If you're reading this as an artist, keep going. If you're reading this as an art supporter... this is going to blow all your previous assumptions about your career-artist friends out the window.
Most people don't have to do what full-time artists do on a regular basis to make money, so it's our duty as artists to teach them and help them understand without getting impatient or irritable (simply avoided by eating breakfast). In order to get anywhere with any form of original art we need to tell people about it. You can't be the secret, cool celebrity smoking a cigar in the corner until you've run around handing out flyers (or had someone else do it for you) and worked tirelessly at jobs that may make you check into a local hospital. Weekly. (But it's o.k., you'll make friends with the doctors that will later treat your lung cancer from all the celebrity cigars that you'll be smoking.)
Let me say that I think it really helps to learn how to promote yourself, yourself. It is incredibly empowering (I suggest Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking but I also suggest that she eventually invest in shirts). At first I had someone promote a lot of my music for me, and like a true perfectionist, I didn't like how they were doing it. When I had to take it on myself it was difficult initially, but after some practice it made my art, and my character, stronger. <---- Growth in Character Strength... goooood.
Here's how I got to the point of truly not caring about how people react to me. I LOVE making people feel good, and I definitely am respectful of someone's time, privacy and peace and quiet (I'll be peace, I'll be quiet- What About Bob). But I also have something that I respect about myself. My art. And I believe, based on very emotional audience testimonials, that it will make people happy if they give it a chance. I think if we start looking at our art without attaching it to ourselves personally all the time we can start to really help it grow. Forget how you will be perceived by others. Where do you want your art to go? If you want to expand your audience then you need to push your art with some force. Truthfully, if you respect your art, than you'll help it grow (and you should want to grow it, nothing likes to stay Frozen In Time).
It just so happens that your art includes your brand which includes your physical form (and your ego), so it can easily feel very feather-fluffing-ish. It has taken me a while not to feel this way, but now I honestly separate my "soul" from the brand (by the way, branding is not a bad thing, it helps people from all cultures understand who you are and what you do). So if someone attacks your brand, you don't take it personally, it's just the brand they're attacking... or you could think of it as they're attacking the "business" (like getting your LLC sued). Say, "Hey, that's no problem, I didn't realize this brand pissed you off so much. Let me buy you a coffee, human-to-human."
I think this is a really important lesson for many artists, especially the super-sensitive ones. Most people have a business with a brand that doesn't have their face on it (even the worker bees working on Timberlake's promotion don't have their face on the promotions) and, if the business does (in the case of real-estate), it's usually offering a "service" that is more of a life-necessity in the eyes of society than art is. [At some point, PUSHING YOUR ART WILL INEVITABLY LOOK LIKE YOU'RE ASKING EVERYONE FOR A FAVOR. Get outta that mindset. It's not a favor, it's a service, and in my opinion, a service with more value than real-estate. Our culture NEEDS to value art more, help it get there by pushing your art and your friend's art.]
So the problem with having your face on a billboard or on a flyer that you hand out is that people mistake good business for artistic ego. No one looks at a real-estate agent and says, "Dude, your head on that bus bench makes me think that you're just trying to get more clients." Of course they're trying to get more clients, and so are you. There's no shame in that. In fact, there's shame if you don't do that because you're letting your art down by half-assing it and making it yet another "hobbie." (I gotta tell you, almost a decade of thinking about this one, I could do with a few less hobbyists in the world COMPETING in my full-commitment realm. Real-estate doesn't have to compete with hobby real-estate agents. I mean, come on. Commit to art or pick something else.)
Keeping this all in mind, you really won't feel bothered by malicious comments, negative reactions or people wrongly assuming the extent of your ego anymore. To top it off, I'll put the cliché, remember where it's coming from, another way: Remember that people sometimes forget to eat breakfast and they're really friggin overwhelmed because they've recently adopted in a dog that may or may not have worms because the worm medicine was too hard to use so they were only able to administer half of it but it all got lost in the mix because an intense decision had to be made about their super stressful job before they went into the hospital and had to sit next to that cigar-smoking-living-in-the-past celebrity. Again.
If someone is a total jerk to me, chances are, they misunderstood my intent because of a previous incident that day or a previous understanding of my field. My intent is that I want to share something with them that I think they'll really enjoy. My ultimate challenge is to have people see the true intent as early in the conversation as possible, but more often than not I find it doesn't resonate above the sound of their growling stomach. Which brings me to another blog post for a later day, "understanding what 'no' really means."
Go after what you want, with ruthless compassion. You won't step on people's toes until you do. And when you do, just respond the same way that you do when you're dancing, "My apologies, I did not mean to step on your toes, I was only trying to dance."