When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Have a Nervous Breakdown

Or very nearly do.

I’d categorize this latest bout of stress and anxiety brought on by the BlogHer conference as a “near-miss.” Over the last week, I bit off a little more salami than I could chew. (That sounded a lot less gross in my head, but I’m leaving it). I had my usual job and motherhood duties, of course, but then I set a course to attend BlogHer and unleashed a wave of self-imposed, unreachable to-dos that sent my brain into LUDICROUS SPEED, and before I knew it, The Olive Gal had gone to plaid.

business cardsIt started small. First, I needed to create business cards because I was told this is sort of the thing that happens at BlogHer. But before I made cards, I would have to tweak my logo to be “just so.” So a designer buddy helped me out and I fumbled my way through Vistaprint to make some cards. Fine.

Then I joined Facebook groups and Skype chats and found myself in a sea of anxious women wondering what to wear and realized, oh shit, I hadn’t really thought about that. So I got a haircut and bought a new fancy bag to hold my plethora of business cards, and I thought, okay, now I can just go and enjoy. But it was too late. The stress-beast had been unleashed.

All of a sudden, I’m practicing my “elevator pitch” and dreaming of signing with agents and wondering if I’ll team up with sponsors (which is sort of hilarious because you need to have TRAFFIC to your website before agents or sponsors consider working with you). I’m going back through every post and tweaking and re-writing and scrunching up my nose at some real stinkers. I’m ramping up on social media. I’m following even more blogs and commenting and watching analytics with a new critical eye.

This is all manageable stress, though, the good kind of stress—the stress that motivates you to become a better blogger, a better writer, to magically transform your little corner of the Internet into a transcendent comedy masterpiece. In the lead-up to and aftermath of BlogHer, I wanted to really push myself, to put my skills as a writer to the test. I found, though, that the harder I tried, the harder it sounded like I was trying.

And then came the voices. (Okay, bear with me. We are going to take a little walk into crazytown. You don’t need to roll up your windows and lock your doors, though. It’ll be alright.)

Fellow bloggers and writers know exactly what I’m talking about: the impostor voice that so many super successful bloggers spoke about as they stood up on stage reflecting on how they got there. This impostor voice tells you that you’re terrible, you’re worthless, you don’t measure up, you will never be successful, you will never write a book, you should just disable the URL now and save yourself the grief.

The impostor voice can be incredibly convincing.

As much as I was inspired at this BlogHer conference, I was also terrified, and the impostor voice saw this as a prime opportunity to slip in and compare myself against the other voices I was coming to admire. Oh, Aussa Lorens! She’s so brilliantly irreverent and sharp and beautiful. Clearly she’s a star in the making.

Impostor voice: Your blog sounds nothing like her. You should shut it down.

Oh, Ashley Garrett! She’s such a lovely storyteller. She captures the mood of the moment by keenly observing her surroundings. She knows how to show not tell.

Impostor voice: Your blog sounds nothing like her. You should shut it down.

Impostor voice: You may try to convince yourself that it’s a good thing that you don’t sound like other people. But the fact of the matter is, you don’t have a voice yet. If you stopped writing tomorrow, no one would care.

Me, in a small voice: I would care.

Me, in a voice getting louder: I would really care. In a way, I live for this. I am compelled to do this, and maybe I have room to grow, and maybe I don’t have an audience, but I have a voice, and it’s me.

Me, in a voice louder still: No, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this to become a better writer, to dig deep into myself, to discover what my purpose is here, to see if I am somehow, some way reaching others. Even if it’s only to make one more person laugh. Even if it only helps my family and friends know how I feel about them. Even if it’s only a record for my son and husband and friends to remember what kind of hijinks they were up to, and to know how much they mean to me. Even if it’s only for my mom and dad, who I sometimes make fun of mercilessly, but who I couldn’t take a breath without.

Me, now shouting: My blog is my lifeline! It’s my joy, it’s my exquisite pain, it’s my innermost demons, it’s my raw nerves exposed—it’s my humanity!

Third random voice, interjecting: Sooooooo, I came here for the booze?

That blue sleeve is me, walking away from Arianna Huffington, feeling like we totally had a connection, and she's absolutely going to remember me when I email her with a story idea next week.
That blue sleeve is me, walking away from Arianna Huffington, feeling like we totally had a connection, and she’s absolutely going to remember me when I email her with a story idea next week.

I went in and came out of the BlogHer conference hoping to making waves, to see some professional changes take place, and to, let’s be honest, gather more Twitter followers and get more eyeballs on my site. But after the dust has settled and I’ve successfully avoided a nervous breakdown, I’ve realized that what I got out of BlogHer was so, so much more valuable than that.

I now know why I’m here. And I’m not going anywhere.

16 thoughts on “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Have a Nervous Breakdown

  1. I feel like I’m having DejaVu…of my own head…2 years ago after I attended MY first BlogHer and if I had not completely crawled under a rock (and signed a 2 year lease on said rock) I probably would have written this EXACT SAME POST. Seriously. BlogHer is crazy town…the pressure is unbearable and you go thinking it’s going to be MAGICAL and it’s just…not. It’s work. It’s a new territory…and it’s scary! From my personal experience I will say this – PLEASE keep writing! The only thing you need to shut down is that voice in your head! Your blog is fabulous – and I’m sure you are too! From one bay area blogger to another – You are GREAT! But go to another BlogHer conference – this year was IONS better for me than my first one…I basically had the experience THIS year that I was HOPING to have 2 years ago :) Cheers!!

    1. Ashleigh…your blog is wonderful! I especially loved this line from your BlogHer recap: “I’ve been distracted and just not thinking with a writers mind. Not thinking that everything is a part of your story. And I think when the story you are writing is your life, you tend to forget what the good and worthy parts are.”

      Truth.

      I’m glad you had such a good experience this year and that you got to meet up with GoldieBlox! In my day job I develop educational apps for kids, and as educators interested in the play space, we’ve been following them closely. (Also a member of our board works with them…they’re a great group, I’ve heard.) Good luck! And keep me posted if something comes of that meeting :).

    2. Agreed!

      I was so surprised when you started following me on twitter a while ago, so I went to your blog and have felt the itch to regularly check it out ever since! I’m trying to fight off the impostor voice already, telling myself I’m lucky to get any views on social media or the modest, tiny blog.
      But y’ know, the human experience is hugely important. Our truths matter.

  2. BAM! I am soooooo glad I sat next to you at that session! My impostor voice is an asshole and has been escorted out into the hall on several occassions. Did I tell you the story of how I suspected that I wasn’t REALLY supposed to be on the VOTY program because I didn’t get one email that was sent out? Yep, my asshole voice jumped right on that little detail.

  3. Oh my goodness, I can totally relate to this. The first few BlogHers I went to I felt like this. This was the first year (my 4th time attending) that I walked away feeling empowered not to pay one single bit of attention to any of this other stuff (and goodness knows my inch-long gray roots were there to prove it). Of course it’s impossible not to compare, but I didn’t get sucked in to the stats or the sponsors or all the things that make me cringe when it comes to blogging. Instead I focused on what I LOVE about blogging. I focused on really and truly hearing that voice within me and letting it shine. (I know you got there upon reflection which is awesome and very, very enlightened, if you ask me.) Today I wrote with such freedom and joy…in a way I haven’t in a long time. And I’m hoping, that when I post my new post tomorrow, people will love it. Not because it’s written with SEO in mind, or to make a sponsor look good, but because it’s me. The authentic me.

    Keep listening to that voice!

  4. You know, this sounds exactly how I would have been had I not been living day-to-day this summer. My mom passed away in early June, and it set the tone for my life: nothing is so important that you can’t be the authentic you. I can’t say that I didn’t go to crazy town every once in a while. I did go buy some new shoes, but to be fair, mine were like totally falling apart. ;o) I mustered up all of my courage to walk in and make the best of it, and I am so glad that you did too! Now, stop worrying about it all, and do the best you that you can each day. :o) Don’t mind me as I go listen to my own encouragement, now.

    Carmen
    http://www.awesomewomanproject.blogspot.com/2014/07/blogher14-i-only-wanted-tarot-card.html

  5. Oh my gosh, I would never have guessed you had any sort of imposter voice assaulting you when you said hello to me! I was so glad to meet you :) And it really is hilarious how you were like “I’m the olive gal” and I was all “HEEEYYYY!!!” I kept doing the same thing, like “I’m the hackninjhooksp… ya know.”

    The elevator pitch……… what. Yeah, I totally bombed that one and did not do well with it at all! I think I was too busy worrying about packing snacks to think my way through that one. Every single time someone asked me what I blogged about, it was so difficult not to just say “stuff.”

    I’m glad you’re not going anywhere. You must not.
    I too am feeling this defiant jolt of inspiration in the wake of BlogHer… let’s ride that wave :)

    1. My elevator pitch boiled down to “I make fun of my mom and obsess over meatballs.” Real winner material there! When you’re a “personal blogger,” it’s so hard to distill your site into a few sentences. That’s basically like asking “sum up your life in 140 characters or less.”

      And “defiant jolt of inspiration”—nail, meet head. Let’s do this!

  6. I could have written so much of this, I feel something uncoiling inside me to see these words on someone else’s site so thank you for putting them out there. I’m a fellow Bay Area blogger. Maybe we can work on silencing the shitdick imposter voices together. 😉

  7. Love this. It’s easy to feel discouraged when there are so many other great blogs out there. There’s room for us newbies, though. I’ve only read this one post, but I’m definitely a fan of your writing. And your blog name. You had me at olive. :)

    1. Haha, Laura! Some people saw my cards and were like, “Oh, I don’t like olives.” First I thought…wait…what? Who doesn’t like olives?! But then I had to explain that I meant my skin tone ;).

  8. Hi, Wendy! I met you at the newbie breakfast and you made me smile! I didn’t know anyone and we exchanged cards and it was awesome! I totally remember having a conversation with someone on Skype in the pre-conference chats about what to wear and I freaked out. I was going representing a brand and I’m not really a blogger. I blog for my brand and I used to do a parenting blog, but I don’t consider myself a writer at all! Anyway, I didn’t know if I had to wear my brand’s clothes or if I could just be comfortable or what and had my own freak-out. What if bloggers didn’t want to talk to me? Then I find out that supposedly bloggers are concerned about getting brands to want to work with them? I’m still learning! For what it’s worth, not all of us are concerned with your site traffic, at least in my case, I just wanted to get to know bloggers and find out how I could help them. Mostly, I just remember that you made me smile and I knew I’d want to read your blog! :)

    1. Hey CJ, I totally remember meeting you, too! And it’s refreshing to hear that not all sponsors are concerned about traffic. I’m still learning this stuff, too! And I’m so glad you came to read the blog :).

  9. Oh man, impostor syndrome! It’s a big jerk and it should feel bad. But yeah, I definitely relate! It was a really great experience, with so many excellent people to meet & things to learn, but also cumulatively stressful enough that I ended up skipping the closing events and catching the very glamorous bus home.

    BUT. All of us have something to offer & things to say, & we should definitely keep on saying them. YES. CAPSLOCK YES.

    (Also, there are people who don’t like olives? 😛 I actually know a 4-y.o. who started eating any olives within his reach as soon as he attained fine enough motor control to grab them, so…yeah.)

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