Monday, January 31, 2011

The (Un) Wrap-Up from Blissdom

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.

She said shame has two tapes - two story lines we play over and over in our heads.   The first one is "I'm not worthy" and the second one is "Who do you think you are?"

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. 

Later that afternoon, when I opened my mouth to speak, I felt utterly calm.   I felt vulnerable, I felt fearful, but it didn't matter because there was one thing I didn't feel:   shame.   

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? 

After hearing Brene speak I turned off the tape, hit eject and let it all go.   I escaped into my room and thought about what matters to me, and the answer is simple:   connection.   I don't care about how many people are reading.   When I'm around bloggers with tens of thousands of readers it's easy to lose sight of that.    Unworthiness is a cheap, easily accessible emotion for me.   I slip into it like a comfortable pair of slippers, and I lose sight of why I'm here.  

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.

We have to push through shame and fear to discover our own heart-song, our own inner light.   If we don't work through vulnerability, we fall too easily into the trap of finding worthiness by cutting other people down, by comparing instead of identifying.

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.


  1. I think you struck the perfect balance between writing so those of us who were there remember and also so those who weren't could benefit. I hearted this. God Bless.

  2. *soul clink*

    Love this. Love you.

  3. Fantastic. This struck a real chord. Thank you.

  4. I'm so happy to have met you! And thanks to KLZ for introducing me to you.

    You are so right about writing these types of posts. Until I sat down, I never imagined it would be difficult to write, but it really was. There is so much you could say, yet so much that, without being there to experience it for yourself, you really can't put into words.

  5. It's your story. Go tell it.

    Amazing post. It IS so hard to do a conference wrap up, but this is WONDERFUL because it will resonate with people who didn't go.

    I love how you immediately utilized Brene's messages.

    You are beautiful beautiful beautiful.

  6. My heart is soaring. I'm so happy I got to know you.

    -- Katherine

  7. Well, you certainly seemed calm and confident to me...and I can usually tell. I loved meeting you and this is a great post about how people can feel so conflicted. I'm so glad I read it...and that I met you.

  8. GabriellaMoonlightJanuary 31, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    What a great post..tell your story, tell it well and love yourself through it...indeed!!! xo

  9. You are amazing. I'm so glad I met you!

  10. "Clink souls?" Mmmmm. Word usage "O."

    Also, you look so happy and peaceful in your pics. That speaks volumes.

    And finally, I love every word you uttered in this post.

  11. I was so happy to listen to your panel & so glad that it made you laugh & more at ease when I put Flat Greta on your panel. That poor girl living in a 3D world and she can't even blog about it because of the lack of fingers.

    You are amazing & insightful and I look forward to seeing you again sometime!

  12. I love this recap! It was a pleasure meeting you!

  13. This is so real and compassionate and insightful. I love, love, *love* that we got to meet. I can hardly take it!!! You are a beautiful soul Ellie. Beautiful.

  14. Ellie, I love your writing, all of it. I am amazed at how you write so well, so often. Your writing fills my soul with love and joy.

    Thank you!

  15. Sitting in your thoughts right now, and I'm nodding my head yes, yes, yes. And I'm wondering if I can move past those unproductive thoughts that sometimes cram together inside an already cramped mind. Thanks for writing this, Ellie.

  16. Wow. Ya know...I have to tell you. After my quick hello to you...I walked away... and realized that just met someone that I got more from her written word than when I interviewed Bono.

    You're a much bigger inspiration to people than you even know.

    Thanks for your written words. They have kept me on track. At least for the past 98 days. =)


  17. Oh, thank you, Joey. And - YOU INTERVIEWED BONO!?!?!

    I'm so glad we at least got to hug. :)

    And 98 days is HUGE. CONGRATS!!!