"I saw your blog..."
Those four simple words are sure to set my nerves on edge. My first thoughts usually are, what if they hated it? What if they judge me for what I wrote? Or even, what if they laugh at me? That's the strange self-talk that goes through my head when the words I wrote sitting alone, get brought up in person.
Writing is an act of vulnerability. It requires me to open myself up to judgment, criticism, and others misinterpreting what I meant. In a conversation, I can gradually express myself while looking for positive affirmation from others, but in writing, I just have to put it out there!
So why continue to write? As a natural introvert, I would undoubtedly be more comfortable not sharing so publicly. But I believe discomfort provides the opportunity to gain a better understanding of myself and grow as an individual.
That said, I have also found a few coping mechanisms to make it easier to take those first steps into discomfort.
Find a reason for sharing that doesn't require external validation.
Most of us value external validation too highly. The lack of external recognition or one critical opinion can really knock our confidence. All my reasons for writing are for my own personal development, not for others, and that puts success or failure in my control.
Recognise positive, as well as negative feedback.
I have a tendency to focus on negative feedback. I thought this was in a quest for improvement, but without recognising the positive equally, there's a danger I will sabotage my own progress. I've received far more positive than negative feedback about this blog, and I'm sure you would experience the same. Ensure you recognise the positive equally, rather than getting too hung up on the negative.
Remember the value you are providing to those who may be silent.
The vast majority of those that read don't comment, like, or respond. Most readers are passive, so it's hard to know how valuable what we share is to them. The critics may be vocal, but there may be many more who silently find value in your work.
Ultimately, everyone struggles with being vulnerable. We censor ourselves, talk around the point and keep people, experiences, and unsafe situations at arms' length. We instinctively protect ourselves, and this act of protection can stunt our growth.
Choosing to be open and vulnerable is scary, but the value it can bring to yourself and others is immeasurable. Part of my journey is testing my ability to share my fear in this post. Part of your journey will be working through whatever issues come up for you. Just know that you are not alone.
Be brave and share openly.