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Random Thoughts: On Self-confidence and Self-promotion

Random-Thoughts-1I’ve rambled over on The Annex before about the importance of self-confidence in blogging and my lack of this particular quality. I’ve also talked about self-promotion on one or two of my satellite blogs. But as these two topics are very much top-of-mind for me at the moment, I thought I’d talk about them here.

Without having a certain level of confidence in your voice, in what you have to say, and in how well those thoughts and opinions will be received, it’s not easy to click the “publish” button on any post.

I, for one, am riddled with self-doubt about my abilities as a blogger. I question every word I use, every thought I have, every idea I wish to turn into a feature, a discussion, an event.

Will anyone join my challenge? Will anyone read my feature? Will everyone criticize my review? Will my event become a success? Will my outreach emails go ignored? Will they be laughed at?

And with each post I write, each review I labor over, each idea I bounce off my most trusted blogger friend Jaime, asking her, “Does this sound stupid?” I struggle. I fret. I angst.

But I have been doing this for nearly three years. I have pushed past those doubts and fears. While they still exist, just as strongly as they ever did, I do not let them hold me back… well, most of the time.

Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize… you can’t achieve success without risking failure. Your voice can’t be heard if you don’t put it out there to be heard. And so I take those risks, even when they don’t always pay off. Because I have something to say. My voice matters. No more or no less than anyone else’s. But it matters.

And over the past (almost) three years I have been surprised. Time and time again. By this community most of all. With all the drama, with all the cruelty, with all the dishonesty, with all its competitiveness, it’s still an amazing community. It’s supportive. It’s helpful. It’s generous. It’s enthusiastic.

For those who wonder, “Am I not good enough?” there are so many in this community who will tell you that you are. There are those willing to go above and beyond to help out, to help boost your confidence, to make you feel a part of something.

But in order to have that support, to make those connections, to be a part of this community of authors and bloggers, you have to have the self-confidence to try. You have to take the risk of being rejected and ignored. You have to risk your self-esteem. You have to let your voice be heard.

Which means that you not only have to overcome a lack of self-confidence to let your voice be heard, but you have to then let people know about it. You have to be social. Even if you’re antisocial by nature. You have to connect with others. You have to interact.

You can’t just post on your blog and hope that someone discovers it. Well, I suppose you can do that, but it’s not going to be a quick way to build an audience. You have to promote your posts through the various social media outlets. You have to network with others who will assist in your promotional efforts.

Which is not at all an easy thing for someone with zero self-confidence. Believe me, I know.

To this day I tweet my posts from the blog then hide from Twitter until they’ve likely cleared everyone’s timeline. I publish my posts on my blog’s Facebook page in the early hours of the morning instead of at a time when their reach would be greater.

The idea of self-promotion fills me with a level of panic that renders me useless. While I thoroughly enjoy promoting others, the same can’t be said for myself.

Not everyone who blogs is an expert at marketing themselves. Some come out of the starting gate with a game plan and execute it well, with great success. Others figure things out along the way, taking advice from experts like Rachel of Parajunkee, who offers weekly tips and advice in her BB101 posts, and learn and grow their blogs at a pace they’re comfortable with.

Others, like myself, stumble along, and just hope that whatever they’re doing is enough to get them noticed. And others realize that they’re just not comfortable with networking and marketing and choose to keep their blog audience contained to friends and family and the occasional random visitor.

If you are a blogger, or someone who wants to blog, but are terrified of self-promotion join Twitter and follow authors and bloggers that seem interesting. Engage in conversations completely unrelated to your blog. They just might be curious enough to check out your profile and click your blog’s link to learn more.

Create a grab button for your blog. It’s the easiest way to get some additional traffic to your site. You’re not asking anyone to take your button, the choice is all theirs.

Tweet your posts a couple to a few times a day but don’t let those be the only things you tweet. If you don’t engage with others or share other types of tweets, someone viewing your timeline will just think you’re all about self-promotion when that may be the farthest thing from the truth.

Join a meme, chime in on a discussion post, participate in an event. While these things may not seem like ways to promote yourself, everything you do online that associates with your blogger identity is a form of self-promotion.

If you’re not looking for instant gratification you don’t need to master the ability to market yourself. But you do have to get yourself out there.

Which circles back around to having self-confidence. And even if you have none, doing “it” anyway.

A personal note….

For as long as I can remember I have shied away from anything and everything that put me in the spotlight. I worked hard enough in school to get good grades but not hard enough to put me at the top of my class. I tried out for the school play but chose to audition for a minor part. I bailed out of my chosen profession because it required me to be on the front lines, marketing myself.

I chose not to pursue a career in writing or acting or dance because I always thought I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t talented enough.

But it wasn’t simply that I thought this. I was told I would never succeed. That I wasn’t good enough. I was told I should take the “safe” route. That my dreams were frivolous. I was told that I was stupid. I was made to feel worthless.

And I chose to believe all of that. I have lived my life every single day with these negative words screaming at me. Holding me back. Keeping me down.

But what blogging has done is allowed me to get past it. To say that even though I feel this way doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Being rejected is not the end of the world. Being criticized or mocked or laughed at doesn’t mean everyone is doing the criticizing, mocking, laughing.

If I hadn’t started blogging I wouldn’t have made such good friends as I have. If I hadn’t started blogging I wouldn’t have discovered nearly as many of the amazingly talented authors I have. If I hadn’t started blogging I wouldn’t have gotten the courage to start writing again.

And if I hadn’t started blogging I never would have gotten the opportunity to write a short story or to have it published.

I will never become a dancer, a gymnast, an actress, a DJ or a pilot in the air force. I let each of those dreams get away from me. But because of taking the risk of rejection when reaching out to an author to beta read her book and taking the risk practically every day since then of putting my voice and ideas out there, one of my dreams, my oldest dream, is about to come true.

So, my advice?

Do not let your lack of confidence in yourself or your shyness about promoting yourself prevent you from sharing your voice. While not everyone will love it, there are those who will. And even if it’s just one person, isn’t that pretty effing great?

(And for the record: Yes, I debated long and hard about cutting the personal note from this post. I’m still debating whether or not to delete it as it isn’t critical to its comprehension. Of course, if I do, you’ll never have known it was there and you won’t be reading this note.)

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