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Ego and self-promotion – what’s the difference?


Is having an ego and mastering self-promotion the same thing? Emma Hulbert, Senior Principal Consultant at Lily Shippen Recruitment discusses the definitions and differences…

Do you ever think about posting something you are proud of either personally or professionally on a platform such as LinkedIn, but stop yourself because you are worried that people will think you are egotistical or conceited?

Well, in my opinion, that’s a real shame and something that needs to change because (in most cases) this is not what people will think! Why shouldn’t we be our own biggest cheerleaders?!

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t some people out there who do have a self-inflated ego, and to coin a favourite phrase of mine, would eat themselves in they were made of chocolate. However, I do think there is a difference between someone who is all ego and someone who has mastered the art of self-promotion. So, the purpose of this blog is to try and establish the difference, so that you won’t think twice or, worse, stop yourself from posting about something you are proud of and that you have worked hard to achieve!

Whilst it may seem that both ego and self-promotion are interchangeable words, and they are to a degree, if you look a little closer at the word’s meanings, there is a difference.

What’s the definition of an ego and self-promotion?

Ego is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as ‘your idea or opinion of yourself, especially your feeling of your own importance and ability’. Self-promotion is something different and defined as ‘the act of furthering one’s growth, advancement, or prosperity’. Whilst I believe that maintaining a healthy level of confidence is essential, an unchecked ego can veer into arrogance and a dismissive attitude towards others’ perspectives. Mastering self-promotion, on the other hand, is about showcasing your skills without forgetting or acknowledging the contributions of your colleagues or peers.

The crux is finding the right balance between recognising and acknowledging your achievements and capabilities but still being open to learning and taking on board others’ opinions and ideas. A well-managed ego can go a long way with regards to pushing you to strive for more and to keep improving yourself both personally and professionally, yet, it becomes a real issue when it starts to hamper growth and adaptability.

Self-promotion is an important skill

When approached with authenticity and humility, self-promotion can be a valuable skill in today’s competitive landscape. However, to be valuable, it requires the person to discuss their strengths and accomplishments with confidence and respect, in order to inspire collaboration and promote a positive professional environment, rather than overshadowing or ‘one-upping’ others.

So, how do we distinguish between the two?

This all boils down to the intent and impact. Ego-driven actions often stem from an individual who constantly requires external validation, creating a competitive and sometimes toxic atmosphere. Mastering self-promotion, in comparison, involves communicating achievements whilst uplifting those around you, which helps to inspire a culture of mutual support and encouragement.

As you can see, it can be a difficult balance to strike, and to do this, it is important to be self-aware, possess empathy, and practice self-reflection. Understanding the motives behind our actions and building genuine connections with our peers allows us to leverage the power of self-promotion without falling into a scenario where our ego takes over.

In summary, although ego and self-promotion can be seen to be similar and are with regards to both involving the pursuit of recognition, they represent different paths where personal and professional development are concerned.

Striking this balance is pivotal in nurturing a healthy, collaborative environment that not only celebrates individual accomplishments but also encourages collective success.


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