To My Former Self
I got asked recently what advice I'd give to my former self. In front of a room filled with eager young faces, I was given the opportunity to speak to myself five years ago.
Put yourself out there. Opportunities are not going to come to you if you’re just sitting there.
It’s something that I’m still trying to learn myself.
When I first decided that I wanted to seriously blog, I did a lot of creating. I built myself a new website and I wrote regular blog posts that I poured time and effort into. The fun stuff.
And then, I sat back, hoping my work was good enough to speak for itself, because I’m an introvert and the idea of self promotion is terrifying.
As I’m sure you can guess, nothing happened.
It was frustrating and disappointing. I didn’t feel like I had the experience or the credentials to contribute to my dream blogs and websites, but I wasn’t getting any opportunities by obsessively hitting refresh on my blog stats page either.
One day, on a whim, I did something really scary.
I had written a blog post on my favorite ski area, Copper Mountain. I looked up their marketing department’s information and sent an email. The subject line literally read, “I want to contribute to Copper’s blog.”
I immediately regretted hitting send. I didn’t think there was any chance in the world they’d even respond and, if they did, I knew it would be a polite rejection.
I wasn’t big enough, I didn’t have enough experience, I wasn’t a pro skier or cool enough.
The self doubt was suddenly deafening.
But you know what happened? They wrote me back. They said they’d love to share my blog and posted it immediately.
Then, that fall, they asked me to freelance for them.
Suddenly, the opportunities started falling into place. I got an ambassadorship with a women’s hiking group, I picked up more freelance work for other brands I loved and was passionate about. And then, last year, I landed a full-time job in the outdoor industry, and had my first print article published in December.
Putting myself out there was so scary. I had so many reasons why I shouldn’t, why it wasn’t the right time, why I wasn’t good enough.
But you know what? Believe in your-freaking-self. Believe that you know what you’re doing. Believe that your work is great. Believe that your voice is important.
Because there is somebody out there that wants to believe in you too. They just can’t find you, because you’re hiding in your bedroom, and your work is hiding on page 3,698 of Google because you don’t really understand SEO.
Making that decision wasn’t a magic bullet. Standing up for myself once wasn’t a wind I could ride forever. I have to push myself over and over and over again to do it.
When I got the invitation to speak in front of that room of college kids, I almost said no a hundred times. I was in the middle of crafting a buyable last-minute-cancellation story when my friend showed up to escort me to the school.
I’m not sure if it gets easier as time goes on, but I know that right now it is still so hard.
It would be so easy to just blend into the shadows and stroll through a life of mediocrity.
But what’s the point in that?
So, former self, wide-eyed college freshman, current self and, let’s be honest, future self, here’s my advice to you:
Put yourself out there. Take a risk. Stand up for yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you want to be a writer or an artist or a lawyer or just to be considered for a promotion at work.
Opportunity is not going to come to you if you don’t speak up.