Are you afraid of being heard_

Do you stop yourself from expressing an opinion on social media?

Have you ever had an idea for a blog post, but didn’t write it because you thought it was too controversial?

I know I have. And yet the entire premise for my business is helping women be seen and heard on the internet. How can I set a good example for my clients when I myself am scared to fully express who I truly am in public?

Being brave is not about never being afraid, it’s about doing the thing you are afraid of. But being brave with your opinions and your truth can be really, really hard, especially in this world of keyboard warriors and social media trolls.

I decided to be brave on the weekend, when I finally wrote and published a blog post (on my personal blog) that has been on my mind for months. The ideas kept swirling in my head in great big jumbling mess, but I was too afraid to put hands on keyboard and try to clarify them, because I was scared of the potential backlash. The post consisted of my thoughts on feminism and its relationship with society’s construct of femininity. I knew that some of my views were controversial and challenged common assumptions, so I was terrified of what my readers might say. I’ve seen many women who write about these issues crucified on social media, so my wariness was justified.

And yet the backlash never came. Mostly because my audience is small, especially compared to the feminist writers I admire, but also because of the trust I have developed with my readers. They know who I am, they know my daily challenges and they are familiar with my views. A handful of readers made polite comments on Facebook, pointing out where they disagreed with me or what I could have written better, but there was none of the outcry I was dreading.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to finally sort out my thoughts and say them out loud. To finally stand fully before my crowd. To be honest about who I was. And it felt so good to be heard without (too much) judgement. I felt grateful for my readers, some of whom are friends, for being kind and seeing me as a whole person, rather than just one set of opinions. And now I have more courage to write about how I really feel.

So what can you do, if you’re afraid of being heard?

1. Know what you stand for

Do you know know what you stand for? Are you clear on the values, goals and beliefs that guide how you live your life? Do you have any opinions that might be seen as controversial, or do you tend to follow along with the crowd? There is no right or wrong here, there is only that which belongs to you. Your way to live.

2. Know what your clients stand for

Who do you want to work with? What are your clients’ values, goals and beliefs? If you’re like me, you will probably want to work with clients who share your general values and outlook on life. You don’t have to agree on everything, but you should have some things in common, especially if you’re in a service based business. If you’re delivering alternative therapies, you don’t want to work with clients who don’t believe in them.

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

 Seth GodinTribes: We Need You to Lead Us (affiliate link)

3. Express your opinion

Start sharing articles and memes that express your views. Create your own memes and share quotes that you believe in or that guide how you live your life. Yes, you might lose those people who disagree with you, but isn’t it better to eliminate them from your sphere of influence before you start working with them?

When you’re ready, start creating your own content that expresses your views. This could include blog posts, videos and memes. Just do it.

4. Be consistent

Make sure that your business practices are aligned with your personal views. For example, if you’re an environmental warrior, don’t use plastic bags as your show bags at expos and trade shows.

Don’t express one set of views to your friends and another to your clients. I mean you can try, but I know that you will find this exhausting as you’ll be testing your integrity daily. Same goes for your online marketing. People who know you personally are going to question your integrity if they see that you express a whole other set of views on your Facebook page and website, than you do on your personal profile, or IRL.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

― Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  (affiliate link)

But are my personal views relevant to my business?

Not necessarily. It can be easy to stay quiet and just get on with attracting new clients. However, your views are relevant to how you show up in the world and who you will attract into your life, business and personal. If you value integrity and honesty, I suggest that you will want to show up as your whole true self, because you are aiming to develop trust with your potential clients and the more you can show them who you are, the greater that trust is going to be. I know that keeping parts of me hidden has never felt truly OK, even when it felt safer. Also, if your views turn out to be at odds with those of your clients you will a) find it exhausting to work with them and b) are unlikely to turn them into repeat clients.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
― Brené Brown