Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Can blogging support your values?

I've just been reading an interesting post on G+. It explores some issues related to vulnerability which made me think of the recent ACBS conference  which I attended in Sydney where high profile, well respected speakers such as The Happiness Trap's Dr Russ Harris and the founder of ACT and RFT Steve Hayes who appear to be self assured and super confident, acknowledged their own insecurities and sense of vulnerability.  Not only is this unexpectedly empowering and reassuring, but my response (and I certainly wasn't alone) was "If they're not always as strong as they appear and have insecurities and doubts, then perhaps I'm not doing so badly after all!"

In the post I mentioned above on G+, Peter McDermott commented that we're discouraged from showing our vulnerability as we age and that this results in a tendency to share less of ourselves. 

"As we age we are taught to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on others. We are told to get an education and a high-paying job in order to build a family and have the process repeat itself. As we progress and become less vulnerable we notice that less people care about us and in result we tend to share less."
My experience is that we don't actually become less vulnerable, but that many of us have learnt, or been taught, to cover our hurts and insecurities with the facade of bravado, strength and confidence. Many people put on a mask which at best shows a smile, but sometimes a fragile, almost quivering, stiff upper lip. 

Peter is specifically talking about building an online presence and that the challenge of putting yourself out there  exposes the more vulnerable side of yourself.

In today’s world if you want to grow an audience, open yourself to exploring new ideas and opportunities, you need to put yourself out there. ... I’m talking about building a presence, sharing your passion and really putting yourself out there.
I've met many people who appear confident and who say they want to build an online presence, but that they feel exposed, nervous, insecure, incompetent, and that they don't want to be seen as being less than perfect. In fact they feel vulnerable. Will people laugh? Will they criticise? Will they rip you to shreds if you get something wrong?
Once you are honest with people about your opinions, ideas and wishes, you will find that lots of others share your passion and some of the challenges you face.   
I commented a couple of years ago when I finally started blogging, that I faced a lot of challenges in regard to having an online presence. I procrastinated for well over 3 years before I finally summoned the courage to even comment - anonymously - on a post and more before I began a blog! 

It took a year or more of gentle yet persistent encouragement for my web designer to get me to agree to go live! Blogging was only marginally easier; yet with my heart in my mouth and positively quaking at the knees and feeling sick with nervousness, I began. Perhaps I was overreacting!?

My posts were clunky, awkward and frankly, often boring. Sometimes they still are, but I've worked hard to learn from people I respect on line. Why? Because I value sharing, and I know that clients, friends and fellow bloggers have benefitted from some of my posts particularly about learning difficulties and workplace bullying. 

As one of the young women who climbed the Shard said: "It's a weird thing, knowing that you're going to be scared and doing something anyway". 

Putting yourself out there can lead to unexpected events. I was delighted when one young woman contacted me to say how much one of my photos meant to her and that when she feels down and discouraged she looks at it. So even the confronting aspect of putting a photo online (Is it ok? I'm not a professional. Will people think I'm full of myself?) can lead to unexpected, heartwarming outcomes. Her touching email means a lot to me, and in turn encourages me when I feel blogging is a waste of time, all to difficult, and too "out there".

In ACT language: 

  • I've defined my values (in this case in regard to blogging)
  • I refer to my values when I'm feeling discouraged and down 
  • I acknowledge, accept and defuse from the negative gremlins in my mind who tell undermining stories and try to put me off acting in accordance with my values
  • I regularly (more or less) set small goals (ie committed action) to consistently take me in the direction of my blogging values
I'll finish with another quote from Peter:

No one will know who you are until you are willing to show a little bit behind the curtain. It might be scary at first, but once you are able to share your thoughts and ideas, you will find yourself swimming in a whole new world of opportunity.

That's a very similar response to how those involved with the ACBS community work with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. It's scary, but empowering, and opens up the possibility of deeper, more meaningful communication and connection - with others and with ourselves.
Undermining thoughts and feelings threaten to attack
and try to divert us from valued actions.

posted by Sue Travers


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. I've found I need to ask for help more often .. something I definitely didn't do - and had to faff around getting anxious because I didn't know something ...

So often we give opinions on something - yet we don't think about the other side of the coin .. I often ask the opposite question to what I'm expected to ask I think ...

Self-confidence is realising we don't have all the answers and asking others for ways to do things ...

Cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

That's all so true Hilary. Many of us are more than happy to give support and encouragement, yet find it hard to ask for the same - forgetting that others will be happy to provide similar help.