Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blogging Shame

The other day I was somewhere (won't say where to protect the innocent) with a bunch of people from around town - some I knew, some I didn't know at all.

A woman was taking me around and introducing me to people. I couldn't place this woman's face,  but knew we must have met before in some context because she was so comfortably friendly with me, and was asking after the kids, how I was feeling, etc. I was embarrassed I didn't remember her, so I was hiding that the whole time she was taking me around I was thinking; how on earth do I know this woman? 

We approached one woman I was certain I had never seen before (I would have remembered her stunning beauty) and as we shook hands the 'introducer' said to the other woman, "you know her - she's One Crafty Mother".

"OH!" said the stunning woman. "It's so nice to finally meet you in person!"

Some strange, strangled noise escaped from my throat, and I mumbled some pathetic response, "Um, yeah, yes! That's me."  She proceeded to talk to me about how much one aspect of my blog has helped a family member of hers, and said she was a long-time reader but never had "the guts" to comment.

I never, ever know what to do in these situations.  I instantly feel ashamed - which I find really intriguing. You'd think I'd be flattered, maybe, or grateful that someone likes my blog?  But the first feeling to leap to the surface is a gut-sinking shame.

Who do you think you are, the shame tells me. Here she is saying how much she likes your writing and you don't deserve a word of it.

Why? Why is that? Is it because as women we are all too often programmed to fade into the background, keep our secrets and feelings, even our accomplishments, neatly tucked under our skirts (or yoga pants, as the case may be).  How can I feel so passionately about vulnerability, spreading the word about addiction, recovery and speaking about my cancer journey and then have this strong shame reaction when someone says it helps them?

Usually, when I'm face to face with people who know me as "One Crafty Mother" I'm at a blogging conference, and referring to people as their blog or twitter name is a common, if not bizarre, tactic.  It's how we know each other, and it doesn't feel weird at all.

When I'm around town, though, it feels really odd to be known as "One Crafty Mother".  I know lots of local people read my blog - I want that, and I don't get to pick and choose who reads it.  It's my choice to put myself out there, and when I push past shame of course I'm glad people are reading, of course I'm glad it's helping.  So why do I feel like making myself so small when confronted with it face to face?

It was the same after I lost all the weight - people would tell me I looked great and I'd feel shame.  Like I was showing off or something, instead of pride that I had worked damn hard to shed over 65 lbs.  Instead of saying "thank you", I'd mumble some idiotic lie like 'it's not that big of a deal', or 'I still have a ways to go', just to minimize my accomplishment.

That shameful, embarrassed person resides in me as much as the writer who feels passionately about being open, honest and vulnerable about her journeys - whether through addiction, weight loss, grief, cancer or spirituality.

It's a dichotomy I'm having a hard time getting my mind around.  I wonder if I should have blogged anonymously - kept my identity a secret - but then I realize the fact that people know me, as a real person, makes it easier to identify with my story.

Sometimes I get into a spiral where I think: why are you doing this? why are you out there writing about all this if you feel this shame when you meet someone face to face and they COMPLIMENT you? 

I think, when I'm able to be somewhat objective about it, it's because I never, ever want to appear like I'm grand-standing, showing off, or acting like I've got it all figured out.  When someone compliments me - even though they're not saying "Wow, Ellie, have YOU got it all figured out" - I feel like somehow I am making a bigger deal out of myself than I deserve.  What they are saying, usually, is "I identified with what you wrote; I feel the same way".

And THAT is why I write. To cultivate a sense of togetherness, community, a we're-not-in-it-alone-ness.  Women can be hard on each other.  I hear more gossipy talk putting other people down than I hear people building each other up.  I like the cracks in people, the fragile parts, the human-ness.  We don't usually sit around having coffee and talking about our fragile parts, the ways we feel we don't measure up. To compensate, we either put others down or we brag.

I am so fearful of appearing like a bragger that I don't even know how to take a compliment.

If you live around town and we meet, it's okay to refer to me as One Crafty Mother, or tell me you know me through my blog.  Clearly, I need some practice simply saying "Hello, nice to meet you!" or how about just plain "Thank you!" when you tell me you like my writing?

If you don't like me or my writing, though, please feel free to keep it to yourself, or just gossip about it with others.  I'm not THAT healthy, yet.

Yet.

~~~~


And speaking of vulnerability, if you haven't read Jane's post below for the first installment of "Truthful Tuesday", please do.  And comment if you can - it means so much to get comments when you bare your soul so bravely, like she did.   Thank you. 

31 comments:

  1. I feel exactly the same way when I get connected to my blog in a non-bloggy context. I suddenly feel like the relationship is unbalanced. That person knows so much more about me and about my opinions than I know about them. I start wondering what I may have shared that would be too personal, what I might have said that could offend them, and so on. It just feels like they are looking into this window on my life and my brain while keeping their tightly guarded.

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    1. Yes, I feel that way too, Annie... and then the shame comes in again because I think "well, it's YOUR choice to be out there or not.... " Bottom line, I guess, is I'd rather be out there than not, because I keep blogging. :)

      -Ellie

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  2. I have friends that have introduced me as a 'blogger' and I'm not at all sure how I feel about that. Worse, people then ask what my blog is about - uhm, me and my life mostly, it's not that interesting really.
    But apparently there are some people out there who do find me interesting. I'm not at all sure how to handle that. So good to hear others feel the same way.

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    1. Becky - one of the reasons I did this post is because I know SO many bloggers who feel that push/pull with being known in "real" life as a blogger .. and I wonder why that is? When I'm typing away behind the safety of my screen I feel just fine (sometimes even proud) about what I'm doing. When I'm confronted with it face to face it makes me downright itchy. I don't feel that way about speaking engagements at conferences or being on panels, though, because then I'm in the "blogging world" and so I don't feel that feet-shuffling need to kind-of-sort-of explain myself.

      It's weird. I'm glad I'm not the only one, too.

      -xo

      -Ellie

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  3. I think this is a case of ‘practice makes perfect’ . . . it’s so weird to tell people that I’m a writer, or I blog, or to hear what they think of the writing (cause I quite often assume they are being polite), but the more it happens the easier it feels. Good on you for welcoming the name of One Crafty Mother, even despite feeling odd. Why not? It’s part of who you are, and what you do well.

    Catherine

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. I like what you say about "practice makes perfect" because my first instinct is almost always to hide, despite how much I babble on here about facing fear.. when I comes to blogging it's still a work in progress. :)

      -xo

      -Ellie

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  4. I know exactly what you feel..I am always minimizing myself to seem "less". I am not sure that I will ever get past that, but baby steps, right?

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    1. Yes. Baby Steps. I just watched your LTYM video on you blog. Whoa. I cannot wait to meet you in person! Not long now!

      -xo

      -Ellie

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  5. I feel embarrassed when people tell me they read my blog. And shocked, since I figure it's mostly my Mom and her friends who read. I feel even more embarrassed when someone calls me a writer...

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    1. I have actually practiced saying "I am a writer" with authority, so when someone asks me it doesn't come out, "I am a writer?" Like I'm asking for their permission or something. I wish sometimes I was one of those women who just seems to unapologetically (sp?) set the world on fire one accomplishment at a time. My sheepish-ness isn't false modesty, either. It's genuine sheepish-ness. Now I'm making up words all over the place, so I'll stop. :)

      -xo

      -Ellie

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  6. I have felt this exact same way when people have said things to me about "standing by my man," or "being responsible for his recovery," after my husband's massive stroke 12 years ago. In truth, I HATED EVERY MINUTE OF IT, and I just wanted to run away and hide during the entire 2 year ordeal! So having people tell me what a loyal spouse I was always made me feel ashamed. Isn't this an interesting phenomenon? molly

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    1. It's almost like "inspirational reluctance", isn't it? Maybe this some kind of previously undiagnosed syndrome. We'll be talking about this a little at CA12, Molly, and I'll be interested, as always, in your insights.

      -xoxo

      -Ellie

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  7. As you say, you write to develop a sense of community. I apologize for being presumptious, but since I am a psychologist and not a sociologist, I think you also write to discover/gain awareness/heal something inside as well - perhaps to bring into awareness and wholeness the complex inner relationship you have with yourself. And you do that so well I could see how at times you would feel quite exposed (itchy?)... it's a bit like doing therapy, but in public. In fact, your quest for self-awareness spills out of your posts in wonderful ways. I hope that along with working on humbly accepting compliments from others with a "thank you," what's happening internally is just as powerful. That judgmental, self-condemning voice is losing it's hold on you and shrinking away. It's a privelege to get to read along and watch that journey unfold.

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    1. Steve -

      Not presumptuous at all. You're spot on with the fact that I write to discover/gain self-awareness, etc. I guess I worry (b/c of the people pleasing) that it will be misconstrued as so-much navel gazing (which it is, to a degree) but I think a large part of my journey is learning to write what is in my heart and not b/c it is something I think people will want to read. Sometimes I'm good at that, sometimes not so much, but I know the practice of it is good for me, and I do feel it spill over into my day-to-day life. Sometimes. :)

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  8. I get that - totally. I've always had it, even before I started blogging. Usually then it was because of my musical abilities - I've been told my voice sounds like Karen Carpenter's. (Blows me away every time when someone tells me ... even though I know it does. How's that for bragging?!)

    And with the singing thing, I had to work on and practice saying thank you, not deflecting. It helped me to realize that when I deflect someone's praise or minimize it, I'm making them feel undervalued because I am basically telling them, "What you think doesn't have value." Like when someone compliments you and you slap them or something.

    It's the same with blogging /writing. I know I write well; I know I have a gift - yet when people tell me about it, I feel embarrassed and exposed. It's a matter of being comfortable inside my own skin, of accepting that the gifts I have, while I employ them, did not originate with me and that I can be as grateful as the next person for them. That, however, is a process I'm still growing into. :)

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    1. Judy - REALLY good points here, thank you. I never thought it that way, and what you say helps me a lot (as usual!!!)

      Thank you so much.

      -xo

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    2. Yes, I was taught that when someone offers you a compliment, they are offering a gift from themselves. And when you are given a gift (whether you like it or not!) you say thank you! You are thanking them for their thought and kindness in saying it, for their openness in saying how they feel, and for the positive intent with which it is said.

      When you compliment someone else, as you just did with Judy above, think about how *you* intended it, and know that others have similar feelings when they say positive things about *you.*

      {{Hugs}} Beautiful writing, as always!

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    3. You are so wise, my friend. Here's me just saying "thank you" for your lovely comment. :) See? I'm learning ALREADY.

      -xoxo

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  9. Ellie, I live in a town that neighbors yours and have actually seen you 'around town.' I didn't dare stop you to say hi and tell you I read your blog, because I felt like a voyeur. So it works both ways!

    I am almost three years sober, with a story somewhat like yours - SAHM whose problem snuck up and bit me in the arse. I saw you on Oprah about a week or so into my sobriety and have followed your blog ever since. Thank you for the inspiration, I've been 'with' you through a rough few years.

    Sarah

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    1. Hi Sarah!

      Next time, please say "hi!" Don't let this post scare you off - this is more about me having a hard time taking compliments and feeling unworthy of praise than that I don't want people saying hello to me or introducing themselves. I've made some FANTASTIC friends around town simply because of my blog, so I hope to meet you one day, too!! Thank you for all your lovely words, and on your sobriety. It's always a pleasure to meet a sobah sistah!

      -xo

      -Ellie

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    1. OMG. I love how my phone just told me "Your Arm has left you a comment".

      My arm can't wait to see its pair in a WEEK.

      -xoxo

      -E.

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  11. And now I'm feeling shame that I don't feel this way.

    I'm always thrilled someone knows me from my blog.

    Still a newbie, I guess.

    You are much kinder, humbler, than I am.

    I love being recognized.

    And complimented.

    And now ashamed that I love that.

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    1. I LOVE that you're proud of your blog, your writing, your words. You should be!! I could learn from you. You are one of the kindest, most humble people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting (and reading) and I think it's awesome that you wave your flag high for the world to see.

      -xo

      -Ellie

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  12. Dear Ellie,
    I live in your town and also feel like I know you through your blog, even though we haven't met. I'd feel funny approaching you feeling "hey, I know all about you...". But if I had the nerve I'd want to tell you how much you have helped me get through one the hardest, darkest periods of my life. My spouse is an addict, now in recovery. When I found out about the problem ("hello denial"), then found your blog ("hello grace") I felt like there was someone like me who had been through hell and made it back. Please believe me when I tell you that because of your honesty, your vulnerability you were a beacon of hope for me. I felt so much less alone. I too wish more people could talk about the cracks in their "trying to appear perfect" lives. But that doesn't happen, no one wants to show the ugly parts so those of us going through hell feel compelled to keep it in and act like we've got it figured out. You gave me hope. Hope that people can get a handle on their addiction and get their life back. Hope that there are people around me who are real, who have problems and are trying just as hard as me to live a good life. Thank you a million times.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and tell me that my words have helped. I didn't anticipate this when I wrote this post, but it's giving me good practice in saying, simply "Thank you!".

      I hope you'll introduce yourself if we ever bump into each other - please don't be shy about saying hi. As I said above - I've made some fantastic friends this way, so I hope to meet you one day.

      -xo

      -Ellie

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  13. I know this feeling. It happens with many of my local friends and acquaintances and even my family (mostly extended). One of my friends (who I didn't even think really read my blog) said to me outright the other day, "Elaine, you should write a book." I personally thinks she's crazy but it was really cool to hear her say that.

    In other words I get this. And I agree, we need to hold our blogging heads high and take the compliments the best way we know how.

    xo

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    1. First of all - your friend is right, you SHOULD write a book (in your spare time, right?). You are so talented and warm and lovely and expressive and awesome.

      It helps to know that you get what I'm saying, though - that I'm not the only one. :)

      Thank you for that.

      -xo

      -E.

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  14. Oh how my heart gets this.

    I love that you wrote this and I love that we're all in this together and I so, so need to practice not just the graceful thank you, but the non-minimizing actions and feelings.

    Le sigh.

    Hold my hand and I'll hold yours?

    Love this one, Ellie, so very much.

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