Let’s go. This is number seven in our weekly series on how to take some of the scary out of blogging (or of anything else).
In case you want to catch up (you totally don’t have to), here are the rest of the posts:
Part 1. What if people are mean to me?
Part 2. What if I throw a party and no one shows up?
Part 3. Why even bother when there are already other people doing it better?
Part 4. What do I saaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?
Part 5. Help! Perfectionism! Gaaaaak!
Part 6. But I’m not an EXPERT!
Dramatic Voiceover Voice: “Previously on Blogging Therapy … ”
Right. So if you were here last time, we figured out that people actually want to relate to you.
In other words, showing up and being a real live human being with issues and fears and worries is a good thing.
And that triggered some serious “but I don’t want to be vulnerable!” and “but I can’t be vulnerable!” stuff that we all have.
You know how it is … you don’t want to be laughed off the internet or anything. Heaven forfend. And because — seriously — being honest about your imperfections is pretty damn terrifying.
Let’s talk about that. Who knows? Maybe we can soften this whole vulnerability thing up — make it a little less daunting and a little more attractive.
And anyway, if this is an issue that comes up with writing, it’s going to come up in every other part of your life as well. I know. Yuck. Sorry.
Vulnerable?! I’d rather walk on coals while poking myself with sharp objects.
We really, really need a better word for this.
There’s a reason you don’t feel like being vulnerable. And it’s also okay that you don’t feel like it. Why would you?!
I mean, it can be kind of an icky, uncomfortable word.
If I were going to do some linguistic mapping to chart out my own, personal associations with the world, some of them would definitely be negative. Like this:
vulnerable = [+ can be wounded] [+ weak] [+ helpless] [+ no protection]
Ugh. Right? So yeah, who wants that? On the other hand, there’s a bunch of completely different — and contradictory — stuff packed in there too.
The paradox of vulnerability.
Turns out there’s also power in vulnerability.
And beauty. And tenderness.
The kind of transparent openness that lets light through and draws admiration.
A hidden strength that comes from being tough enough and brave enough and secure enough to show a little softness and share something that is true.
And that’s what we want to access. The good parts. The internal reserves of strength that we need in order to be able to relate to the people who need us the most.
So if we want to shift this concept of vulnerability from a place of weakness and fear to one of power and solace, we have two choices:
First, to decide that from now on: vulnerability = strength. To remind ourselves that only a super strong person could be so human.
Or second, to replace the word itself. To talk about “humanity” or “open-ness” or “transparency” instead of calling it vulnerability.
I’m going to leave this choice up to you. Just decide. And while you’re deciding … let me make my main point.
Pay attention because this is absolutely my main point.
What I’m about to say is so important that I’m going to make a big deal about it through the magic of typographic emphasis:
The best way to convince people that you are capable of helping them is to demonstrate that you understand their pain.
If you truly want to help your right people (and of course you do), they need to trust that you understand what they’re going through.
All their hurt. All their fear. All their resistance.
That you know it. That you may be further along in the process of moving beyond it, but you sure as heck remember what it’s like.
You just can’t do that without showing a little skin. Just a little. Just enough.
Your humanity — your “hey, look at me, I’m a real live human being”-ness — has to be allowed to shine through, or no one will believe that you can help.
And that would be tragic.
Can we get an example with that?
Look at Naomi “fansocks” Dunford. She’s a genius businesswoman who teaches people with tiny home businesses how to make them work and be totally successful (yes, you should look at Online Business School because it’s the best thing ever).
She’s a brilliant copywriter and a terrific writer in general.
But her most popular posts are not the ones about how to make money or how to write copy or anything like that.
Naomi’s most popular posts are about how terrified she is and her fear that “doing what I love is a fabulous sparkly present and I’m stomping on it daily“.
Oh, and that time she accidentally did a topless video conference call with a client.
She’s written about being a highschool drop out and being on welfare and living in a homeless shelter and losing her baby. And all sorts of things that most of us can’t even imagine happening, never mind telling anyone about.
And my point is not that being honest about her pain and fear hasn’t hurt Naomi’s business.
It’s that it’s only helped her business. By a lot.
I can totally vouch for this too.
I’ve written about starting this business with my last twenty euros. About the second worst summer of my life. And about being scared of increasingly ridiculous things. I’ve also completely fallen apart in public here, more than once.
It has not hurt my business in the slightest. Just the opposite.
Actually, I’ll let you in on a secret. But first I have to tell you that I have the best coaching clients in the world. Super high quality. People who are smart and creative and funny.
Are they stuckified? Yeah, that’s why they come to me. But they’re amazing people to work with and I love them all madly. We have fun. And we have crazy breakthroughs together.
You know why? Because they trust me completely.
And you know why they trust me? Because they know that I get it. Because of the vulnerability thing. I have shared so much crap with them here that they know that I know about their pain and how it works.
They know I’m not going to try to talk them out of it or tell them that they have no right to feel bad. They know I understand just how miserable it is. And I do.
That is the power of being human and vulnerable out loud with your readers.
How to get started with this whole “being all human and stuff” practice:
1. Tiptoe in. You don’t have to start with the awful. Just share some of what you’re really thinking and feeling once in a while.
2. You can absolutely practice being human without sharing the most awful, tragic humiliations of your lifetime. It’s not like your first post (or your hundredth) needs to be about your ten year struggle with alcoholism.
3. Express genuine feelings. Not “life is so unfair” but “I look at all this stuff happening in my life and I’m feeling anxious. I’m finding myself really needing some reassurance and not always knowing where to get it.”
4. Model the process. If sharing things is terrifying, maybe that’s what you share. If you’re in a tough spot and you’re processing it by writing your way through it, show us what that’s like and how it’s helping you.
So that we fellow human-beings-with-issues-of-our-own can find solace and comfort in watching you work through the hard.
One last worry?
If all this processing stuff seems like it might be a little time-consuming, I hear ya. I know that a lot of the people who have written to me about why they’re never going to start a blog have mentioned the “I don’t have the time for it” bit.
We’ll be talking about that next week.
In the meantime, I’d love it if you’d just start noticing what it is you love about the blogs and websites you love. I’ll bet that with most of them it’s not because of their distance — it’s because of their closeness.
And maybe just the realization that being all human and stuff is valuable and possible and even kind of attractive — for some weird reason we’ll never understand — maybe that will be enough.
And if not?
And if not, that’s where you are right now.
Not the end of the world. You’ll just keep practicing at your own pace, right?
Tomorrow: complete and utter goofiness. You know I’m in the middle of moving, right? Next Tuesday: the whole “but blogging is too time-consuming” thing. See ya when I see ya.