“I started this blog as an escape from my life, to connect with like-minded people and share the things I loved. Eventually, people I knew started finding it and it made me angry because I didn’t feel like I could write what I wanted anymore. I felt restricted, and I still do. Every time I start writing a post, in the back of my mind I know who is reading it. I know it’s open for everyone to see, and it’s created a lot of self-doubt, frustration and not to mention writer’s block…”
– Angela, The Sunday Chapter
I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I use a nickname online. Sometimes, it’s curiosity. Other times, I’m being asked in grooming for an attack. But my answer has always been the same. I use a pen name because I want to keep my personal life and online life separate. Not to live a double life, or to pretend to be someone I’m not, but to have the freedom to fully express myself. I’ve seen how one opinionated blog or social media post can destroy a career or invite hate into the lives of those you love. My biggest fear was to have a conservative coworker or colleague search for my name and stumble upon my blog or social media profiles, become offended by an opinion I’ve shared, and use it against me at work and I lose my job. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people, and I’ve always been very determined to never let anything like that happen to me. I have a lot of opinions.
I’ve blogged off and on over the years. Each time, somehow, childhood friends, crazy ex-boyfriends or curious family members would somehow find my blog. And they wouldn’t just discover it. They’d begin to follow it. No amount of blocking, profile deletions or name changing would do. Then came the haters. Real haters. Mobs of women who seemed to detest me for every reason imaginable. I’ll never forget the horror I felt in 2014, after my second blog became popular, of signing into Facebook, and seeing a post with a link to one of my recent blog posts being shared in a group and ripped apart. Thousands and thousands of comments from strangers were there dissecting everything about me, taking my words out of context to feed their agendas, and campaigning together in their hatred of me. I penned one blog post after that, and then closed that blog. I didn’t start writing again for another year.
I got over the haters. It was easy enough to convince myself that they were “just jealous”. Their hate was without reason. I’d done nothing wrong, and my conscious was clear. They didn’t even know me. My struggle had become putting myself out there to people who did.
One of the scariest things about blogging is that by the nature of what you’re doing in the first place, blogging is a public display of your life. It’s your thoughts, your dreams, your feelings, your aspirations. Your blog is you. Granted, many people don’t use blogging how it was intended, but many do. A personal blog is a creative reflection of you that is completely open and visible for anyone to see. Even scarier, others can see you, but unless they leave a comment and say ‘Hi. My name is Jane Doe, and I was here,” you’d have no idea they were even looking at all. There are the age-old questions that every new Blogger asks, “What should I share? How much is too much? How do I balance between being private and being transparent?” And the only answer to those questions is, “How much do you want people to know?” Which really, when you think about it, doesn’t answer any of those questions at all. When people that knew me began finding my blog, I experienced a range of emotions: anxiety, fear, annoyance, and surprisingly, anger and resentment.
I saw the bubble of freedom and self-expression I was living in online pop before my very eyes. Instantly, I felt restricted about what I could and couldn’t write about. Angry and want to rant about what someone did to you? Nope. Suck it up online just as you do in real life. They could read it, know it’s about them, and be hurt or upset. Want to vent and give yourself an unfiltered pep talk after an epic mess up? Nope. Keep it to yourself. You don’t want people you know (or your hate followers) to know you failed at something do you? Want to be vulnerable and share something from your heart? Ew. That person you don’t want to see that intimate part of you might read that. When you take away writing about the things you care about, you’re not left with very many options. If you’re like me and don’t do things you don’t care about, you end up not writing at all. It’s a vicious cycle of being so worried about oversharing, you just don’t share anything. It bothered me that I was caught in that cycle. I felt angry and resented those whom I felt had taken my freedom away from me. Cookie-cutter ‘safe’ blog posts could not hold my interest. So I stopped writing. I was stuck. Then it hit me, what is it that I have to hide?
Being Found When You’re Trying to Stay Hidden
“Why am I so afraid of putting myself out there? I’m afraid of being judged, for one, and as stupid as it sounds, I care about what people think of me. It’s human nature and I know I’m not alone here. Everyone wants to feel accepted and told they’re good enough… I struggled to find my voice because I didn’t feel confident enough to reveal it.”
– Angela, The Sunday Chapter
I had a moment when I asked myself, just what is the harm in being found? What opinions or thoughts do you have that are so private, or so intimate, or so controversial that it is the horror of horror if someone you knew personally found out about them? The truth was there were none. I wasn’t hiding because I was afraid of offending someone. I was hiding because I was afraid of what others would think of me.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how much good you do. There will always be someone – stranger or not, who doesn’t like you or something you say or do. Sometimes the dislike is justified. Usually it’s not. We all have our shortcomings and can never be as great as we’d like to think we are. But regardless of those facts, if you allow fear of someone’s opinion of you stop you from doing what you love and what makes you happy, you will forever be unhappy and doing what you hate. Is that the power you want to give someone else over you?
I made a decision that I am going to continue to be free. I’m not going to close my blog again when it experiences a uncomfortable outpour of love or a frightening wave of hate. I’m not going to choose another nickname or go into a social media block frenzy when people I know offline find and follow my blog. I’m not going to stop writing about real things I care about and sharing my life out of fear someone may be judging or laughing at me. I’m going to do what I love, and I’m going to be 100%, authentically, really, fearlessly, genuinely, openly me – both online and IRL. ♥
“I’ve learned that if you really want to make an impact, you have to get people to talk about you. The only way you or your work are going to grow and succeed is to be put out there for judgement – both negative and positive. And you just have to push past it. You can’t succeed without failing. You can’t fail without being vulnerable.”
– Angela, The Sunday Chapter
Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever avoided something because you were afraid of putting yourself out there? If it’s something you’ve dealt with or currently deal with, I would love, love, LOVE to hear from you!