I remember being about 12 when my cousins husband (who had known me for years) finally saw me in a small group setting instead of a large group. I was talking non-stop and he had never seen that before. He said something like “I think I’ve heard you say more words tonight than in all of the times I’ve seen you until today combined!”
It’s very true that I talk a lot more in small groups than I do large settings. In some ways, being a blogger seems like an odd hobby (or side hustle or even career choice) for a quiet person. For me, it really fits my personality type. I am quiet in many social settings, but it’s not for a lack of things to say. Speaking without a filter doesn’t come naturally for me, I tend to second-guess everything I consider saying. When you’re trying to keep a conversation going with someone you don’t know very personally, it’s easy to second-guess your thoughts so much that you can’t find anything ‘safe’ (comfortable and casual yet still interesitng) to say. Or, by the time you think of that safe thing to say there has already been a break in conversation for more than a couple of seconds so it’s uncomfortable to try to revive it at that point. With blogging, I can think over my message over and over before hitting publish. It gives me the ability to filter my thoughts and feelings before sending them out into the world, and without any awkward conversation breaks. It’s a wonderful creative outlet for me because I do have a lot to say, I just like to be careful with my words. Still, I understand why people who are not introverts might be surprised that being a blogger could be a natural fit for an introvert. When reading a blog, people almost never come off as shy, and certainly not quiet because they are essentially talking to us as we read along. I follow enough blogs that I am sure some of them must be shy or introverted people, but none of them come across that way.
I started my first “real” blog in 2009, but I had a Xanga as a young teenager when all the kids my age had them. I even had an Open Diary in middle school as a tween, though I used it as a personal outlet to express myself, I didn’t tell anyone I knew about it.
Recently, blogging has helped me crack open my shell by leaps and bounds. My recent growth has made me reflect on how blogging has helped me a little bit here and there since the beginning. I realized that my journey as a blogger has been one of growth from the start and I just didn’t realize it until I sat down and thought it all out.
As a tween, having an open diary gave me a “safe place” to voice my feelings. I had a physical diary as a girl but a family member found it, read it, and then came to “joke” with me about what I had written. It was a tough blow to my self worth and I felt pretty betrayed. I asked how she found the key and she explained that the cheap kid diaries can be picked open with a bobby pin. After that, I never felt comfortable sharing my true thoughts and feelings in physical form as I knew there wasn’t any real protection from my words being read. With my open diary blog, I knew I could set it to private and I used a strong password so it couldn’t be easily hacked into. I also would erase the site from the computer history so my family members wouldn’t see that I had been on the site. It felt safer than keeping the physical diary and I poured out my anxiety and stress into that platform which was a wonderful way for me to vent my feelings and get them out of my head.
Xanga was used by boys and girls alike when I was in late middle school and early high school. Seeing my friends and peers share their lives (sometimes including their deep inner thoughts and feelings) helped me realize that a lot of people my age were struggling with the same things I was. While at school most kids seem happy-go-lucky, many of them were struggling to find themselves, to come to terms with their past or childhood, to get along with their parents, to balance being a kid with wanting freedom and independence, just like I was dealing with. Seeing others admit to their struggles made me feel like it was okay to use my Xanga to express those thoughts and feelings as well. At the time I was dealing with some pretty severe depression and anxiety but I didn’t have the social skills to share those feelings with people in public. Having a Xanga to share my thoughts and feelings was really cathartic. I had some friends who read my Xanga, and I read theirs and it created a bridge for us to discuss our problems in person after we had read about each others feelings online.
Me in 2009 around the time when I started my first ‘real’ blog.
By the time I started my first ‘real’ blog in 2009 when I was 18, I was past most of the depression and anxiety that plagued my preteen and early teen years. However, I was still an introvert who needed an outlet and I was lacking in self confidence. At that time, my biggest inner struggle was trying to decide what career path to take. I discovered review and giveaway blogs and thought that reviewing products in exchange for writing about them sounded really fun. I quickly started my own and I loved trying new products and getting to share my thoughts on them. Plus, I saw my pageviews grow and it was exciting to see that people were finding my blog and subscribing or following along. It was exciting to see people interested in my content. It was really exciting to work directly with brands who believed that their company could benefit from sending me their product to write about. I could see that these brands valued my thoughts and opinions which boosted my confidence in myself.
I don’t remember how long I had been doing reviews when I saw a blogger who I had seen around the blogosphere admit that she was blogging for a living. She had quit her job over a year prior and her and her 3 children were paying their bills with just her blog. She was divorced and the only income earner for her household. I was shocked that blogging for a living was really possible and it immediately became my dream job. After all, I had been blogging as a hobby and a creative outlet. If I could continue that hobby and make a living from it, that would be a dream come true. I knew it would be a long and slow process but realizing that I could turn blogging into my primary source of income added to my self confidence. I no longer felt like there was no ideal job for me. I had found the thing I wanted to do and that was a huge relief.
Me around 2011 when I realized I could someday blog for a living.
It took a few years, but once I started to be able to pay most, and then all, of my half of the bills my confidence in myself grew yet again. Now not only did I know what I wanted to do for a living, I was making it happen. Sure, my 65 year old father didn’t quite get understand why I was calling this ‘my job’ but I knew it was paying the bills that I needed to cover and I felt great about that.
On occasion, I would have a brand who I was working with on a review or sponsored post try to change terms in the middle of a campaign. They would agree to send me a set amount of product, or pay me a set range in exchange for a blog post. Then they might send something other than what I had requested (a smaller item, for example) or they would send me less money than we had agreed to. This was really uncomfortable for me. I knew they weren’t being fair by not holding up their end of the bargain, but I am very non-confrontational. It was really hard for me to bring up how they had not paid me as much as they agreed to, or how they sent me the wrong item. In fact, I still feel uncomfortable with these sorts of situations arise. However, through networking with other bloggers who occasionally have similar experiences I was able to learn how to stand up for myself in a professional way. It’s not unprofessional to bring attention to the fact that a brand did not pay me the agreed upon amount, as long as I use language that is respectful and professional. It’s necessary to confront these problems so that the agreement is fair and to avoid having the same thing happen during future partnerships. I am always proud of myself for standing up and making sure that I get what I am owed. It’s nice to be reminded that I have backbone, sometimes!
Sitting at the grand canyon, the day after my first blogging conference ended.
Just last month, blogging cracked open my social shell more than ever before. I got an email in late May asking if I was interested in being sponsored to a blogging conference that would take place in June. I had read about blogging conferences way back in 2009. They are events where bloggers pay to listen to speakers talk about various aspects of blogging from SEO to social media promotion, to analytics and more. Seems how they are events for bloggers, there are tons of bloggers there and they can be a great networking opportunity. However, meeting strangers is tough for me because it requires quite a bit of small talk to get the ball rolling. The brand who sponsored me to the conference wanted me to spread the word about the booth the brand had set up in the exhibit hall to people I met at the conference. So, I knew that being silent and not networking with bloggers wouldn’t be possible because I needed to tell some people about the brands booth. This made me nervous, but I had never left the mid-west and the invite to Arizona was too much to pass by. I decided that I needed to take this opportunity and force myself to grow. So I did! I had a few panic attacks before the conference but I forced myself through it. At each class and meal time, I sat next to someone new and simply started off by saying Hi and introducing myself and then asking a few questions about their blog. I absolutely collapsed at the end of each day because it was really a lot for me socially but I was so proud of myself for pushing through. It was really stepping outside of my comfort zone and I felt great for doing it.
Selfie before leaving my hotel room on the first day of the conference. I was so anxious!
Thinking about this period of growth got me thinking about how I hold back a little bit on Emily Reviews. I try to stay a bit neutral so I can be professional but that sometimes causes me to hesitate to share more personal anecdotes. It made me realize that I need to come back to focusing on this second blog a bit more so I can have that more personal outlet. My goal here is to be even more open than I am on Emily Reviews. I’ve already found that trying to blog regularly here has forced me to stop hesitating a bit. If I want to blog here weekly I have to force myself to write about things that I’m not 100% comfortable with. I have a list of 40+ blog post ideas but many of them I hesitate to share a little. Eventually I will get to each of them because they deserve to be written about even if they make me feel a little vulnerable. I can use this platform to share more of myself than I can share in the product reviews on that blog. I think this is a continued step in the right direction. I don’t have a desire to ever be an extrovert, but I do think that being too shy holds me back sometimes. I want to embrace other people and the opportunities that come my way. I think having a voice and building my confidence through blogging is putting me on the right path.
Are you an introvert like me? Do you blog as an outlet? What else do you do to step outside of your comfort zone?