the voices in my head

Self doubt is crippling.

Self doubt is worse than the exterior voices of criticism, because self doubt steals your dreams before you even get started chasing them.  Before you take the first step towards your goal, self doubt tells you that it's too far away, so you retract your foot from making that first step and stay put.  We all deal with the crippling effects of that tiny voice in the back of your head.  It tells you you can't.  You're not enough.  You aren't worthy.

I have that voice.  This is what it tells me:

You are a perfectionist.  You are a do-it-all.  You are a failure.  You have too much anxiety.  You are a bad dog-mom.  You are not enough.  You don't do enough.  You are too inflexible.  You are not an author.  You'll never write a book.  You are not not an artist.  You'll never create work worthy of being exhibited.  You don't work enough.  You are a bad wife.  You don't work hard enough.  You are lazy.  You are a bad friend.  You are too angry.  You are a free loader.  You can't do it all.  You are too selfish to ever become a mother.  You can't stand on your own two feet.  You are a fake.  You are a flake.  You are a disappointment.  You are a jack of all trades, master of none.  You are mediocre.  You are un-exceptional.

Regardless of what you want to do or what dream you want to go for, when the self-doubt starts to creep in and the familiar reel of insults come whispering in your mind from that dark place where self-doubt hides, you start to become small.  You curl up, you retract the hand that was reaching for that goal you momentarily thought you could attain.

Where does it come from?  Why does self doubt even exist?  In some ways you may have a propensity towards self doubt.  I know that my personality type tends towards neurosis, so I'm always going to be more self-critical than other people who are not as neurotic.  But regardless of psychological predispositions, our self-doubt voice is often fed and triggered by the voices of others.  You remember, vividly, the words that cut you most deeply.  They're written, like petroglyphs, on the surface of your heart, forever inscribed.  They become inserted into the reel of self-doubt that plays in your mind.  A teacher told you you'd never graduate, a girl told you you were ugly, a boy broke your heart and made you believe you were unworthy.  You're too this, not enough that.  The voices come rushing in.

When I was younger these voices were few and far between.  I experienced very few mean, rude, or critical voices, so the few lines in my self-doubt reel were pretty self induced.  But then: the internet.  The internet is full of voices, it's entirely composed of voices, opinions, screaming to be noticed.  Voices of hope, pain, anger, joy, rage, justice, peace, hate.   There's no filter to the voices.  There no gatekeeper to police which voices can chime in.  Many hide behind the veil of anonymity, too ashamed of their own voices to own up to the sentiment embodied in the sentences typed out, black letters on white, seared into their recipients' heart.  With all our lives broadcast on the internet, whether just on facebook, or on facebook, twitter, instagram, maybe on a blog, maybe on message boards or forums, we're suddenly thrust into an ocean of voices.

Step back.  Breathe.  Remember which voices matter to you.  Whose are the voices you turn to for support, critique, honest opinion, love, answers?  For me, very few of those voices which matter to me are voices which spring from the unending well of internet voices.  This doesn't mean that I don't care for the voices of readers, if that were so I'd probably do away with comments and email altogether.  And many meaningful and deep responses come from readers, whether in the form of a comment, and sometimes in heartfelt and vulnerable emails, which I cherish and make me renewed in my love for the medium of blogs.  But when it comes down to the voices I let in to my inner sanctum, the temple where my fears and doubts and hopes and joys echo, those are few.  My family.  My husband.  My lifelong friends.  The people whose trust has been built for years of truly seeing me, and truly knowing me.  Not seeing me through a laptop screen, not knowing me through blog posts.

There was a while when it was hard to let go of the critical voices pouring in from the internet.  What if they were right?  What if I am what they say?  Every online move crafted to avoid ruffling feathers and coming off the wrong way.  Every possibly controversial sentence evaluated.  Water down, water down, safe safe safe.  But then, that's not be either.  A fake plastic version of a person.  The truth is not everyone will like you.  Some might even hate you.  And that's not your problem.  All you can do is be the best human being, the best version of you, that you can be.  And if you're working towards that, what more can you do?  Let go of the voices, there are too many anyway.  Don't add their words to you self-doubt reel.  Be authentic.  Be honest.  But don't water yourself down.  "Well behaved women seldom make history" -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  Ruffle feathers, talk about the difficult things, but do it on your own terms.  Your blog is your living room.  Readers are invited in to stay a while, grab some coffee or tea, or maybe some wine, and hang out.  Get to know you.  Tell you a little bit about themselves, and feel less alone in the world, in what they're going through and what they've been through in the past.  It's your living room, though.  So don't feel obligated to let people stick around who constantly belittle you, unless you don't mind them hanging around.  Your blog is always your blog, no matter if you have 100 readers or 100,000 readers.  Your voice is never more or less important depending on how many page views you get.

Blogs are weird because they are, for the most part, written by individuals.  Magazines, even online magazines, have lots of people on staff, writing, photographing, editing and making sure everything is good to go.  Most blogs are a one man show, written, photographed and edited by a sole human who manages everything from editing photos, to being the admin contact for all emails, brand inquiries, reader questions, and more.  It's important to keep this in mind, both as a blog reader, and as a blog producer.  The oft quoted, "Comparison is the thief of joy" is something I try to keep in mind constantly as a blogger, simply because it's so easy to slip into thinking that my xyz isn't as good as so and so's xyz, and then placing a low value on myself or my own work.  That mindset will cripple your ability to create.

The following are a few things I've realized over the last 5 years of blogging.  Some things might ring true, some things you might not agree with, and that's okay because humans are different.

A blog is not a diary.
A diary is where someone spills her guts and reveals every deep dark secret.  Unless you have a private livejournal-type blog, a diary is not what a blog is.  If you choose to publish your diary online, you might be insane. Or Amanda Bynes.  I've written an online diary before (oh hai xanga!).  It had privacy settings up the wazoo and only one, maybe two people could access it to read it.  I shared intimate private things, that were extremely vulnerable.  Hell no am I going to share my diary with readers.  If you think a blog is a diary, you are sorely mistaken.  Bloggers do their best to be vulnerable with readers because it truly creates amazing connections between human beings, which is incredibly important, but there's a difference between carefully curated vulnerability and word-vomit, perhaps alcohol and tear induced vulnerability.  This doesn't mean bloggers are hiding things to keep readers out... no wait, yes it does.  Readers are not owed access to a stranger's every life detail.  That's weird.  Bloggers share what they want to share for a reason.  Sometimes we can share very intimate things, just not right when it's happening because we need to process it and be able to write about it in a way that is healthy, and hopefully helpful in some way to those reading.

 If a blog is monetized, the blogger makes money off of it.
Which means people pay her to either put an ad in the sidebar, write a post about/including a product, wear/feature an item in a post, do a giveaway, etc.  Sometimes the blogger will make commissions off of affiliate links, which means she makes money if you buy something after clicking that link.  If this bothers readers, they can either get over it and continue enjoying the content the blogger creates free of charge , or stop reading.  If a reader feels that the blogger's honesty and content has been compromised by the decision to take on sponsors, she can either choose to tell the blogger in a constructive, concerned way, or she can move on and read other blogs whose monetization, or lack thereof, doesn't bother her.

Don't mistake your assumptions of a bloggers motives with what her actual motive are.
If you are mad that a blogger made her relationship seem perfect, and then all of a sudden announced a break-up, don't assume you are right in thinking her motive in creating a false reality on her blog was in order to fool everyone into thinking her life was full of roses and sunshine.  Could it be perhaps that she was trying to make herself believe everything was going well, because coming to terms with the end of a long term relationship hurts like hell?  Who doesn't want to believe everything will end up all right?  This is just one example, but others include making assumptions about a bloggers financial situation, her past, her psychological condition/state, etc.  It's the pinnacle of arrogance to think the motive you attribute to a person's actions are hard and fast truth.  Unless you are in the trenches with that person in her daily life, don't purport to be an expert on her every action's impetus, or why she's sharing the things she chooses to share on her blog.  You never know the entire story, so don't fill in the blanks with your own imagination, or if you do so, at least acknowledge that you are creating a fictional character.

You don't owe anyone anything.
A blog is not the same as a magazine, in most cases.  Readers aren't paying a subscription to receive access to a blog. Readers are being invited to share in whatever the blogger decides she wants to share that day.  They probably expect the blogger to post certain types of things after being a reader for a while, but if the blogger decides to shift her content and they don't like it, that's not the blogger's problem.  If she loses so many readers that no one wants to sponsor her anymore and can't make a living off the blog, then it's in her court to decide what to do.  If she feels that her new shifted content is honest and true to herself, then maybe she has to get another job to make up for the loss of income from her blog.  But she doesn't owe readers content which she no longer feels genuine posting.  She doesn't owe readers her happiness and personal growth in exchange for the content they desire or expect.  If Vogue starts filling their magazine with content about bull riding in the middle of your subscription, you can certainly get mad, because you knew you were paying Vogue to provide you with specific, fashion based content.  If a blogger's life changes, and as a result, her content, it's not the same thing.

A blog is written by a human being with real feelings, pain, psychological disorders, screwed up childhood, relationships, joys, emotions, neuroses... need I go on?
Blogs are not written by robot Martha Stewart supermodel stepford wives.  Even if it appears and feels like it is written by such a creature, I assure you it is not.  Just because you feel like the blogger is a Martha Steward supermodel stepford wife robot, doesn't mean that the blogger has no feelings, pain, psychological disorders, emotions... etc.  Anything you say to a blogger is said to a real live human being who has feelings, just like you do.  Anything you say to a blogger, imagine saying to your best friend, your daughter, your husband, your wife, etc.  A blogger is just as real as those people in your life, even if it doesn't seem like it because the internet is weird and seeing someone on a computer screen doesn't seem the same as talking face to face.

 A blog is written by a real live human being who choses to share her inspiration, struggles, and beautiful, sometimes ugly life with strangers.  It's scary, but so many bloggers do it so incredibly well and that's why we keep on coming back to read more.  The reason I started blogging was because I found this amazing community of inspirational women and I wanted to share in that.  I was totally inspired.  It's a daily pleasure to get emails letting me know that now some people are similarly inspired by my blog!  What I get out of reading blogs I can't replace with magazines.  With magazines I don't get to follow someone's life and style through getting married, having a kid, having another kid, moving cross country, discovering new life dreams and chasing new and long-term goals.  When I think about where some of the bloggers were when I "met" them, and where they are now, it blows my mind!  I would never get that from any kind of other publication.  And the best part is that I actually have real relationships with some of these bloggers.  Not only have we chatted online, we've been able to meet and hang out in real life.

A blog is a peek into someone's life.  A peek.  And it's weird because we read this person's story every day.  We know what is happening (or at least what they've shared), and we feel connected to them.  The thing I hear most in emails or at blog meet ups is how creepy it is to meet a blogger and know all about their life, but they know nothing about yours.  It's weird but every blogger knows that that's how it works.  It's not creepy to know things about a blogger who you meet, that's just how it works.  Bloggers don't think readers are creepy for knowing things about them which they share with the entire universe via the web.  It would be creepy if you somehow became friends with my brothers on facebook and asked them a bunch of personal history questions about me, and then met me and talked about those things... so far that hasn't happened to me.

happy hour

I already had part of this post written, sitting in my drafts, when Hilary contacted me asking if I'd like to write something for her Happy Hour Blog Tour.  It was the perfect excuse to finish it up and send it out into the world.  The Happy Hour Blog Tour is a 30 day tour de blogs, if you will, corresponding with the launch of Hilary's new book, The 4 Part Entrepreneur Cocktail. She describes it as, "the book, tribe and toolkit I wish I’d had when I first launched my blog and business just over two years
ago. Today there are so many women who desire to be bloggers and entrepreneurs, which means they’re looking to us -- those of us who are already doing it -- for a glimpse of what could be, and whether they’d love and thrive in the experience.
" It launches on Dec. 17 so keep an eye out if it sounds like something you're interested in!

Check out Taylor's HHBT post from yesterday, and head over to Katie's blog tomorrow to see her post! For a list of all the HHBT bloggers, head here!