You may know that in a former life, I was a high school teacher. Much of what made me good at teaching also makes me good at blogging. I am organized, creative, efficient and responsible. However, I have several traits that made teaching a difficult profession for me—traits that likewise make me an unlikely candidate for turning blogging into my business.
I am …
… a worrier
I don’t use the term anxiety lightly; I am an anxious person to the point of needing treatment at various points in my life. I have my generalized anxiety and OCD very well managed thanks to medication (which I still take) and some solid therapy (which I completed prior to having children), but there is no healthy amount of medication that will stop me from being a worrier. It’s no longer a clinical, paralyzing worry, but it can still leave me with that unpleasant pit in my stomach and keep me awake some nights. What do I worry about when it comes to my blog? Well, the fragility of my enterprise, for one. I don’t have an inventory. I don’t make a product that I sell. My blog is completely and entirely dependent on something I cannot even see (the Internet). It’s dependent on people reading what I write. Currently, Facebook is making it extremely stressful for bloggers like me with a Branded Content policy that is difficult to understand and seems to threaten my very existence as a blogger who uses Facebook as one of the main ways to share her work. I worry that I’ll wake up tomorrow and my Facebook page will be deleted. Want to know something funny? Every single time I have a message notification on my Facebook page, for a split second I am convinced it’s bad news. For a split second, I’m sure it’s either Facebook administration telling me they’re taking my page down or a reader who bought something I recommended and hates it. Neither of these things has ever actually happened, by the way. Just know that if you message me to ask about menstrual products or baby carriers or cats, for a brief moment I am convinced your message is a harbinger of doom.
… a people-pleaser
I would love to spend the day in the shoes of someone who legitimately does not GAF about what other people think of her. I have tried. I have tried to be that woman and I have failed. I don’t know if you are aware, but being on social media is one giant invitation to be judged. It’s also a place where people feel really comfortable sharing their harshest judgments with you directly. The thing is, I use social media and my blog to express MY opinions, which I would never tout as unbiased or completely objective. I have beliefs, and people who don’t share my beliefs are certainly welcome to disagree with me. I just feel bad when they disagree with me. Even if they act like petulant children and lash out at me in all-caps that they are un-liking my page, I still get this little feeling like I’m being punched in the stomach. When I “came out” (PUN INTENDED) as pro-marriage equality—a stance on which I shall never waiver—I lost a lot of Facebook fans. The worrier in me feared this could affect my relationships with potential sponsors. The people-pleaser in me felt bad that I’d pissed people off: even if they were people with whom I fundamentally disagreed. On a less controversial note, I just don’t like to disappoint people, even if their disappointment is unfounded or exaggerated. I recently had a commenter tell me that one of my Holiday Gift Guides disappointed her. A slew of justifications and apologies spilled from my fingers. I didn’t even need to engage with the comment, but I just can’t stand disappointing people! (I also feel terrible when I have a giveaway and it’s not open to both Canada and the US, even though that’s always the sponsor’s call and not because I have some vendetta against either my compatriots or my southern neighbours.)
… a sensitive soul
Much to my husband’s dismay, I am brutally sensitive. I can come off as sarcastic and nonchalant about things, but I take everything so freaking personally! I like to be liked. Being disliked is one of my least favourite things. I have seen some appalling comments from Internet trolls (so as to be differentiated from animated trolls voiced by Justin Timberlake) addressed to fellow bloggers, and I am so lucky that I have thus far been spared. Because it would destroy me. I mean, I’d totally laugh it off and share it with my readers to say: “Haha, look at this mean troll!” But on the inside … it wouldn’t be pretty. My fans and readers are overwhelmingly positive and supportive, and I think this is mostly because I am very sincere and very honest in everything I post. Maman Loup isn’t a persona, it’s just me. I am not trying to create a curated Instagram feed or an idealistic Facebook page; I’m just being myself and I’m happy to capitalize on my imperfections. One particularly inconvenient imperfection is that I take it personally whenever my Facebook fan count goes down.
… a perfectionist
… a rule-follower
To get ahead in the business world, it seems like you have to break (or gently bend) at least a couple of rules. I really, really like to A) know the rules and B) follow the rules and C) let other people know when they are unwittingly breaking the rules. You can see why I was so popular in high school, right? I know there are bloggers out there who earn a lot more money than I do because they are comfortable with ignoring a host of rules ranging from disclosing when you are being sponsored to providing paid-links to companies. It is technically against Facebook’s promotional guidelines to ask giveaway entrants to tag their friends or share your giveaway post, so of course, I never do this. (Although I have yet to see a consequence to flouting this rule.) My giveaways don’t reach as many people because I am a goody two-shoes.
… a guilt magnet
Intrinsically linked to my anxiety and my perfectionism would be my propensity for guilt. Like anxiety and a desire to do things well, guilt serves a useful place in the human existence … but my guilt tends to be disproportionate and misplaced. I wrote a review for a product that I genuinely loved, but it didn’t work well for someone else. #SoMuchGuilt. In an attempt to make sure a recent giveaway winner received the most benefit from her prize, I inquired about her partner (this was a prize that could be used by both parents). While I was inclusive in my language with regards to her partner’s possible gender, I neglected to account for the not-particularly-uncommon reality of being a single parent. I don’t think I offended her, and she knew my heart was in the right place, but I still feel awful! I mean, how annoying must it be to always have people (like me) assume there’s a father in the picture? Couldn’t I have just asked if anyone else in her life might use the product? I am a fundamentally and painfully empathetic person, and this probably makes me a pretty decent friend, but it also gives me #AllTheFeels all the time.
… a finisher
As with my perfectionism, this trait doesn’t apply to everything in my life, as evidenced by the latch-hook rug kit that sat in my closet for five years when I was a kid. But when it comes to school or work, I have a hard time resting until a job is done. When my anxiety was unchecked in university, an impending due date (and by impending, I mean like a month or two away) would riddle me with worry and keep me up all night because I needed the assignment to be done so I could take it off my mind. With blogging, there is always a long to-do list, and it’s unusual to have absolutely every commitment wrapped up with a bow so I can “rest.” Even if I have two weeks before a deadline, I hate having unfinished work looming over me. (And it always feels like it’s looming.) This means I hardly ever allow myself “free time.” If the kids are occupied and the house is in relatively good condition, I can’t just go to bed or read a magazine or watch TV if there’s something for my site that I deem “unfinished.”
… a motor brain
You’ve heard of a motor mouth, right? Well, I’m that, too. But likely the reason I talk so fast is I’m trying to keep up with my brain. I am constantly coming up with ideas for my site. And I mean constantly. I decided to include “motor brain” in this post at 1 AM as I was trying to fall back to sleep last night. In the shower, in the car, at the sink and in my sleep—these are all places where I am mentally composing blog posts or Facebook statuses. As a kid, I remember wishing I could hook up a printer to my brain, so I could just go to sleep and know the amazing idea I was working on would still be there in the morning. Maybe in my lifetime this technology will come to fruition? While it’s awesome to be creative and always have projects on the horizon, I wish I could learn to turn my brain off from time to time so I can actually relax. One thing that helps a lot is jotting down my ideas on my whiteboard or in my agenda so at least I don’t worry about forgetting them.
So why do I still do it?
Well, for one thing, the traits above make it harder for me to be a teacher than to be a blogger. As much as there’s always something I can be working on to perfect my website or my social media, there’s infinitely more to perfect (and with greater ramifications) when it comes to teaching. If I don’t finish a blog post on time (and more often than not, it is a self-imposed deadline), there’s no major consequence. If I don’t get tests marked or a lesson planned on time, I have a classroom of teenagers who are affected. When it comes to wanting to please everyone, I can at least step back and realize that my readers and clients are out there on the interwebs and are not people with whom I interact in person on a daily basis. I would rather deal with an onslaught of displeased comments on a blog post than a classroom full of disgruntled students or their disappointed parents. My blog allows me to explore my creativity and even some aspects of pedagogy, and while it challenges me in many ways, it doesn’t mentally and emotionally exhaust me the way that teaching always did. That was an exhaustion with which I could cope before I had children but one I am grateful to be able to avoid now that I am a mother. I know that many, many men and women out there with the same “Type A” personality traits as me make lifelong careers out of teaching (on top of being parents), and they have my utmost respect. Realistically, my personality is going to cause me grief no matter what career I choose, and it caused me grief when I wasn’t doing paid work at all. (Motherhood is pretty dicey for someone who likes to please everyone, all the time.) The only way to get past the unpleasant feelings is to face them every day. While pre-anxiety-treatment-Lindsay would’ve never opened her Facebook messages for fear they were negative, post-anxiety-treatment-Lindsay says “screw you” to the knot of foreboding in her gut and opens them anyway.