Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying

 
Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats

I’ll cut to the chase: sharing your story with a bunch of strangers on the internet can be down right scary.

 

A little over a year ago, I had no blog and had just opened my business Instagram account with my teeny tiny following. No one knew my name, much less what I had been through in the two years prior. But I had an inkling to write, and I knew I needed to finally start blogging. Not just for my business, but for my own journaling of sorts – to keep a record of this wild journey of entrepreneurship and motherhood. But blogs were exploding online and I didn’t just want to be another one thrown into the mix. I didn’t know how I would set myself apart, but I knew I wouldn’t start blogging unless I did just that. I put it on the back burner until I felt more inspiration, or had an epiphany or something.

Then one day I found myself standing in my backyard looking up at the sky with tears streaming down my face, listening to my screaming baby inside. And then it hit me: write. Write now. Write all this down.

So I went inside – tended to the screaming baby, first, of course – and then sat on my bed and opened up my laptop. I didn’t think, I didn’t outline, I didn’t try to come up with clever intro, I just started typing what I was feeling and what I was thinking, and how I ended up crying in my backyard. I wrote about my marriage, my divorce, my pregnancy, my daughter’s first weeks. I wrote probably several thousand words before I felt settled, and I sat back and realized I had my first post. And it had nothing to do with business or entrepreneurship or design or anything that my business was centered around at the time. 

Before I could change my mind, I got out my phone, opened Instagram, and wrote a post announcing that I was starting a blog, and it would launch on This Arbitrary Date. Done. It was out there. I knew my people-pleasing personality meant that I couldn’t turn back now – now that I had shared it with all of maybe 100 followers who may or may not see that late night spontaneous post. Whatever. This feels right, and I’m doing it, I thought.

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Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats

This Arbitrary Date came a few weeks later, and my heart was pounding as my mouse hovered over the Publish button. This was it, there was no turning back. I promised them the post, they were commenting about wanting to read the post, and here I was publishing the post. One minute I was just some designer who liked Squarespace, and the next I was the single mom entrepreneur with a crazy story.

I had no idea what would come of that post, but the day I published it I got absolutely nothing done on my to do list. Instead, I was reading the hundreds of comments that were pouring in – comments on the post itself, tweets about the post, shares on Facebook, and posts on Instagram. People from all over the world were reading my dirty laundry, and – what’s this? They’re actually feeling inspired?! Encouraged?! They’re saying, me, too, and I’ve been there, and even thank you?!

I was blown away. Again: sharing your story with a bunch of strangers on the internet can be down right scary. You feel like you're airing your dirty laundry. You're allowing yourself to be vulnerable with no guarantee of how people will react, and how it will change their opinions about you. BUT. It can also be pretty darn inspiring. I got emails from other women who were in the midst of divorce and didn’t feel quite so alone after reading about my story. I read comment after comment from moms of all kinds who were cheering me on. To this day, people stumble upon my blog through that post, and leave a comment about how it impacted their day – it's one of the most viewed blog posts I have.

I also get emails from people asking about how they can share their stories with their audiences. They have something to say, they’ve been through some rough seasons, and they want to encourage others with their experience. Good news: you don’t need some big plan to share your story. Heck, mine was basically spontaneous! My advice? Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Make sure enough time has passed from whatever you’re wanting to share about, that you feel comfortable putting it out there for others to hear. Make sure you only share what (and when) you feel is right for you – not what you see other people doing. And if that’s never, then don’t share anything, and that is OKAY.

Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats
Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats
Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats

Fast-forward again to just a few months ago when my friend Bryan Harris of Videofruit reached out to me to be involved in an online film festival he was producing about entrepreneurs with inspiring stories. I’ll be honest, my initial thought was HECK-to-the-NO. A camera crew at my house? With their cameras? Filming me with their cameras? Did I mention cameras? Yeah, it freaked me out. But then I took a look at one film they had already produced (all three films were created by the AMAZING Armosa Studios), and the impeccable cinematography and editing was a huge factor in me finally saying yes. Also, remembering back to that very first blog post and how many people it affected. It was humbling and exciting to think that my story could impact even more than that, and in a new format: video.

I finally caved and agreed to do the shoot, and let me tell you: I am SO glad I did. First off, Wes and Lee from Armosa were a joy to work with. They adored my daughter, let my dog lay all over them, and I felt instantly comfortable with them filming every inch of my home (good thing I spent the whole weekend cleaning). It was seriously fascinating to see their creative process for bringing my story to life on film. From hearing about their initial storyboard ideas, to helping set up certain shots, to brainstorming new ways to present ideas, to seeing the final cut – every step of this creative journey was something I will never forget. I’ve never worked closely with film or video, but seeing these guys in action and how much time and attention to detail goes into producing just 10 minutes of film, gave me a whole new respect for this creative field. Hey, creatives: learn about other mediums besides your own.

Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats
Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats
Why sharing your story can be both inspiring and terrifying – Paper + Oats

And last week, that final cut was officially released to the strangers on the internet – and again, I was blown away by their support, generosity, and kind words. As of my writing this post, the original video has been viewed over 17,000 times, shared nearly 200 times, has 400+ likes and 100+ comments. CUH-razytown.

I do not share these numbers to gloat. I do not share my story for sympathy. I share all of it to be an encouragement to others. Whether you’re in a similar mess and need to hear from someone who’s coming out on the other side of it, or your story is nothing like mine, and you just need to hear a different perspective to be grateful for where you are. Whatever it is, I hope this film shows you that yes, we can do hard things 😃 We can survive, we can thrive, we can be successful despite a crappy circumstance (or a series of them), and you can share your own story to show the strangers on the internet the same thing.

 

Watch the full film by clicking the video below, and click here to see all the info on the entire Underrated film festival, which includes two more inspiring stories from fellow entrepreneurs.


 

Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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