Yoga Maris on Fearless Blogging
On the Internet, it is very easy to fall prey to what I like to call The Highlight Reel Effect.
While you may have never heard of this term before, I can almost guarantee that you’ve experienced it in one form or another. The Highlight Reel looks like this: your Facebook feed, your Instagram feed, your Twitter feed, and, perhaps, your personal blog or website. The Highlight Reel looks like pretty pictures of pretty people doing pretty things, or posts that only tell one side of the story, or it may take the form of what you can’t see: the things left out to create a better storyline or representation of who you are.
In essence, in a world of social media and an increasing amount of personal blogs, it’s very easy to fall victim to the idea that to be successful and respected, you must only share the very best parts of who you are. And this idea is largely subliminal: we very rarely make a conscious choice to be inauthentic, it’s just a common symptom of living in a world where we are always being viewed, and consequently, judged.
Consider the times you’ve chosen which picture to post based on the one you looked best in. Consider the times you’ve considered writing or sharing about something, before deciding it was too embarrassing, or didn’t paint you in the best light, even if you knew the lesson would be of value to your readers. Consider the times you’ve stretched the truth, left out certain details, or changed the story just enough to make you seem just a little bit better.
That’s The Highlight Reel Effect.
And right off the bat, I want to make it clear that just because you’ve fallen prey to this, doesn’t mean you’re “a bad person.” It means you’re human. No one wants to look bad, and certainly no one who is trying to run a successful blog, online business, or social media account wants to look bad. But the problem begins when we confuse “not wanting to look bad” with “needing to look perfect,” particularly on a long-term, unaddressed scale.
Not only will this confusion keep you from the achievements of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-confidence, I would argue that it will keep you from finding success in the business or blog you are trying to run.
I first started blogging about a year and a half ago. At the time, I was a 16-year-old who had recently become a certified yoga teacher, and I wanted to establish an online presence to help my newfound teaching career. A large part of my yoga classes revolve not just around the physical asana of the practice, but around life lessons that take place off the mat. My blog, I decided, would be a place where I could write down these lessons, hopefully so that those who couldn’t physically be in my classes could benefit from them, and possibly develop a connection with me that would encourage them to come to my classes in the future.
At its core, my blog still remains true to this original intention. However, in the beginning, my blog really didn’t garner a lot of attention. Only now, a year and a half later, can I see why: I was trying to be something that I’m not.
Without really being aware of it, I started my blog with a lot of insecurities. I worried that, as a young teacher, I wouldn’t be taken seriously, or people would question my authority to speak to big life topics when I hadn’t lived a whole lot of life yet. I felt a lot of pressure to have all the answers: to always know that I’d done the right thing, to always be the hero who overcame and came out on top, and to always have a story that was nicely tied up at the end with a pretty bow on it. I felt, in essence, that I had to be a guru.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t (and still don’t) have all the answers. I don’t always do the right thing in the moment, and I make a lot of mistakes. And in real life, things don’t always end up pretty and perfect- we’re often left with more questions than answers and a lot more work to do. And after awhile of blogging with no regard for these facts, I finally received some advice that changed the way I approached both blogging and life: talk about the shit you don’t want to talk about.
In fact, the day after receiving that advice, I wrote an article with that very title. In the article, I got very vulnerable and open about my past struggles with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder that almost took my life. I talked about the parts of the struggles that no one likes to talk about, the fact that there is no real cure, that slip-ups and relapses happen, and that it’s a lifelong journey to try and find the right answers that are a constant moving target depending on our context at the time. I admitted that life’s actually pretty hard, and, just like everyone else, I’m just rolling with the punches as time goes on.
And that article continues to be one of the most popular pieces I’ve ever written. It drew attention from websites from around the world- most notably CNN Health. Perhaps most importantly, however, people started connecting. I received letters of support and gratitude from people who were ready to talk about the shit they’d been keeping inside their entire lives, the things they were afraid they were alone in, and finally admit that they’re not perfect.
Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to blog with what I call fearless authenticity. It’s a mindful effort to step away from the temptation to just share the pretty things- the successes, the flattering pictures, the times where you’ve got it all figured out- and to share everything. The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. The times when you made the right decisions, and the times when you’ve made all the wrong ones. And not only do I make the decision to share all these things, I’ve made a commitment to see the learning opportunities and value in living and sharing them.
As time has gone on, I’ve only seen success in this. I continue to welcome more and more people into my community every day who see themselves in my writing, and take comfort in the reminder that they aren’t the only ones who struggle and suffer in life. Because I’m willing to embrace these flaws and determined to stay positive in the face of them on such a public and vulnerable scale, I’m giving others permission to do the same in their own lives. That’s the beauty of a life of fearless authenticity: it’s a living model for everyone around you.
My biggest advice to new, and even longterm bloggers and business owners, is to remember that no one is perfect- which means your readers aren’t, either.
No one wants to read about a perfect life. No one wants to read about how much more happy, successful, and flawless someone else is for long. Eventually, it just breeds the elements of negativity, shame, and jealousy that most are actively trying to rid their lives of- especially if they’re online reading self-help blogs. If you’re trying to develop a longterm relationship and connection with your readers, you’d be mistaken in thinking that exclusively presenting yourself as perfect is going to do the trick.
People find role models in those they can relate and connect to, people who they can actually picture putting themselves in the shoes of. To develop a relationship that goes far beyond surface-level idolization, you need to develop respect and trust: two things that will naturally be earned if you are willing to break the barriers of The Highlight Reel Effect and dedicate yourself to blogging with fearless authenticity and sharing the ugly parts, too.
Simply put: don’t be afraid to talk about the shit you don’t want to talk about. That’s where the magic happens.
Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.