I'm back from the Blissdom blogging conference in Nashville, and I want to do a post about what it was like, but I'm struggling.
There was just so much, most of it interesting only to me. I have started and stopped this post about four times. I'm stuck.
Conference wrap-up posts are tricky, primarily entertaining to those who were there, and mildly frustrating to those who weren't.
Instead of doing a play-by-play of my six days away, I guess I'll talk about what I learned - about myself, about blogging, about friendship.
One of the highlights of the trip was Brene Brown's opening keynote speech. I've talked about Brene's message here a lot, so I won't paraphrase her entire talk, but there was one point she made that hit me like a punch in the gut, and encapsulates so many of the conflicting emotions I feel about blogging, about success, about these conferences, about myself.
Tears streamed silently down my face as I realized: yes, that's it exactly.
I was preparing to speak on a panel later that afternoon. My stomach was a roiling sea of nerves, and my mind kept flip-flopping between two trains of thought. One moment I'd think, you have no business being up there, those other bloggers have so many more readers than you, have been doing this longer, have really made a splash in the world. In other words: you're not worthy. Moments later the tape would change, and I'd think: check your motives, Ellie - you're so wrapped up in yourself, you're getting swept away by the attention, you're afraid of blowing it because your precious Ego needs you to be perfect. Also known as: who do you think you are?
I listened to Brene's talk with tears streaming down my face and realized I was trapped by shame, so consumed with image and worthiness that I lost sight of the real reason I was there: to spread the word about Crying Out Now, to talk - ironically - about how women putting a voice to their shame and fear has changed their lives forever.
It's not about me at all, I realized. It never was.
Blogging conferences are full of conflicting emotions. Here we are - finally - among others who get it, who understand blogging and who can talk about it endlessly (as opposed to 'real' life, where most of the time when you say you blog you get a blank stare and a disinterested,"Oh" in response), who can offer genuine, first-hand advice and support. And yet, what was a primary topic of conversation? Worthiness.
Smaller bloggers felt overwhelmed by bigger bloggers with tens of thousands of readers who appear to glide through these conferences effortlessly, surrounded by friends and fans. Bigger bloggers felt overwhelmed by peoples' response to them, by the responsibility they feel for peoples' impressions of them in real-life, as opposed to from behind the safety of the computer screen.
And then there are those of us in the middle - like me - who wring their existential hands and wonder about their place in this world, about how success is measured - is it numbers of readers? is it quality of content? is it making money off your blog? is it attracting sponsors? is it quality writing? Do I do any of those things well?
I'm here because of the friendships I have made, to wallow in the warmth and laughter their love brings into my life. I'm here to make new friends, to clink souls with someone I otherwise never would have known.
I'm here to learn from people who have walked the path before me, not to be intimidated by their success. If a blogger is doing something really well, if she has something I want, I don't want to feel resentment or unworthiness, I want to learn from her, to have the courage to meet her and tell her I think she is amazing. Her success is no threat to me; it's a big world and we all have space to spread our wings and fly.
My definition of success is genuine connections with other people, the courage to be vulnerable, the ability to stay open and true to my voice, my story.
I'll leave you with one last quote from Brene Brown's keynote speech:
"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do."
It's your story. Go tell it.