Day Twenty: Learn to Brag

Merry Shabbat, friends! Here is a synopsis of this week’s parsha:

1.) Joseph talks a lot about his dreams and visions. He also snitches on his brothers. His father loves him and gives him a (technicolor?) dream coat.

2.) Joseph’s brothers are jealous and throw him in a ditch; they then think twice, and opt instead to sell him into Egyptian slavery.

3.) As a slave, the wife of Joseph’s master tries to bone him; he says no; she feels rejected, and sends Joseph to prison.

4.) In jail, the prisoners take advantage of Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, but forget to return the favor by mentioning to Pharoh that he should be freed.

Joseph – the visionary – inspires wrath, jealousy, hatred, and opportunism in those around him. He is constantly shat upon. And yet, he continues to dream, to trust his visions; in short, to be Joseph.

Terms like “persevere” and “follow your dreams” come to mind while reading (and cause my bile to rise), but so does something else – the fact that Joseph is very annoying. 

He doesn’t care that he makes those around him uncomfortable; he is uppity, pious, and obsequious; he tattles on his brothers, lectures the slutty wife, tells the other prisoners that interpretations of dreams belong to God alone, and then proceeds to interpret their dreams . . . In other words, Joseph is very pleased with Joseph, and it is a huge turn off. 

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I read an article in Psychology Today a few weeks ago about bragging, and how to do it right. The main takeaway I remember from that article was the suggestion that you never brag, but instead share brag-worthy comments that others have made about you. For example, instead of saying “I make the best scones this side of the Mississippi,” say “Sarah told me that the scones from my recipe were they best she’d ever had – I’d be happy to share it with you.” While I think this a) takes the fun and oomph out of bragging, and b) is a thinly veiled attempt at self-congratulation and is even more annoying on some level, it has gotten me thinking a lot about bragging recently, and this week’s parsha brings it to mind again. Self-promotion is a really important skill, especially for any of us who is dating, freelancing, applying for new jobs, meeting new friends – basically interacting with other human beings. Knowing how to put your best foot forward and show your strengths is just as important as knowing when to shut up about how well you dance or what a fantastic college you went to. Both are hard – usually we are better at one or the other, which can make us easily into an arrogant jerk, or a self-effacing turtle.

Yesterday, I went to this amazing lunchtime seminar for Women Entrepreneurs. I was totally skeptical – it was held in a strange office building on busy Market Street on the 37th floor, in what looked like a pristine airport lounge. I was sitting in the all-glass reception area, where nobody seemed to work, wondering if I had wandered into Vanilla Sky. Eventually I was summoned into a conference room with places set (with tidy red binders and ballpoint pens) for twelve, but only three of us showed up. I was getting ready to feign food poisoning when it started – and I was totally shocked. It was like I had entered this strange business-lounge-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-entrepreneurial-insecure-women-covent-wonderland. I felt like the workshop leader, Desiree – with her beautiful little dreadlocks shaking like cheerful jingle bells when she laughed, her calm, deep voice taking my spirit by the hand and leading me through the underbrush of my deep insecurities on our lunch break – was speaking from within my very own muddled mind.  To start things off, Desiree told the story of her own tattered path to entrepreneurship – riddled with mistakes, confusion, success that she didn’t believe in, wealth she felt she didn’t deserve, and failures she felt characterized her. I was captivated. She talked about the importance of becoming uncomfortable – deeply uncomfortable – in order to change. She shared that her goal for us was to gain clarity around why we weren’t pursuing our  businesses with full gusto, and then make the decision to go for it. 

Next, to my utter delight, she had us free write to these questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the current state of your business?
  • What three things wuold you like to change in your business? Be Specific. (ex: income, time spent working in your business instead of on it, level of impact or reach)
  • How much is it costing you personaly and financially to live with these three things? Be specific.
  • If you could make these three things go away, how would your business be diffrent? Be specific.

Let’s imagine for a moment that nothing could stand in your way . . . what would your big vision be? Begin by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to relax and center yourself. Now, visualize what you really want for your life and for your business. You should see clear mental pictures of your ideal reality.

  • What are you holidng as possible for yourself in your vision?
  • What feelings came up for you? Write them all down. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and not to juge them.
  • Write why it is important to have your vision become a reality. Why is it important to you?
  • Who do you have to become to achieve your vision?

Through my writing, I was really surprised to learn how deeply bothered I am by the lack of alignment I currently feel between my business, this blog, and my sense of purpose. As a result, I am reluctant to talk about my work, and this in turn reinforces the imbalance. I realized I need to find a way to talk about what I do that doesn’t feel like bragging; that comes from a place of enthusiasm, joy, and confidence; and that draws others in. And in answer to that last question? Well, I wrote about becoming more comfortable with self-promotion – so waking up today to read the story of Joseph’s pitfalls with that very act was like the universe – currently, for me, embodied by Desiree – telling me that this is the right direction to go in. Like Joseph, it’s time to talk about my vision with passion, clarity, and commitment.

So, as we move into Shabbat today, I invite you to try answering those above questions for yourself. Even if you aren’t starting a business, you can ask them around any uncomfortable but important new venture you’re working on right now – whether it’s finding love, figuring out your professional path, losing weight, whatever. I was skeptical at first, but found the exercise to really help me think about what I want, why I want it, what keeps me from committing myself to pursuing it, and how much this all connects to a reluctance to take myself serious – all of which also connects to how I present myself, talk about my work, brag or self-depricate. I’m taking my answers into my next meeting with Desiree, in the hopes that I will soon have a clearer picture of what I’m going for, and how to talk about my dreams and vision – without being thrown into a ditch.

I’d love to hear your responses to any or all of the above questions, if you are willing to share! Writing them down and making them public definitely helped me to make the answers more real, so please share away!

Have a lovely weekend!

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