How to Write About Yourself

how to write about yourself

“So, tell me a little about yourself …”

Don’t cha just hate it when someone says that to you? Where do you even begin?

But there’s something even worse.

And that’s when someone asks you to write something about yourself.

Do you feel the panic setting in? If so, you’re just like most of us.

Even though we may consider ourselves writers, most of us prefer to write about other things—and other people.

But you won’t be able to dodge this bullet forever. At some point in your life you’re either going to have to do it—for a job perhaps—or you will choose to do it—for a memoir, essay or blog post.

Here are a few things to consider:

Know your boundaries

If you are going to write about yourself, particularly online, expect that whatever your write will be shared well beyond your intended audience and that it will be around forever.

If you don’t want a prospective employer—or your mother-in-law—to read or otherwise find out about it, don’t write about it.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

But we all know someone who did or said something that he really wished wasn’t “out there”.

So be careful about what – and how much – you choose to share.

Be honest

All of us have probably been tempted, at one time or another, to stretch the truth a bit—perhaps to pad a resume line or to otherwise exercise some creative license—when  it comes to sharing some of our life experiences.

Don’t.

Not only is this wrong on many different levels, but it’s also hard to remember something that’s less than the truth.

Unless you eventually “fess up” or, god forbid, someone “outs” you, you’ll be carrying around the burden of that lie for the rest of your life.

Just be you—people respond to authenticity.

Or decide to write fiction.

Nowadays, it’s simply too easy to verify facts. Why risk it?

Determine your audience

As with any writing assignment, you need to know who you’re writing for, so do your homework.

Having a good understanding of your audience will help you to adopt the appropriate tone of voice. Is a more formal tone best (for a prospective employer) or is a casual, friendly tone a better choice (for a blog post)?

In other words, while the information you choose to share about yourself may be the same, how you convey that information will change significantly depending on your audience.

Be strategic

Now that you know who you’re writing for and the tone you will be adopting, you need to determine the 3 or 4 key message points.

People remember stories better than just facts, so connect with your intended audience using the power of story. For example, if you’re writing to a potential employer, choose a story that highlights your accomplishments and explains why it is relevant to the organization. Don’t just recite facts.

First impressions matter

It takes only 30 seconds for people to form an impression.

Write with confidence, not arrogance.

Bring energy and enthusiasm to your writing, but don’t over-sell.

If you’re not sure that you have achieved the right balance, ask a friend or mentor to read what you’ve written.

Final thoughts

As you have probably figured out by now, writing about yourself is not that different from other types of writing.

But it can feel uncomfortable.

If you’re still having difficulty and don’t know how to write about yourself, try writing about yourself in the third person. Then go back and revise it.

At the end of the day there’s only one thing I know that helps with that uncomfortable feeling–writing about yourself over and over again.

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.”~Malcolm Gladwell

 

About the author:

By Cheryl Craigie, Contributing Editor at Write to Done. Cheryl also blogs at The Manageable Life

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33 thoughts on “How to Write About Yourself”

  • Colin Guest says:

    As you so rightly say, it is always better to write the true facts and not ones that you have made up. Those who tell lies have to have a very good memory, especially if your writing is about friends or ex work colleagues.
    I am presently writing about my experiences during my working life in which I worked in 14 countries. This of course includes numerous references to incidents that happened to both me and friends that I worked with, so I am being careful to write what actually happened and not something that just sounds interesting.

    Many years ago while doing a course with The Writing School, I was asked to write a true story and an exert from another true story. After I did this and sent it in to my tutor, I was extremely annoyed to receive comments stating that when writing about true life one has to write the facts and not fiction. My previous tutor had evidently left with my being given a new tutor, who obviously had little experience of true life stories. Either that or my story which was true, was too good to be true. After this I did not continue with the course, which may or may not have been the correct action to take?

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Colin–

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Perhaps something was “lost in translation” when the first tutor left and you were assigned another…who knows? In any case, I’m glad that you didn’t allow this experience to stop you from writing.

      Good luck!

  • Cyd Madsen says:

    Thank you for this. Writing the “About” page or presenting myself to a prospective employer is one of the hardest tasks I’ve faced. These are excellent guidelines and I’ll use them. Especially helpful is writing in the third person and then converting. That never crossed my mind, but now it’s parked there. It’s a good fit.

    May I ask a question? How far back should we go when citing professional credits? I’ve been away from writing for 12 years and consider myself a newbie wondering what the heck is going on. But it wasn’t always this way. I’d been making considerable headway as a writer before leaving it all behind to attend to pressing and complicated family matters. Past awards and accomplishments seem as if they’d give some credibility, and that makes me feel more confident, less scared to death when I blog. But it also implies some authority when my objective is throwing out new ideas and having them challenged and refined. So-called negative feedback is often the best way of testing new ideas, and that’s what I’d like from readers looking for new way of seeking answers when everything else has failed. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thanks again for touching on this subject. It is a sticky wicket.
    Cyd Madsen recently posted..Back To The Writing Process Of Daily Disciplined WritingMy Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Cyd–

      Here’s my answer to your question: Do what makes you feel comfortable.

      If you want to include your past professional credits, do so, Feel free to explain the reason behind your long hiatus. You don’t have to go into great detail–you can even use the explanation you provided above.

      In addition, if you want to have your ideas challenged, tell your readers that you love the give and take of honest feedback. In my experience, that’s never been a problem, particularly if you give them “permission.”

      Take care,

      Cheryl

  • Fifty years ago as a college student I wrote on one page in a one year diary before I went to bed. Now that I am reading the pages again and compiling them in a blog, I think about the speed with which I must have written them. I feel I must have known ahead of time what I would write on any given night. The result was a mix of events and experiences as they happened and my reactions to and perceptions of them.

    In this day of the internet a blog’s sidebar is the ideal place to tell others about ourselves.

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Barbara–

      I bet it was fascinating to revisit who you were 50 years ago. I’m also a avid journal-keeper and often pull one out and reread it. It’s amazing to remember what was going on at a particular point in time and to see how I’ve evolved over the years.

      Good luck with your blog.

      Take care,

      Cheryl

  • Liz McGee says:

    Hey Cheryl,

    I like the idea of writing in the third person, then revising it. I guess that could sort of force you to look at yourself as someone else which might help you bring out more interesting points.

    But as you mentioned, writing for your audience is also key. People generally find reading about us more interesting if what we have to say is something they can relate to themselves.

    Liz :-)
    Liz McGee recently posted..Blog Post Checklist for Publishing and SharingMy Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Liz–

      For many, writing in the third person creates the psychological distance needed to more objectively examine ourselves. It’s a good exercise to try on many different levels.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • I have written a weekly newsletter for seven years now. (It is now the Tuesday entry of my blog.) I often — although not always — start with a personal story. My readers LOVE this. I make sure the stories always relate to a point I’m trying to make and I make sure they will be relevant to my readers.

    In the last three weeks, I’ve written three columns on Deliberate Practice as it relates to writing. (If you’re interested, you can see one here: http://bit.ly/PSEqbg) I thought this was such an important topic that I focused only on it — and didn’t tell a personal story with it. The result? I’ve had far fewer comments than usual and my book sales have stalled. This has illustrated to me the absolute importance of telling personal stories.
    Daphne Gray-Grant recently posted..The moves that matter in essay writingMy Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Daphne–

      Thanks for sharing your experience about the importance of including personal stories. I had already read your columns on Deliberate Practice. I found them through the link on Cal Newport’s blog.

      Take care,

      Cheryl

  • Timing is everything and the blog I plan to write this week is more on a personal level than some of my other posts. Thanks, Cheryl, for your excellent advise.

    When I read other people’s blogs, I often find those that peel away artifice and reveal inner thoughts and experience of the writer are the most valuable and memorable. Yes, there is a balance to achieve when you write about yourself, but achieving that balance can mean you’ve written something memorable.
    Beth@Boomer Highway
    Beth @ Boomer Highway (twitter) recently posted..Do You Know What to Do for Hair Loss?My Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      HI Beth–

      I agree–the blogs that resonate most with me are the ones that wreak” authenticity.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      All the best,

      Cheryl

  • Great minds think alike! I’ve done an eBook by the same name – thought you might like to check it out…

    http://howtowritebetter.net/how-to-write-about-yourself/
    Suzan St Maur recently posted..Business English Quick Tips: apostrophesMy Profile

  • I’ve heard before that if your writing doesn’t scare you a little bit, then you aren’t challenging yourself. I’ve written many, deeply personal blogs that made me feel so vulnerable that my heart raced as I pushed the publish button. But like any authentic story, those posts resonated with many, and sparked debate too.

    We’ve all seen cruel criticism and comments, and I think that’s what’s scary. But if we overcome the fear that some people won’t like what we write, we give ourselves the opportunity to connect with those our message is meant to touch.

    For me, I forced myself to overcome the fear of writing my stories because I knew if I shared them, somebody could be encouraged. That one connection with another individual was worth the potential rejection from some.
    Sarah L. Webb recently posted..The Joyce Carol Oates Guide to Writing Your Heart OutMy Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Sarah–

      I agree that it can be scary to push that button, but I’m so glad that you do it anyway…

      I believe that as long as you make conscious choices about what you share with others, you can deal with the any feedback–positive or negative–that comes along.

      Take care,

      Cheryl.

  • As often as I’ve had to send a bio to a meeting planner or create an About page, I’m still not perfectly comfortable with it. ( It was decades after getting my PhD before I’d even mention it in most bios.)

    During my upbringing my parents and leaders encouraged us to achieve, but discouraged us from talking about it. It was viewed as boasting and was almost a deadly sin.

    As you pointed out, having to write about myself over and over again has made it lots easier. After all, it’s a necessary part of promoting our services and products. I love including a story in my bio although I must confess that when I’m in a hurry (and depending on the audience) I’ll just grab one from the many in my files.

    After reading your article I’m going to take another look at the one I’m about to send that will be used to introduce me at an upcoming gig. I’m sure with a little work I can liven it up.

    Thanks for the tips and reminders.
    Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. recently posted..An expert, and no book?My Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Flora–

      Glad you found this post helpful. I know it’s sometimes hard to promote ourselves in a way that feels comfortable. But, as you’ve said, with practice, the feeling fades over time. Learning how to convey your authentic self takes a bit of time, but i’ts worth it.

      All the best,

      Cheryl

  • Jevon says:

    I like the strategic point, definitely worth remembering. As for being totally honest, that’s going to be a tough one.
    Jevon recently posted..Creating Memorable CharactersMy Profile

  • Hi Cheryl, I have found the ‘about me’ page the hardest thing to write.
    I also had a personal rant on my personal development blog recently at Psyche Buzz. I do share personal stuff about myself in relation to the topic but this was totally about how I hate the commercialisation of Christmas. I’m not sure how appropriate that was but it is done now!
    Thanks for the tips. I believe that knowing your audience is crucial and story telling is something that I want to incorporate in my writing. Story telling is so powerful.

    Thanks for a great read

    Carole
    Carole Lyden recently posted..What is a blog? And why I love Rowntree’s Fruit PastillesMy Profile

    • Cheryl says:

      HI Carole–

      Glad you found the post helpful. As long as you’re comfortable with what you’ve shared in your posts, that’s all that matters. You can’t control how others react to your rants, although I know that “putting it out there” can be unnerving at times.

      Just remember that people are reading your stuff because they want to know what you think.

      Good luck!

      Cheryl

  • Thank you for contributing this article on this fabulous blog: I really enjoyed reading it.

    It is necessary to write personal accounts. Readers want to know about the real you: the man in the mirror and the woman behind the mask. Readers want to know about the story of your life, so they can connect; they want a true account, so they can relate. People want something that they can believe in.

    You want to write with brevity. Long winded commentary does not go down well with most readers. You also want to write from the heart. And yet, write only what you feel comfortable with. If you reveal too much, that could go against you. Somewhere down the line, therefore, it is necessary to draw distinctions.

    You are like a trapeze artist and walking on a fine line: you need balance, so you don’t want to go overboard. And yet, you want to create controversy without stirring up a hornet’s nest. No need to be Salman Rushdie, but there is a need to be just you. The real voice, the authentic voice, the voice of self in written format.

    People may not always agree with you. People may feel offended. In fact, some people will be offended by almost anything you write. Some people make it their mission in life to express their outrage and protest at the drop of a hat. You cannot change such people. The only person you can change, in the end, is your self.

    I think writing about your self brings an awarness about who you are and what you stand for and where you are going in the world. Writing is about self-knowledge. When you write from the core of your being, you allow the universal and timeless to shine through.

    In the process, you discover that you are really a literary artist.
    Your hidden potential is brought forth and self-expression allows you to confront the truth. And it is the truth that shall set you free. Your readers will honor you for the courage of your convictions. Cheers.

  • Cheryl says:

    Hi Archan–

    I agree that writing about yourself can bring a new awareness of who you are and what’s important to you.

    That’s why I often recommend that people who are uncomfortable writing about themselves take up journaling. I didn’t include that in this post because I recently wrote a 2 part series on How to Journal for WTD. You can read part 1 here: http://writetodone.com/2012/08/03/how-to-journal-5-tips-for-capturing-your-best-ideas-part-1-of-2/.

    Take care,

    Cheryl

  • Carmelo says:

    I never knew myself as well as I do now that I’ve written about myself. It’s funny how you discount your experiences, hide from your own truth and ignore your own talents. Even people who are brash and seem to be braggarts are really hiding from themselves so it’s not just the shy ones!

    Writing about myself on my about page and “Carmelo” page as well as my journal has really opened my eyes to see what others might see and could possibly benefit from. It’s a springboard to other benefits I can offer!

    Thanks for the tips, Cheryl
    Carmelo
    Carmelo recently posted..The Zen of Parenting Your ParentsMy Profile

  • Cheryl says:

    Hi Carmelo–

    You’re right. Writing about yourself does force you to examine, perhaps a bit more objectively, what’s happening in your life. And that’s a good–although sometimes difficult to deal with–thing. It’s almost as if putting it “out there,” in a journal or an about page or a blog post, makes it more real.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and good luck with your writing …

    Cheryl

  • Writing is easy unless I’m faced with writer’s block. However, I dread having to write about myself. I tend to write about the less interesting part of my life. Why is that? Could it be that humility gets in the way?

  • My earliest memory is Christmas morning. I’d been pestering my parents for a bike because the girl across the road had one. Now, they wanted me to believe in Santa Claus so I went along with it.

    “Do you think Santa will bring me a bike this Christmas? A red one with three wheels?”

    “OK, we’ll tell him.”

    I wasn’t sure whether they had told him or they were really getting it themselves. Anyway, I woke up this Christmas morning and raced into the dining room where the Christmas tree stood. I stood at the door and looked and looked. There on the dining table was my Christmas present, red and with three wheels.

    Dad took it down for me and Mum made sure I dressed properly before I could race it round the house and onto the footpath outside our house. Mum and Dad and Nan all stood at the front gate, in their dressing gowns, while I raced my bike up past the lane and back again. I wanted to show my friend, Jeanette, who lived across the road but Mum said it was too early. No, it wasn’t. Here came Jeanette on her bicycle and we raced each other.

    Nan and my parents went inside to get dressed to go to church. This was one of the few times we all went to church together. Soon Mum came out to tell me to come in and get changed for church. It was an effort to leave my bike behind and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t ride it to church.

    “It’s safer at home,” she said. “Your father said he would take us in the car so we can’t take your bike.”

    We often went to church by ourselves as Dad would service his car and keep an eye on the baby.

    I felt really bad about leaving my red bike behind, and then I felt good, because I was going for a ride in the car. Maybe we would stop for some ice cream but probably not as it would spoil my Christmas lunch.

    Michael P Mardel
    michaelpmarde@optusnet.com.au
    Michael Mardel recently posted..Claire of the MoonMy Profile

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