Seen

One of my goals for 2017 is to put myself “out there” more often and with greater intentionality. I’m applying for more freelance editor jobs, revamping my website and setting myself goals for freelance pitches. Plus writing my second novel with a deadline of February 28 to have that sucker ready for edits. (Eeek…when I write that down it feels crazy, but I’m gonna try!!)

I’ve been reading blog posts and a couple books, listening to smart people on podcasts give me ideas for how to extend my reach and find more clients. How to gain traction and visibility in a noisy Internet world. And time and time again, the answer is: show up.

Provide quality content on a consistent basis, absolutely. But connect with people. Reach out, build relationships, establish connections.

I listened to one woman today who said, “and don’t tell me about being introverted; I’m not asking you to get up on stage or walk into a crowded room and start talking to everybody. Small steps, small connections, one-on-one relationships.” And as I listened, I thought about how wise that was, but I also felt something deep in my gut—panic.

It wasn’t at the idea of speaking to people, not really. Yes, I’m definitely an introvert, but I lean toward the social end of the scale and I’m not afraid of people. So I couldn’t really put my finger on what was bugging me.

I thought back to when I first really discovered blogging. My kids were newborns and at the bottom of an article I’d read online was a link to the author’s blog. I typed it into my Google search bar and discovered bloggers. I voraciously read through old posts and new posts. I filled my Google Reader to the brim, discovering new voices every day it seemed. I didn’t enjoy all of them, of course, but I found some of my favourites back then. Those days and early years are filled with such sweet memories for me; I’d found people who identified with me, who knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed by the presence of little people. I found encouragement and humour and a peek into other peoples’ lives. It was inspiration for me to start my own blog, and I wrote through the first few years of my kids’ lives, finding therapy in the words I spilled on the page.

But do you know what I didn’t do?

Comment.

You remember blogging when it started. No one was posting blogs on Facebook or Twitter (which were still just babies). Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. People read blogs and then they commented. But I never, ever did. I loved those blogs so much, and I had thoughts and encouragement to give, but I never wrote anything. Why?

Because I was afraid to be seen.

It wasn’t that clear of a thought, of course, but looking back, I know that’s what it was. I know because it still happens to me. I don’t comment on a Facebook thread, or reply to a tweet, or post an Instagram story because I’m afraid to be seen. Because when I’m seen, people can make judgements or say nasty things or decide that what I’ve said or created isn’t any good.

I didn’t seek out reviewers for my first novel and I always have crazy anxiety when I ask people to buy the book or post reviews. I feel awkward when people (in real life) know I’ve written a book. Never mind a blog or a Facebook post.

I know, I’m neurotic.

I’m writing all this because I think it’s important to say it outloud, to say that I’m afraid of being seen, to speak the lie that someone else’s opinion of me matters more than my opinion of myself, or the opinion of the people who know and love me. I’m writing it because it’s holding me back, it’s letting fear keep me hostage. And I don’t want that to be true anymore.

I’m stepping out this year. In big ways and small ways, I hope. I want to give voice to my thoughts and wishes, my desires, to my work. I want to speak proudly of my work and ask for help when I need it. I will close the sale and make the pitch and remember that I have the right to do that.

I have the right to be seen.

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