Lessons learned from nine years of blogging

Lessons learned from nine years of blogging | SusannahConway.com

My blog turned nine on Sunday. Nine years of sharing my heart online — can you believe it?

Back then blogging felt like a friendly chat around a kitchen table. There was no concern about tweets and likes and shares, although we were still pretty keen on comments. In April 2006 Facebook was a two-year-old toddler and Twitter only a month old. While I’m sure there were plenty of business-driven blogs, our corner of the blogosphere consisted of personal bloggers sharing their stories and interests. We loved words and poetry, photography and craft. We commented on each others’ sites and our blog rolls spilled off our sidebars. The online world really did feel like a smaller place back then.

I remember when everyone was up in arms about adverts popping up on blogs — now no one bats an eyelid at blog monetisation. When I first offered my Unravelling course in January 2009 (and over 100 women signed up!) it never even occurred to me that it could be a sustainable business — you know, doing stuff online. Each time I offered the course I’d think “maybe this is the session that will bomb” and would quietly freak out whenever I saw someone else offering a course, fearing the marketplace would become saturated. The irony is the marketplace is now most definitely saturated, but that also means doing stuff online has become so normal.

I often wonder what my online life would be like if I’d have had access to the bells and whistles we have now. I imagine it must feel rather intimidating starting a blog, website or online biz with all the razzmatazz out there. Nine years ago I didn’t know I was stepping on to an entrepreneurial path… I just wanted to connect with others and exercise my writerly muscles again. I wonder if my 33-year-old self would have signed up for B-School and jumped in feet first? (Answer: highly unlikely.)

One of the loveliest parts of being online is the community that’s grown around me. So many of you have been here from the start, witnessing my journey and supporting me all these years — thank you so much for being here! It’s a blessing to have such kind-hearted peeps in my tribe. These days I may blog less but I hang out on social media every day and cherish the connections we share. I still get overwhelmed by all the noise (hello HSP) but as long as I filter mindfully I can usually keep my head ;-)

My online persona is pretty close to my off-line persona, though in the 3D world I’m far more sweary. I don’t share all my dirtiest laundry here but then I never have done. Even in the worst of the grief I was still a year out from the blast when I started blogging, so the white hot pain was kept to myself. I share what I would be happy to tell you to your face, and I really am truly HAPPY to share — it’s an honour to have this space and reach as many people as I do.

There were never any long-term plans when I started blogging because I had no idea what was possible — the possibilities hadn’t been imagined yet. But if I’d had a plan where I am right now is where I would’ve hoped to be…. still connecting with others and exercising my writerly muscles.

A few things I’ve learned through blogging:

1. People are amazing. The kindness of complete strangers has blown me away thousands of times over the last nine years.

2. Everything will change. Social media sites will come and go and domain names will be reimagined, but your voice will always be yours. Hone it, use it, appreciate it.

3. Never underestimate the power of story. Sharing our stories helps others feel less alone and teaches us how to live even better endings.

4. Nine times out of ten a post will be improved if you sleep on it and look again with fresh eyes in the morning. This can be applied to most situations, I find.

5. There will always be someone bigger, brighter, more successful. Someone with whiter teeth and shinier hair. Do your best to tune them out and keep your eyes on your own page.

6. DO YOUR OWN THING. Do your absolute very best to not be a watered-down version of someone else. There are a lot of people online and after a while they all start looking the same. Proudly stand out in your own way. Be YOU in all your messy fabulous glory.

In a completely unplanned turn of events, Blogging from the Heart is currently enrolling — we start Monday May 4th :)

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Happy weekend, loves! xo

The power of kindness

The power of kindness | SusannahConway.com
In all honesty it’s been a 42-year journey to be able to say, without cringing, that yes, I do love myself. But it’s not an Instagramable rainbows-and-unicorns love. I love myself very quietly, very gently — and occasionally, when it’s needed, I love myself like a lioness protecting her cubs. I’ve learned that I am responsible for my own happiness and my own sense of worth and that everything I value is built upon the foundation of how I look after myself. Because no one else is going to do it for me — it’s not their job, it’s mine.

I grew up with low self-esteem. An absent father and a troubled teenage resulted in the search for love outside myself, yet even when I found a sweet devoted boyfriend, I couldn’t really accept that I was loveable — it was like sticking a Band Aid over a festering wound.

Somehow I made it though my 20s intact. I worked hard at building my career and did my best to maintain a relationship. Looking back through my journals I see everything was focussed on the external — achievement, status, love from another. I knew something was missing but there was no way I’d stop striving to figure out what it was…

… And then, at age 32, I experienced a devastating bereavement that rewrote everything I knew about life.

Painstakingly, and with help, I pieced myself back together. I had to learn how to exist on my own, to unravel the past and find meaning in my new life — perhaps for the first time ever. Those first few years of grief and healing changed everything for me. It was like being given another chance to have the relationship I’d always wanted, but this time with MYSELF.

The by-product of all that inner excavation was the blossoming of self-worth, which I feel is the  precursor to self-love. It’s almost impossible to love yourself if you can’t see your own worth. When I realised I could say no to the things I didn’t want to do and could extricate myself from friendships that were causing me pain, I was signalling to my self that YES, you are worth more than this. The more time I spent with myself the more I had my own back and it’s amazing how fiercely you advocate on your own behalf when you only have yourself to rely on.

The most challenging piece of all this was the conscious dance with my shadows. It’s easy to accept the nice bits of ourselves but harder to hang out with the murkier stuff. I’ve sat with my obsessiveness, my cynicism, my envy, and rather than disown it I do my best to embrace it all — it’s as much a part of who I am as any of the “good” stuff. I am obsessive and I am creative. I’m cynical and I am hopeful. I am envious and I am a warrior. The door to self-love opens wider when you can hold the wonderful things in the same hand as the stuff you’re ashamed of.

All of this is a daily practice for me. Radical kindness seems to be the key whenever I come up against the temptation to put myself down. Self-love doesn’t require us to be perfect. It merely asks us to be open to accepting the truth of who we are — the light and the dark —  and to actively extend the sort of kindness we’d give to a cherished loved one. I have down days and I have fantastic days and through it all I try my very best to be kind and compassionate towards myself. To love the woman I see in the mirror because she really is doing the best she can.

Try this:

I recorded a little self-love visualisation so we could practice the cherishing together. You can listen to it over here.

This is my contribution to the April LOVE project. I invited 28 inspiring women and one brave guy to share their thoughts and stories of what self-love (how you feel about yourself) and self-care (how you look after yourself and put that self-love into action) means to them. We have a truly delicious mix of essays, videos, meditations and journal prompts for you to explore.

We started today but you can sign up at any time to get the daily self-love emails. Don’t worry if you miss a few days — I’ll be making an ebook at the end to send out the first week of May. All free, of course.

Sign ups are happening over here xo

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Happy weekend, loves! xo