modesty or not?

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at
Thu Jan 1 16:38:57 EST 1998

In article <34A9765E.1ED3 at>,
S L Forsburg  <forsburg at> wrote:
>> From: cjfuller at (C.J. Fuller)
>> Friends-Well, someone has to work over the holidays. One of my holiday
>> projects this year is getting my reappointment dossier in order. Talk
>> about pulling chickens' teeth! There is a balance between bravado and
>> overt modesty, and I favor the latter, as I imagine many of you do.
>My suggestion is, don't be afraid to be aggressively self-promoting.
>You get NO POINTS in this business for being modest. 

I agree with Susan.  I am applying for a job, and I wrote the cover
letter, and it was, as you said, like pulling teeth.  I felt as if what
I was written was stupid and egotistical both at the same time.  However,
no one who's read the letter thus far thinks it's too self-promoting.
I (and maybe many women) have learned a distorted view of what it means
to be "arrogant."  And I think that a double standard for men and women
contributes to it.

 I don't know
>about the rest of you, but when I was growing up I remember that
>any--ANY--self congratulation was met by my parents and so on as
>being boastful, and was negatively reinforced. ( Do men not get
>this? )

Me too.  My "problem" though (if it is a problem) is that I dislike
boastful, self-aggrandizing people, male or female.  Although in my 
limited personal experience, more men cross my personal threshold than
women.  Women will apologize for saying something that sounds merely
like healthy self-esteem, while (some) men will go on and on about how
great they are, and not think anything of it.  On the whole,  in my view,
the world (and the science world is not exempt from this)
could use a little less self-promotion, and I'm uncomfortable admonishing
modest women and men to be more like their annoying counterparts.

I think that self-promotion is tolerated to a much greater extent in
men than it is in women, by both men and women, but especially by men.
I've been called "arrogant," "egotistical," and "lacking in reasonable
humility" by men, but never by women.

>Which I still don't say often enough.  Maybe we all should sit
>down at this time (year's end and all), and write a list of
>major accomplishments:  what we deserve credit for!

I think this is a great idea, but unfortunately, I think that one still
has to be careful whom one shows such a list to.  Showing a list like
this to a non-supportive person and having him call you arrogant doesn't
feel very good.


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