Are We Being Disabled by Social Expectations?

The world has very much changed in the last 70 years and much of that is a very positive thing. Unmarried Mothers are no longer sent away to give birth in secret, filled with shame by their family’s and other people’s views. The notion that as long as your front step is clean it doesn’t matter what kind of abuse is going on behind your front door has also shifted, mostly. We used to allow ourselves to be disabled by social expectations and norms, even when people were being hurt and treated badly and that’s not good.

Things have changed significantly in the modern world but are we still being disabled by social expectations; the desire to say that things are fine when they’re not and the feeling that we can’t promote ourselves because then people will think we’re big-headed? Arrogance and over-confidence are not good either, often under-pinned I find, by a lack of self-confidence conversely and promoting yourself at the expense of others feels passive aggressive. Promote yourself well and people will decide where they will place their custom or how well they will rate your expertise. Being competitive is a good thing but slating someone else’s business to build your own doesn’t feel like the stuff of great self-esteem. So what’s the difference between promoting yourself and bragging?


Confidence is Key

As with many things, for me your level of personal confidence underpins how you promote yourself. If you feel confident you can quietly and effectively tell people about what you do, be honest and sincere about your passion for your business and let that passion translate into your styles of communication and behaviour. There’s nothing more fabulous than seeing someone be passionate about their business and what they have to offer. But it can take a lot of energy to do that and if your confidence level isn’t tip top then that might feel like a huge challenge.

Can you fake it before you make it? Oh most definitely! ? The key to that is to think about your values which I think underpin who you are as a person and your level of self-confidence. As an example, let’s say your strongest values look something like this:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Assertiveness
  • Empathy
  • Professional and respectful
  • Reliable
  • Being determined and tenacious


Building Effective Relationships

Now imagine that you go into a meeting, which might be about your business; selling a product or service, or holding someone to account for something they should have done for instance. You need to promote yourself, your business, your products and services, or you need to speak up against poor performance, late delivery or poor customer service maybe. Those conversations aren’t always easy but if you keep your values at the front of your mind and possibly written at the front of your notebook, you can hold yourself to account for your actions by staying focused on your values.

After the meeting, you can ask yourself:

“Did I promote myself well, accurately and in a respectful way?” – yes, because you were working with integrity and being professional
“Did I just tell a potential customer the fifty reasons why my competitor is struggling with their cash flow?” – hmmm, that doesn’t sound like integrity and compassion
“Did I just tell my supplier exactly how their lack of service has impacted my business, assertively made my point and agreed a plan of action ahead of our next meeting?” – fabulous, you assertively and tenaciously explained the impact of poor service which helps people understand the need for improvements
“Did I just lose my ****, storm out and make a terrible impression on a really important group of people?” – you’re not winning that one on the professional or respectful front I’m afraid


If you do stick to your values and communicate and behave in a way that aligns to them then you can walk away from situations knowing that you’ve been authentic and true to yourself. That’s massively good for your self-esteem and should help you to build effective relationships with people that are equal, respectful and professional in their dynamic. How cool is that?! ?


Practice Makes Perfect

It definitely takes more work to hold yourself to account and think about whether you’re being true to your personal values throughout the day or not but it does get easier because your communication and behaviour start to automatically align to what’s right for you. I’ve sat in many a meeting over the years and thought “I need to say something here but I really don’t want to” and it’s my blimmin values that have made me! It’s a total pain! I’ve thought to myself “I’m not behaving with integrity if I walk away from this meeting without raising an issue that I know is important”. It’s not always been easy but it’s won me a lot of respect over the years, for being able to be honest, compassionate and assertive in what I say. And no, I don’t always get it right but my values will win over most days.


Don’t Be Disabled by Social Expectations – Define Your Values

Social expectations and polite behaviour dictate that we don’t normally swagger about saying how marvellous we are all the time and that’s probably not a bad thing. But being able to promote yourself and clearly explain what benefits, support, clarity or personal expertise you can bring to a situation is good. It takes practice, especially to get rid of that really cringey feeling that we get when we big ourselves up! The key is in the delivery; looking someone in the eye with sincerity and a smile, if you can manage it is very effective and very empowering. If you define your values, I doubt you’ll be contravening too many social norms. Other people might do but that’ll always be annoying, there’s not much we can do about that!

Your values can hold you to account in how you communicate and behave if you let them, the first step is to think about what your values are. Think about how you like to be treated and that’ll give you a good start, and the words on this link might be useful prompts to build a fuller list too.


Take good care, treat people nicely please and have a great day.

Best wishes, Karen