this is a systemic issue – pay women more, period. Just make it equal! But pushing and knowing your worth – with key interviews in the book from people like Cindy Gallop or Luvvie Ajayi, can help readers do that too. 

Why is social media an important component of self-promotion, and what advice would you give to those who aren’t interested in doing it?

If it doesn’t fit your goals – you want a promotion, and your boss doesn’t look at social media, then it doesn’t matter. I want people to realize there are places all around you to promote yourself. They’re opportunities, and not burdens. Social media is a tremendous tool to share your voice.

Meredith Fineman speaking at The 3% Conference in 2019. Image: Sean McGill

How has your work changed during the Pandemic, and how are your clients adapting to the changing virtual workplace? 

Oh man, bragging is even more necessary now. Nobody knows what you’ve done until you tell them, and now you can’t just breeze by your boss’ office and discuss a win with her. You have to be overwhelmingly explicit with your goals, your wins, and your work, because you’re behind a screen. 

Away from FinePoint, you are a dedicated vintage clothing collector and host a podcast about this. How did you first become a vintage tee collector?

Yes! I started obsessively secondhand shopping when I was 11. It’s a real issue, but now it’s a profession. I started collecting vintage tees in late high school, when St. Marks Place was what it used to be in NYC. They’re the best tee shirts – we are always looking for soft great tee shirts. And the best, cheapest, and MOST SUSTAINABLE ones are used ones.

If people want to learn more about how to “Brag Better”, where can they go and what should they do?


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