Why the World Would Be Better if Everyone Doubting Themselves Became a Raging Self-Promoter

If No One Looks Like You, Your Story Would Change the World

Karla Starr
4 min readMar 23, 2022


About 15 years ago, I learned that I was working for the same editor who had once mentored one of my favorite writers. Eventually, when we had some free time together, I asked what Big Famous Writer had been like to work with.

“They weren’t the most naturally talented writer,” said the editor. “But they were the best self-promoter I’ve ever known.” Since then, I’ve repeatedly witnessed the importance of ambition and self-promotion for determining who ends up achieving their goals despite setbacks.

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” -Bertrand Russell

It’s Not Just About Your Work Having Value

As Russell rightly stated, there’s a mismatch between who doubts themselves and who manages to charge on through. Some people think that a dislike of self-promotion comes from the belief that whatever you’re offering isn’t of value. As one article here even urged readers: “Don’t pretend the reason you avoid self-promotion is because you worry what others will think of you. That’s just not true.”

Except for one little thing: it is true. People in historically disadvantaged positions (i.e., those who lack status) are treated differently when they ascribe themselves with status, and their work with intrinsic value. Humans excel at working together, and in order to maintain our species-wide knack for collaborating, we have an instinctive drive to punish social norm violators.

To wit: white men can be braggarts, self-promoters, and use their entire Twitter feed to talk about how amazing their own book is and how awesome their research is. They can interrupt without fear that they won’t be invited back.

On the other hand, women who do these things are labeled as “bossy” and “shrew.” People of color who do these things might get labeled as “uppity.”

Women of color are largely ignored — and have to speak so loudly just to be heard, that by the time other people do hear them, they’re quick to refer to them as “angry,” and not “reacting…



Karla Starr

Speaker & author x2, inc. Making Numbers Count (w/ Chip Heath). Behavioral science, cultural history, numbers.